The ability to have an always-on display is a terrific feature that AMOLED display technology has enabled in recent years. We first saw it in the Nokia Lumia devices of yesteryear with the much-adored Glance screen feature, which displayed the date and time when the screen was off; and now the tech is fairly widespread on Android devices. Samsung, LG, and HTC all implement some form of always-on display tech, allowing for the time, battery level and notifications to be seen even when the phone is switched off. However, Google's lineup of devices had historically been using strange, half-baked solutions in place of this key, fan-favorite feature; until the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL came along.
But what if you want an always-on display on your Nexus 6P, or your Pixel or Pixel XL? Well, you're in luck; it's now easily possible, without even the necessity of root being present and looming over users' heads. Today, we'll walk you through how to enable always-on display mode on your older Google smartphone.
Step 1: Prepare your device
For starters, you'll need either a Pixel, a Pixel XL or a Nexus 6P for this process (it will work for Nexus 5X users, but is strongly inadvisable due to the lack of OLED display on the device), as well as the latest version of the Android 8.1 Oreo developer preview.
Step 2: Set up and install Substratum and Andromeda
For those of you who are unaware, Substratum is a theming utility that utilizes the Overlay Management Service theme framework to skin your device. While it enjoyed continued popularity as a root-exclusive tweak, its appeal grew massively when Google decided to embed the Overlay Management System within Android Oreo to enable their own custom theme tweaks like a wallpaper-based dark mode on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. The developers then released Andromeda, a utility allowing unrooted phones to take advantage of the merits of Substratum on their non-rooted devices by using the Android System's embedded OMS to install custom themes.
OMS supports many layers of overlays, many of which are used to embed visual tweaks on a system level on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL; and as the Google always-on clock for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL uses OMS, we can fork our own and install it using Andromeda.
The first thing you will need is the Substratum Theme Manager app, which is necessary in order to manage and organise themes on your device. You can grab it from the link below:
The Andromeda add-on for your device that enables the theme engine backend is a paid application that you'll have to purchase. It's $2.49, and we definitely think it's worth your money.
The final piece to the puzzle is installing the Andromeda desktop client, which is available for Mac, PC and Linux, so you're only left out if you haven't installed a proper OS on your Chromebook.
Step 3: Enable USB Debugging
This is an important step for getting the Andromeda client on your computer and on your phone to play nicely with one another. It's a simple process:
Enable developer mode on your device by going to Settings -> About device and taping "build number" 7 times.
Open the developer options screen in Settings.
Toggle the USB Debugging setting.
Before continuing, quickly open up the Andromeda app on your phone. It should show the connection status as being "Disconnected", as shown below.
Step 4: Proceed through the Andromeda setup on your computer.
Start this step by connecting your phone to your computer. The process itself may differ slightly depending on the operating system you're using, but it remains the same at its core; it runs a series of ADB commands to ensure that Substratum's permissions are elevated, and that Substratum and Andromeda can function independently of a computer.
If the process has been successful, the Substratum application should immediately open up on your device; signifying that the process has been completed and Substratum can now manage themes on your phone. You can quickly verify this by opening the Andromeda app; the connection status should now show a green "Connected" instead.
Now that you've installed Andromeda, we can move on to the next step; readying the always-on clock feature.
Step 5: Get Pixel Enabler
The Pixel Enabler app allows for the essential always-on Display overlay to be installed and then enabled through Substratum. You can grab it from the Play Store:
Enable Always-On Display functionality
Now, all you need to do is open up Substratum and select "Always On Enabler" from the theme list. Hit "Select to toggle on overlays" and then tap on the button that looks like a floating paint roller. Next, tap on "Build & Enable." Then reboot the device.
When you phone turns back on, go to Settings and select Display. Tap on Advanced and then Ambient Display. If it worked you should see a new option titled Always On. Toggle it off and then toggle it back on.
And that's all there is to it! Given the ease at which Google could have embedded this feature within the Android Oreo update, we're frankly surprised that they didn't do so. Either way, it's now simpler than ever to pick up on Google's inconsistencies with the help of some easy modifications.
What do you guys think? Will you try this out on your first-gen Pixel or Nexus 6P? Let us know in the comments, or be sure to post over in the forums with your thoughts.