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Samsung’s Smart Glow luminous ring may make basic phones more interesting

Notification LEDs aren’t exactly Android smartphones’ most exciting accoutrement, but they’re undeniably useful — it’s a lot harder to ignore a blinking diode, after all, than an impermanent buzz or chime. Samsung apparently thinks so, too, and if leaked materials are any indication, it’s poised to go all in with LED tech: SamMobile reports that a ring-shaped notification array dubbed “Smart Glow” will debut on the smartphone maker’s upcoming Galaxy J2.

A leaked image has given us an early look at the Galaxy J2 — the J series are usually entry-level phones, so the rest of the spec will probably be quite basic — and what could be the Smart Glow around the rear camera lens. Interestingly, what looks like a flash unit sits alongside the camera lens and Smart Glow, suggesting it won’t replace it, at least on this model.

Samsung J2 Smart Glow

Smart Glow is said to be an illuminated ring of multicolor LEDs that border the lens of a smartphone’s rear-facing camera. It reportedly performs much the same function as other notification LEDs on the market: it lights up and shifts tints when you receive a social media alert, an e-mail message, or a call, or when the smartphone’s battery is low or in the process of charging. But Smart Glow is customizeable, too. You can associate “priority alerts” — color combinations and light patterns, essentially — with specific contacts and applications, and program usage alerts for “low battery, data, and storage.”

Related: Samsung’s new trademark might mean ambient notifications for its next major smartphone

Smart Glow will serve another purpose, too: providing a burst of light in dimly lit environments for the purpose of taking selfies. According to SamMobile, the Smart Glow ring will automatically illuminate blue “when it detects [a] face,” and then trigger a pic.

This functionality may only be the start for Smart Glow, with a more recent report indicating the glowing ring may be even more useful. The blue selfie light may help selfie-takers position their face using direction alerts, different colors may give basic at-a-glance weather updates — yellow for sunny, blue for rain, for example — and even link up with the camera lens to provide heart rate monitoring.

Dutch website Galaxy Club reports that Smart Glow will make its first public debut on Samsung’s Galaxy J2, a budget handset bound for India later this year. The jury’s out on whether or not the luminous ring will make an appearance on the company’s future high-end smartphones, but it wouldn’t be out of the question — Samsung’s next flagship, the Galaxy Note 7, is rumored to launch on August 2 following the company’s Unpacked event in New York City.

Samsung is bucking the industry trend away from LED notification lights with Smart Glow. Recent Google Nexus devices support “ambient display,” a notification feature that lights up portions of supported smartphones’ OLED displays to show previews of incoming messages in a power-efficient way. Modern Motorola and LG devices sport similar functionality, and even Samsung is entertaining the notion: the company filed a patent application in February for an “Always On Display.”

Updated on 06/05/2016 by Andy Boxall: Added in a leaked picture of the Galaxy J2 with Smart Glow, and further possible features.