Attentive Display settings on the Moto X

We've all been there: we're reading an article — maybe one of the lovely reviews here on Android Central — and then your screen turns off because you didn't scroll up in however many seconds. It's not your fault we fit so many words on your screen. Then you have to fumble around for the power button to turn it back on and find your place again.

Don't you just wish there was a way to keep the screen on just a little longer while you're looking at it? Well good news, everyone! Motorola has added in a handy feature on the Moto X called Attentive Display, and it's here to end those days of mashing the power button.

And all you have to do is look at your phone.

Short explanation. Lots of potential.

Okay, that's not quite true, there's a setting you need to make sure is enabled, but after that, all you have to do is keep looking at your phone to keep it on. Attentive Display uses your face as an indicator and either prolongs or accelerates your screen-out time. This is achieved in a battery-efficient way using the phone's built-in IR sensors to detect if a face is in front of the screen before briefly using the front-facing camera to confirm it is indeed a face.

I can't see you...

Attentive Display settings are hiding under Display in the Settings section of the phone, as expected. We have two settings for the two sides of Attentive Display and below it we have a nice little demo so we can see how it works. That demo will switch between a grey and blue circle as you move your phone around and get a feel for what the angles and boundaries for this helpful feature are.

Darkness is the enemy here.

Note that there is a low-light warning on this demo. As the actual face recognition relies on the front-facing camera, it won't work that well in the dark. A shame for those of us who live in cold dark caves or like to read in their warm beds rather than sleep like normal people.

Settings. Nice and simple, right?

We can choose to embrace both sides of Attentive Display, or one, or none. Stay on while I'm looking is pretty self-explanatory, and Battery Saver mode will have your screen turn off quicker when it can't see you. Keep in mind that low-light warning from before, as this setting could have you turning your screen back on more frequently during that midnight reading I mentioned.

That said, at least you won't have to be mashing the power button — those IR sensors make it much each to wave your thumb over the screen while holding the phone and then swipe it back on from the Moto Display.

Peekaboo!

Is this little IR-enabled feature a worthy use of the technology? Is it good that each side is a separate setting so as to avoid the the downfall of one without losing the other? Does this help you avoid using a longer screen timeout, or would you rather toggle that than deal with IR and cameras draining battery?

