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Google Assistant ambient mode turns some phones into smart displays

You can control music, smart homes and more, but only on select devices.
Steve Dent
Steve Dent|@stevetdent|November 26, 2019 3:03 AM

After first teasing it in September, Google has detailed exactly how its new Assistant ambient mode will work on smartphones. The idea is to make your phone more useful by while it's charging by letting you see Google photo images, play music, control your smart home devices and more. The feature started rolling out to Nokia and Xiaomi devices last week, and will come to Sony and an OEM called Transsion next week, according to Ars Technica's Ron Amadeo.

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In a video (above) Android product manager Arvind Chandrababu said the feature makes it easy to accomplish tasks with just a few clicks while your phone is charging. "Now with one tap, you can set the alarm, you can look at what time your first meeting is the next day, you can turn off the lights and you can also have a slide show of your photo memories." He added that the experience is "deeply integrated" into the Android OS and that Google has a number of similar similar features planned for OEM devices going forward.

Much like Pixel Stand, there's both a lockscreen that shows the time over a Google Photos slideshow, if desired. Tapping through shows notification cards with messages, calls, appointments, weather and more. At the bottom is a row of icons for controlling smart lights, enabling "do not disturb" mode and more.

The experience is meant for phones that don't have their own charging screen lock implementations, which might explain why it's not coming to the Pixel and other brands, apparently including Samsung devices. Chandrababu said it would come to "select devices" with Android 8 and above in the coming weeks. When it does, you'll get a notification to "see your photos and personal updates."

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Google Assistant ambient mode turns some phones into smart displays