Every so often, you’ll come across an Android setting that makes your life quite a bit more efficient. That efficiency means you’re having to do less and get more. Such is the case with Android’s Ambient display. This feature comes from Motorola’s Active Display and allows you to see what’s happening without having to unlock your device.

What does this mean? If you’ve received a few notifications, and you want to view them without having to unlock your device, you simply lift it from its resting position (even just tilting up an edge of the device will work), and the notifications will appear.

You don’t have to install a third-party app to get this feature. All you need is Android Lollipop (unless you happen to be using a pre-Lollipop Motorola smartphone). In fact, the feature is incredibly simple to enable, once you know where it is.

Let’s enable Ambient display, so you can read your notifications without having to unlock your device.

Enabling the feature

Open the Settings on your Android Lollipop device. Next, locate and tap the Display entry, and then tap to enable Ambient display (Figure A).

Figure A



Image: Jack Wallen

Enabling Ambient display on a Motorola Droid Turbo.

Note: If you happen to be enabling Ambient display on a Lollipop-powered Motorola smartphone, Moto Display will be disabled (you’ll have to OK that when prompted).

Also note: If you have a third-party lock screen app (such as Start), the Ambient display may only open up that interactive software.

Once it’s enabled, all you have to do (when your phone is locked) is pick up your device or tilt it and the notifications will be displayed. Fear not, this feature doesn’t unlock your phone. And if you’re concerned about prying eyes seeing your sensitive information, you can always hide that information by going to Settings | Sound & notification | When device is locked and selecting Hide sensitive notification content (Figure B).

Figure B



Image: Jack Wallen

Hiding sensitive notification content on a Verizon-branded Nexus 6.

Your Android device is now much more efficient in displaying notifications. You’ll no longer have to unlock your device to see that never-ending stream of information.

What aspect, if any, of the Android notification system would you change? Let us know your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

Also see


Enable Ambient display for easier interaction with your Android notifications