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

107 Comments
  • Nexus 5 here. Kitkat would dim the screen a couple seconds before it shut off. This gave you enough time to touch the screen to stop it from going off. Not that I am on Lollipop it just goes off without warning. I can't stand it, I wish they would have kept that feature.
  • This is actually better it would seem. Many times I see an email and if I'm reading it, and take too long thinking (What the F is this heifer trying to tell me in this email????), or even using a map and figuring out some side streets, yet still looking at the phone, it will dim after a bit. This new feature won't dim it if you are looking at the screen.
  • I'm using simpleaosp build 9 (with a dark theme!) which is based on 5.0.2 and it dims the screen before turning it off (as well as fixing a few other lollipop bugs and fails), I highly recommend it! Wubba lubba dub dub!
  • Rick & Morty 4ever
  • Lollipop still dims before shutting off for me on the Nexus 5. Stock, unrooted.
  • My bad. You are right. It is just harder to tell it is dimming when you use an app that is dark already.
  • Ive got N5 with lollipop and my screen dims for about 5sec before off Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have this on my Turbo. It doesn't like that i wear glasses. But it's a good feature other than the not working for me thing. Posted from my Droid Turbo, Kelly and Ozone
  • Same with Samsung & LG.
    Their Smart Stay features don't like glasses either. Rooted LG G2.
    Rooted GS3, Stock Galaxy Note 4
    If it ain't Tech, it ain't Right!
  • What are you talking about? Smart STay worked fine with my glasses on on both my GS3 and LG3.
  • Doesn't like my glasses. If I take them off it works fine. As soon as I put them on it can't see me. :(
  • Gen2 only; right? ...how soon we gen1ers are just left in the dust.
  • The gen 1 doesn't have ir sensors Posted via Android Central App
  • I don't think that's a fair complaint. If your phone lacks the hardware for this feature, it lacks the hardware for this feature. They've done pretty well keeping it updated for everything it's physically capable of.
  • I didn't make it very clear but the "complaint" was really about the Title and Body of this article not specifying that it was specific to the MotoX Gen2. Some MotoX gen1 readers may not know this is not intended for them. IMO the article should have made that more clear, and I should have been more clear about the article being not more clear. Clear as crystal now....right?
  • Much more clear, yes.
  • this. bc i was under the impression that gen1 had it, as i sat there for 30 min trying to figure it out and see if i was missing something.
  • Long over due but this feature has been on Samsung phones for years
  • Exactly! This is reminiscent of Apple "new innovation" announcements.
  • The major difference is that SmartStay on the Galaxy series is based on the front camera alone, while Motorola's system uses the low power IR sensors first, then the front camera is only turned on briefly to confirm that it is a face and not something else. It then powers down the camera until the IR sensors detect a significant change (i.e. you turn your head). In theory, it should use significantly less power overall with similar performance given that it still requires the ffc for face confirmation and is subject to lighting conditions.
  • Smart Stay on both the Galaxy and G3 use trivial amounts of battery. The phone doesn't keep the camera on constantly. About 5 seconds before it would time out, it turns the camera on for a fraction of a second, then turns it off again.
  • Yep, but it's always been labeled a "gimmick". It's one of the features that's kept me with a Samsung device when using an Android phone.
  • the problem however is that in my experience, it simply does not work reliably enough in my experience, I tried it many times on my old S4 and even in fairly decent lighting it never seemed to work reliably, any feature on a phone that you can't depend on working all of the time winds up getting turned off. I'd rather tap the screen once every 2 minutes than hope a feature like this decides to work in the environment I'm in.
    Unless moto improved on Samsung's feature this is likely a rare loser for Moto
    Please don't start being like Samsung, Moto
  • I think the difference here, compared to the Samsung, is that it's far more likely to work based on the combination of hardware being used. But I agree with you that part of the reason it was considered a gimmick on Samsung, along with most of their gimmicks, is that it didn't work well enough to rely on. Like scrolling with your eyes.
  • Let's hope it works better than the samsung feature, I just have my doubts, there are so many variables to consider with lighting, glasses camera angle etc etc.
  • I hate that has been your experience with it. It has worked well for me on 3 devices thus far, a S3, Note 3, and Note 4. Now, I won't sit here and claim it has been flawless, but I have not found it to be the "disaster" that so many (not you specifically) have made it, and other Samsung features, out to be. Edit: This post was in response to movielover76.
  • So, Samsung did it first, Motorola did it best. Wubba lubba dub dub!
  • Not really, Samsung's works just fine and has no noticeable effect on battery life. Just a different way of doing it, I see no way in which it is better. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Stay tuned Apple will invent this feature in a couple years.
