Ambient Display Always On Mode Shows up in AOSP
Just a couple of years ago when LG released the LG G5 and Samsung released the Galaxy S7, we saw a push for an always on display feature. LG’s implementation wasn’t as efficient since it was using an LCD panel instead of AMOLED, but it still showed that this was a feature OEMs were wanting to push, even on LCD panels. Then last month we discovered some evidence that Google had been working on an always on Ambient Display mode for the Pixel with its Android O developer preview 3 build.
When we decompiled the SystemUIGoogle.apk file of this update from this device, we found a new tunable called “tuner_doze_always_on” (with doze referring to Ambient Display and not the battery saving feature). We tried manually enabling this with a recompiled version of this APK file, but we were unable to get the device to boot with it. At the time we didn’t have any additional leads about the feature but then a source close to us talked about this feature on the Pixel 2 XL.
According to the information which we received, Google will be taking advantage of the power saving features of an OLED display for the device and with that comes the always on Ambient Display feature. We aren’t sure what type of features this will have, or if it will be limited like we’ve seen with other implementations. But it had become clear that Google has been working on such a feature and now we have some additional evidence to prove it.
While digging through the AOSP source code, we found a commit with the “AmbientDisplay: Add always on prototype” description. It’s unclear how early in development this feature is though as strings for it say “Ambient display always-on of the tuner. Non-translatable since it should not appear on production builds ever.” Even if it’s hidden from the user facing SystemUI Tuner interface, we will likely be able to edit it so we have access to it.
We’ve done this for other features in the past with mods like the Enable Navbar Tuner, so it’s possible that we’ll be able to do it again with this always on Ambient Display feature.