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Google might be adding an always-on display mode to the Pixel

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Arguably one of the Samsung Galaxy S8’s most useful features is Always On Display, which lights up certain parts of the smartphone’s screen without drawing a lot of power. Now, according to code uncovered by XDA Developers, the Google Pixel phone might be the next to get it.

In a report on Friday, XDA Developers published code in the latest version of Android O Developer Preview 3 that points toward an always-on display mode. It mentions “doze,” a tag that Google uses internally to reference Android’s lift-to-check, double-tap-to-check ambient display feature that lights up a device’s screen when notifications come in. And it includes a toggle that enables an “always-on” state that prevents the Pixel’s display from sleeping.

It appear to be similar to Samsung’s Always On Display. With the experimental always-on display enabled, the Pixel shows notification text and icons in monochromatic colors beneath a clock, date, and battery indicator. Always-on display isn’t accessible without editing the code, and it isn’t fully functional yet. But XDA Developers expects it to make its way to Android’s System UI Tuner, the settings menu on newer Android phones that can be accessed by pulling down the status bar and long-pressing on the settings cog.

If the Pixel gains an always-on display mode via an update, it would be an impressive feat. It took Samsung engineers more than three years to optimize the power draw of display components and sensors for Always On Display, and even longer to develop a new hardware algorithm — Smart Power Saving — to further boost performance.

Always On Display’s secret sauce is its ambient awareness features, which tap the Galaxy S8’s RGB light and accelerometer sensors to fine-tune screen brightness and disable notifications in situations where you’re unable to see the screen, such as when it’s in your pocket or in a bag.

It’s unclear if the Pixel’s always-on display will work the same way. It might be more akin to Moto Display, Motorola’s ambient display mode (since discontinued) that lights up portions of a smartphone’s screen when the display is off. Similar to Samsung’s Always On Display, Moto Display shuts off the screen when the phone is in your pocket or face down on a table. But unlike the Always On Display, it’s actionable: Moto Display lets you reveal a notification’s contents by touching and holding it, or dismiss it by swiping to the left or right.

Whatever form the Pixel’s always-on display mode takes, it’s likely to ship as part of Google’s Android O Developer Preview program. XDA Developers notes that a toggle’s been coded, but not made visible.

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