  • Eh, Samsung had this feature awhile ago, and it never really worked all that well. I just set my screen timeout for longer, and shut off my screen manually when I'm done. I don't see why that's more difficult
  • Because automatic. Posted via Android Central App
  • I'll take the smidgen more effort pressing a button (where my hand is holding the phone anyways) over the annoyance of staring at my phone's camera every so often, having to make sure my glasses are off, I'm blinking, and I'm in a well lit room.
  • Not sure why the feature didn't work for others but it was one of the features that worked throughout the life of my S3 (one of the few that did). Using it on the Note 4 now and it still works just fine. Either way, the user can enable or disable it so I always felt it was a nice option to have.
  • It's probably pretty specific to use cases matching up with their algorithms. I had it on my S3 also but it never really helped much unless I was holding the phone in a specific way.
  • The improvement here is that it uses the IR sensors to detect whether anything is in front of the screen and then it briefly uses the camera to make sure that thing is your face.
  • most of samsungs gimmicks suck and barely work. the only good feature that samsung has that im still mind blown as to why google isnt incorporating it in android all across the board (more like newer devices that can handle it) so it can take a nice fat shit on ios is multiwindow. MULTIWINDOW NEEDS TO BE AN ANDROID EXCLUSIVE, not just samsung. WTF GOOGLE.
  • Ok, now I'm convinced.
    When Samsung did it (2 years ago) the tech called it a gimmicks.
    Now that darling Moto has done it it's now useful. I'm thinking Samsung's products might not be as bad as the reviewers might have us believe.
  • Oh but they are. Posted via Android Central App
  • i would say they were, they might not be great and super lean like the moto x, but i have the x 2014 and the note 4, and surprisingly i've been using the note 4 more than the x since i got it. TW is a mess, but it's not the same level of abomiation that it used to be (at least on the note 4) and after getting over the wow! new! beautiful! part of 5.0, it's still kind of buggy and needs some more work imo. now, do i wish samsung would adopt moto's system of adding functionality via apps on stock android? hell yes, but tw on the note 4 is a far cry from the horrible horrible experience i had on the S3 and Note 3. and this feature doesn't work well for me on either phone, i suspect it has to do with me wearing glasses. 2min screen timeout is fine for my use
  • Nope. Still a gimmick and bloatware. Just set your screen timeout to 2 minutes. Posted via the Android Central App
  • 2 minutes? Jeez, I only keep mine at 30 seconds.
  • The two minute timeout, of course, drains your battery much faster than something like this, and doesn't solve the problem at all.
  • That's a dumb, uninformed statement. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Honestly, it all depends what you like. Personal preference. I've had Apple, LG, Samsung, Motorola Kyocera, Huawei, ZTE phones before and i always run back to Samsung. I like the way their phones are built, touchwiz isn't bad, but it does take a lot of memory up, which sucks. I do think they need to stop making identical line phones in the ally from the S2 through the S5. The Note 2 through Note 4 have changed a lot in terms of features, design, parts. Overall Samsung isn't as bad of a company that many make it out. That is why the are still in the market. I'm sure every company has a rough time at one point, but great companies recover from it.
  • Moto's is a different, and superior implementation, though. Moto uses IR sensors, which take less power than the front-facing camera, which is what Samsung did. People complained about the Samsung version not working very well, too. Basically, if it works well and it's useful, it's a feature, and if it's poorly implemented, it's a gimmick. Think of fingerprint scanning on the HTC One Max vs. the iPhone 5S.
  • Learn what you're talking about before talking. Samsung's version only turns the camera on briefly when the screen is about to time out. The Moto impelmentation turns the camera on briefly, too, to verify a face. If anything, keeping the IR sensors on all the time will use more battery than Samsung's approach.
  • I've gotten the impression from a lot of people that Samsung's implementation, like a lot of their gimmicks, just didn't work well enough to be relied upon. While we don't know much yet about the reliability of it here yet, it's backed by additional hardware functionality that will allow it to work better, and it's backed by a company that's pretty consistently, since the first X, only put in fully-baked extra functions. FYI, I don't own a Moto X, so this isn't coming from a biased defense of my phone. I have a Nexus 5, which I quite like. But if the X had wireless charging and/or better battery life, I'd probably get one.
  • Always works fine for me. I never have my screen turn off when I'm looking at my phone. Lots of uninformed people in these comments sections just spewing misinformation. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Or, and I know this idea sounds crazy, but... lots of informed people who simply had different experiences with it than you. If Samsung shipped the feature at all, it worked for enough people, under enough circumstances, that they thought it was functional. But as with many things, they probably failed to account for enough variation that, out in the field, plenty of people had trouble with it. You're not one of them.
