When Google first introduced the Google Assistant Ambient Mode, it was initially limited to smart displays. Then at IFA 2019, Google introduced a version for portable devices, such as tablets and phones, turning them into something like a Google Nest Hub when they're docked or being charged. After being initially available for only a handful of tablets and phones, the Assistant ambient mode is starting to roll out to more phones.
Unlike the Always-on Display (AOD) found in many smartphones, the Assistant ambient mode for phones is supposed to offer a few more benefits: starting a playlist, displaying your Google Photos, controlling your smart home devices without unlocking the device, and showing a clear overview of your events, calendars, reminders, and notifications.
Assistant ambient mode in action.
Back in September, only two tablets from Lenovo and a couple of Nokia smartphones (Nokia 6.2 and 7.2) featured the new Assistant ambient mode. Then starting yesterday, a flurry of reports began pouring in about the feature popping up for multiple Android 9 and Android 10 devices. At the time of this writing, those are the Nokia 6.1, Nokia 6.1 Plus, Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro, and POCOPhone F1. The Nokias are on Android 9, while the Xiaomi and the F1 are on Android 10. Depending on the version of Android, both the setup process and the settings menu appear different.
For devices running on Pie, the method to activate Assistant ambient mode lies inside the Settings menu. The Redditor with the Nokia 6.1 had to navigate to Settings > Display > Advanced > Ambient display > Always on while charging to turn it on. It should be noted that the version of the Google app on his phone was a beta.
Assistant ambient mode on a Nokia 6.1 running a beta version of the Google app (Image credit: XDA)
Android 10 devices, on the other hand, take a different approach for activating ambient mode. For instance, one person with a POCOPhone F1 received a notification alert from the Google app that prompted the setup, but the toggle can also be found inside Settings > Assistant > Say "Hey Google".
Assistant settings screen on the Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro (Image credit: XDA)
Based on these screenshots, the Assistant ambient mode in its current form doesn't look quite like the ambient mode Google previewed back in September, though that could be a portrait vs. landscape distinction or something else — until we play with it ourselves, we aren't sure what to expect.
Google has made Ambient Mode official without much fanfare. A YouTube video and a couple of tweets mention its launch, but only for "select devices" with Android 8.0 and above. Google has confirmed to Ron Amadeo that Ambient Mode will come to Nokia, Xiaomi, Sony, and Transsion phones, plus the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab and the Lenovo Smart Tab M8 HD with charging station. No Pixels or Samsung or Huawei in sight.
Google has confirmed in a tweet the brands of devices that are slated to get Ambient Mode.
Starting next week, Ambient Mode is rolling out to Sony Xperia, Nokia, Transsion and Xiaomi 📱 and select Lenovo tablets running Android 8 or newer.
— Android (@Android) November 26, 2019