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Google’s Ambient Mode to make any Android device a smart display

One of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XLs’ best party tricks is how the handsets become miniature Google Home Hubs when docked in the Pixel Stand. The trick didn’t extend to the Pixel 3a family, thanks to the lack of wireless charging, but it looks like Google has plans to push it out further regardless.

Today at IFA, the company unveiled Ambient Mode for Google Assistant, which turns select Android devices into smart displays – and not just Pixel branded ones, either. 

Related: Best Android phone

While your mobile device is charging on a nightstand, living room table, or kitchen counter, it can still help you stay on top of your day,” wrote Chris Turkstra, the product management director for Google Assistant in the Google Keyword blog. “Google Assistant’s Ambient Mode is a new visual overview that makes it easier to see notifications and reminders, start a playlist and control smart home devices on the lockscreen of your device.

“When you’re done, your screen will turn into a personal digital photo frame linked to your Google Photos account to add another personal touch.”

Yes, it’s pretty similar to how Amazon allowed its recent Fire tablets moonlight as Echo Shows when docked, only with a Google Assistant twist. 

Related: Google Assistant vs Alexa

Initially it’s coming to two Lenovo tablets – the Smart Tab M8 HD and the Yoga Smart Tab, when docked or using the kickstand respectively – and two Nokia phones when charging: the 7.2 and 6.2. No other phones or tablets are mentioned, but you’d imagine it’s only a matter of time: anything that can increase the number of people using Google Assistant in their day-to-day lives would surely be a win-win for Google, after all.

If you prefer a dedicated smart screen, there’s the Google Home Hub or the upcoming rebranded Nest Hub Max, of course, but some people want the convenience without the dedicated product.

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