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

samsung heir indicted logo 640x480
Your phone’s notification LED, audible chimes, and vibrations do a respectable job of indicating when a new message or email has hit your notification shade, but they aren’t exactly verbose — it’s impossible to determine the importance of said new message or email without arduously unlocking your phone. That’s why some phones with OLED screens preview the content of incoming messages, and why Samsung may implement a better notification system of its own in its bevy of upcoming smartphones. The Korean smartphone maker has applied for a potentially telling trademark, “Always On Display,” in the United States.

Samsung’s February 2 USPTO application doesn’t exactly spell out the meaning of “Always On Display,” but it isn’t difficult to speculate what technology the term might be referring to. Samsung’s flagship Galaxy phones universally sport AMOLED screens, a type of display capable of leaving individual pixels not in use “off” — black borders around a photograph emit no light, for example, nor do dark elements in a nighttime movie scene.  This unique property of OLED is obviously a boon for display contrast, but it confers the added benefit of reduced power draw: the fewer pixels “lit,” the less power the display needs.

What does AMOLED’s per-pixel lighting have to do with notifications, though? Look no further than Motorola’s efforts. Its top-end phones contain a feature the company calls Active Display, which briefly turns on the screen to display a preview of notifications against a black background. Thanks to the aforementioned characteristics of AMOLED and careful monitoring of the handsets’ motion sensors — other than when a notification hits the phone, Active Display only triggers when it’s taken out of a pocket or picked up from a flat surface — battery consumption’s next to nothing.

Samsung presumably intends to introduce a similar function in the upcoming Galaxy S7 and future devices. It wouldn’t be the first: Google debuted Ambient Display, a feature for all intents and purposes identical to Motorola’s Active Display, in Android 5.0 alongside the Nexus 6. (The subsequent Nexus 6P also implemented Ambient Display.) LG’s Glance View, a slightly different take on per-pixel tech, lets you peek at notifications by holding down the top half of your phone’s screen.

It’s possible, of course, that “Always On Display” refers to something entirely different. Given Samsung’s display expertise, it’d be foolish to rule out the possibility of a secondary, e-ink screen a la LG’s V10 or the YotaPhone 2, or a curved-screen notification view like that found on the Galaxy S6 Edge. Whatever the case, though, it likely won’t be long before we find out for sure. Samsung’s next big press conference is February 21.

Product Review

Motorola’s excellent One Vision is cheap phone royalty

If Motorola’s mission with the One Vision was to make a dependable, capable smartphone at a price that’s affordable, then it’s definitely mission accomplished. Here’s our full review.

The Nokia 1 gets Android Pie, giving an Pie-flavored option for every budget

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.

Xiaomi’s Mi Smart Band 4 is a desirable, cheap fitness band/smartwatch mashup

Xiaomi has announced the availability of the Mi Smart Band 4 in the U.K., which despite a low price, manages to squeeze in a massive amount of functionality, bridging the gap between fitness band and smartwatch.

We tried all the latest and greatest smartphones to find the best of 2019

Smartphones are perhaps the most important and personal piece of tech on the planet. That’s why it’s important to pick the best phone for your individual needs. Here are the best smartphones you can buy.

What is Android Auto? Pull over and we'll tell you everything you need to know

What is Android Auto? Google's app overrides native infotainment systems to reduce distractions while driving. Here's everything you need to know about it, including the feature set and compatible car models.

The stand-alone Palm is available for purchase and still costs $350

A reboot of the classic Palm is finally here and it's tiny. It syncs to your phone and acts as a secondary device -- with a feature to help you disconnect from technology. The Palm will be available exclusively through Verizon for $350.

Looking for a stylus for cheap? The Adonit Pro 4 is a great starting point

For casual note takers and sketch artists, the Adonit Pro 4 stylus is a low-maintenance, low-cost device for people just getting started with using a conductive pen on their smartphone or tablet.

Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL smartphones get price cuts ahead of Amazon Prime Day

American software titan Google has entered the mobile game in a big way with its excellent Pixel devices, and the third-gen Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL can both be had at nice discounts right now from Amazon.

What is UFS 3.0 storage? We asked an expert about the SSD for phones

We take a dive into UFS, or Universal Flash Storage, to find out what the latest UFS 3.0 standard is capable of and why you might want it in your next smartphone. An expert from the standards body, JEDEC, explains all.

Having problems with your OnePlus 7 Pro? Check out these workarounds and fixes

Every phone has issues that require some tweaking to sort out. Here are the most common OnePlus 7 Pro problems that people are talking about with advice on how you can work around them or fix them and get on with your day.

Samsung's Galaxy S10 5G is coming to T-Mobile on June 28

Samsung's Galaxy S10 5G is the flagship of the S10 line, and it's expensive at $1,300. But, it's the only one of Samsung's latest phones that can connect to a 5G network. It's available from Sprint and Verizon, and now T-Mobile.

The best gardening apps help you watch your garden grow

It takes work, commitment, and smarts to cultivate a beautiful garden or grow your own food, so you need all the help you can get. The best gardening apps can identify plants and pests and assist with garden care and planting schedules.

Here are 5 things I’d like to see in the Samsung Galaxy Note 10

It's important that smartphones continue to improve and evolve or they risk stagnation and may alienate potential buyers. Here are five changes and new features I'd like to see in Samsung's forthcoming Galaxy Note 10 smartphone.
Product Review

Diesel On Full Guard 2.5 watch has killer looks but deadly battery life

Diesel’s no-holds-barred watch designs are awesome, so we hold its new smartwatch to a similarly high standard. While Diesel holds its end of the deal up, the On Full Guard 2.5 is let down by the battery and Wear OS.