AFTER A TEASE at this year's IFA, Google has finally taken the covers off its new 'Ambient Mode' for Android.
The feature allows you to display information such as diary entries and notifications on the lock screen and interact with Google Assistant, all without touching the phone, which sits safely on a dock or just on charge.
If that sounds suspiciously like a Google Nest Hub, then go to the top of the class and have a toffee, because that's exactly what it is - a way of turning your phone or tablet into a smart display.
It also acts as a sneaky way of making us forget all about those "Daydream" screen savers that never really worked properly.
Google is being deliciously vague about Ambient Mode. We don't know exactly what devices are getting it (all we know is that they'll run about Android 8.0 Oreo, and they're ‘selected').
The only confirmed adopters are the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab, Yoga Smart Tab M8, Nokia 6.2 and Nokia 7.2 - and we don't know when they're going to get it. The Verge also reports that it is popping up on some Xiaomi devices, but we can't confirm that one either way.
And it's bad news for the modders - one thing Google has already confirmed is that this is a ‘deep integration' - it's not a feature that will pop-up as a standalone app (at least for the foreseeable) and won't lend itself to being extracted and ported.
That seems to be the way that Google is going with its internally developed apps - look at Live Transcribe on the Pixel 4, for example.
We're very much hoping that we start to see Ambient Mode on some handsets soon. With Google struggling to keep up with Amazon's Alexa in the smart speaker stakes, this could be a sneaky back door into Google Assistant adoption - albeit very similar to the strategy that backfired so badly for Microsoft's Cortana. μ
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