  • How have reviewers been criticizing samsung phones as of late? when it comes to the note 4, it's pretty much all high praises. Other than the sub par design of the S5, it still gets alot of love as well. Part of what makes high end samsung phones top notch they're feature set, which now has practically no negative effects on performance. That and they're phenominal displays/hardware. Posted Via the Unrivaled Note 4
  • Bloatware app solution for turning your screen timeout to 2 minutes..... Posted via the Android Central App
  • You consider a setting that allows you to make it so the screen timeout automatically gets longer when you're actively looking at the screen and shorter when you're not looking at it to be bloatware?
  • Yup. Its a unnecessary app that runs in the background. Aka, bloatware. Posted via the Android Central App
  • But which uses less battery than keeping the screen on for 2 minutes all the time.
  • Please, stop. You're embarrassing yourself. Posted via the Android Central App
  • This was my favorite new feature of the second gen moto x. However, since the update to 5.0, doesn't work at all on my phone. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yup. Doesn't work here either on lollipop... or I should say it works for a while and then stops.
  • Huh. Well, I'm the only Android Central writer who's still got a Moto X on Kit Kat (bleeping AT&T version...) so I was not aware of this.
  • Yeah same here. It hasn't worked since the Lollipop update! Posted via the Android Central App
  • I had the same issue. I was able to fix it by turning the feature off,and then back on. It took a few tries but had worked well for a month or so now.
  • Yeah confirmed, really sad there hasn't been an update from Moto on this yet, this is one of my favorite features as well and it sucks that its completly broken in Android 5.0.
  • Bloatware how, exactly? if you set your screen timeout to two minutes, and you set your phone down without turning off the screen it will stay on for an extra two minutes, wasting valuable screen time and battery life. With something like this you can set your screen timeout to 30 seconds, and it goes off almost as soon as you stop looking at the screen. How much space do you think something like this takes up? How is it bloat? I have a moto x, and this feature is awesome. But haters are always going to hate, I guess.
  • I always have my screen timeout on every phone I've used set to 2 minutes, and you know my solution to the extra battery drain. I got in the habit of hitting the power button when I put the phone down , simple. If Moto really improved the feature and it works reliably good, if not it's bloatware and whether it works or not may vary for each individual and their usage patterns.
  • One man's bloat is another man's key feature. Maybe some day you'll learn that the world doesn't exists just to meet your needs.
  • Excuse me, I think I just said that for some it's a feature and for others for which is doesn't work that well it's bloatware for them. the term bloatware is always subjective, did you even read my comment?, I did say previously that it didn't work for me on my old Samsung phone and I'm doubtful that it's reliable enough for me but that's all. I'd love to be proved wrong.
    I also think different people have different expectations on how well a feature has to work to be useful.
  • Samsung S3 says Hi.
  • Heck, they even backported it to the S2 and OG Note.
  • My mom loves this on her Moto X 2014. Hell she loves the phone coming from an iPhone4. She always is saying things like, I can't believe the iphones can do this and that.
  • Can't? Posted via Android Central App
  • Correct can't* Posted via Android Central App
  • Samsung did this about 2 years ago. But it is handy, but just like with the Samsung my Moto X doesn't always recognize. Posted via the Android Central App
  • As always low-light situations are less reliable for the camera portion of this feature, but using the IR to detect people rather than always using the camera is more energy efficient and I think more dependable overall.
  • Did you even read the article. The Moto version still turns on the camera to verify the motion comes from a face, just like Samsung and LG do. If anything, keeping the IR sensors on all the time will use MORE power, not less. And the low-light issue will probably still exist for the Moto, since it DOES use the camera.
  • Did you read the byline? The IR sensors are on most times as part of Moto Actions, so using them for Attentive Display doesn't change their impact on the battery. By offloading part of the task to the IR sensors and then firing up the camera, we can get battery improvements for Attentive Display over previous implementations. The Samsung implementation turned on the camera every single time before you screen shuts off. The Moto version doesn't bother firing up the camera if the IR sensors say there's nothing there to verify.
  • Ha..ha..I can't believe you just asked the author of the article whether she read her article :D :D
  • The Samsung version does not always have the camera on. Has the whole world gone mad!? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Great article, thank you. I recently got a gen. 2 Moto X and had been prompted for this setting, but you gave me some additional information that was useful.
  • The only mistake Samsung did was to have balls to fight Apple. Since then everything they introduced has been called a gimmick as they can't call Samsung a copycat.
    The funny thing is all those things they called gimmicks are being introduced by other manufactures one by one. It shows that Samsung has been two steps ahead of these manufactures when it comes to smartphones. Their crime is that they pissed off the media darling.
    Apple controls the tech media, even if the android sites don't want to admit it apple got control over them as well. Be together, not the same.
  • The only mistake......?? How about using us all as fodder in trying to use their gunked-up Touch Wiz and more as an attempt to effectively take over the look and feel of Android from Google (using lots of valuable CPU cycles and storage in the process) and/or failing that moving us to the OS very few seem to want, i.e., Tizen? An aggressive company? Certainly. And not without a wide range of chops in areas far from phones and even electronics. Composing this on a Samsung monitor that's working great after 10 years (SyncMaster 213T). But admirably ballsy in the smart phone arena? Jury's out on that one, son....
  • Please stop you're embarrassing yourself with all that non sense. Be together, not the same.
  • Looks lovely but I wish it would come in a higher ram configuration I need at least 16
  • I love this feature on my G3 and it works really well.
  • Ignore this comment... wrong article.... to many tabs
  • you can delete comments on the website...
  • So where is the setting on my MotoX '13 where I can keep the screen from dimming when I'm using maps or navigation? I have it set to keep the screen on when it's plugged in, but it still dims after a minute or so, and it's enough that I can't read the screen anymore.
  • The thing is that a lot of these camera based attentive display things don't work well in low light. I don't understand why methods like what Screebl does aren't more popular. Screebl just uses the angle of the display and the motion sensor to determine if the device is in use. For my money, Screebl works much, much better at keeping my display on when I want it on.
  • The problem with screebl, and similar apps, is that it keeps the display on too much. If you stop looking at the device, but continue to hold it in your hand, the screen will stay on, killing the battery.
  • Hardly, you can set the still detection as short and sensitive as you want. I've used it on 3 devices and never see Screebl keeping my display on too long or causing wakelocks. I get a solid 18-21 hours on my Moto X 2014 with it running or not. It causes virtually zero extra drain on the batteries of 3 devices that I own. And why on earth would you want to still be holding it in your hand with the screen off? Just hit the power button in that case?
  • I agree. Gravity Screen, Smart Screen, BetterSleep and a number of others all work with motion detection (adjust sensitivity as needed) and the proximity sensor to fix this issue. Face recognition is complicating a simple solution.
  • Doesn't work on my Moto X pure edition with lollipop. My Samsung GS3 worked much better. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yup, it's broken on Lollipop.
  • Hopefully Motorola will get this working in lollipop soon. It really is a great feature.
  • Gee, like Samsung has had since the GS3 (or maybe even longer)? And LG has provided for a while, too? Nice to see Moto "innovating" by copying the competition.
  • I never said it was new. I'm just telling people it's here.
  • technically they just added a feature they didn't do what apple does and act like they thought of it.
    really when apple comes up with the activate your phone by voice without it being plugged in, (which they said they would do) they will act like they thought of that as well.
  • I use Screebl, it was free a few years from Amazon app store, the free version. I ended up buying the pro version because I loved it so much
  • This has been on the droid turbo since day 1. It's still waiting for lollipop though. Wtf. Posted via the Android Central App on my Droid Turbo
  • So basically, this is motorola's version of smart stay, which has been on samsung phones for years Posted Via the Unrivaled Note 4
  • >mashing the power button My M8's motion gestures would like to talk to you U WOT M8
  • My Moto Actions have already had words with me.
  • the specific situation or way you have to hold your phone, makes it not work for me.
    it has to be a well lit room and you have to hold your phone at just the right angle at a certain distance.
    I tried it, but unless its improved, its unusable.
    with the 4 sensors on the front, you think they could make it so, if you cover one, the screen stays on.
    you would have to activate it and pick which one of course. Here is another idea moto, cause a third party app in the play store is kicking you butt with this feature.
    from any screen, if i put my phone in my pocket, the display goes off.
    i was using that on my nexus 4 and only ever hit the power button to restart my phone.
  • This never worked well for me on GS3 and I see no reason how it will on Moto.
    Low light is a major issue via AC App on VZW Moto X DE/N7
  • Don't like this feature. Screen was turning off quick in a dim lit room, wasn't dark u could read a book in the lighting and it was turning off. Also I'd rather just scroll while reading that have it kill my battery turning in and off.and using the sensors every time the display is on.
  • I like the way its handled on my Xperia. When I'm holding the phone the screen stays on. Tada. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I so want to know what brand of case that is on the Moto X.
  • Supcase Unicorn Beetle case, which will be featured in the Moto X case post I'm writing for AC just as soon as the cases we intend to sell come in for me to test out.
  • Thanks. Ara. Can't wait for the article.