Google Assistant gets new 'Ambient Mode' for phones and tablets

Google Assistant Ambient Mode
Google Assistant Ambient Mode (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • A new Ambient Mode for the Google Assistant turns your phone/tablet into a makeshift Smart Display.
  • Google's bringing the Assistant to more headphones, from brands like JBL, Bose, and others.
  • The Assistant is also expanding to speakers and soundbars.

Among all of the hardware announcements coming out of IFA 2019, Google's using the event to talk about some software news relating to the Google Assistant.

Among these announcements, the one that sticks out to me the most is the new "Ambient Mode." When charging a phone or tablet, Ambient Mode kicks in as a Smart Display-like interface for the Google Assistant. With Ambient Mode, you can browse through your pictures on Google Photos, control smart home devices, access music playback, see upcoming calendar appointments/reminders, and more.

While not identical to the UI found on gadgets like the Google Nest Hub, it is very reminiscent to it with large buttons and likely a big focus on voice control.

As cool as Ambient Mode is, it's initially getting a pretty limited rollout. For the time being, Google's only making it available for the new Nokia 7.2, Nokia 6.2, and the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab which was just announced at IFA as well. We should see Ambient Mode expand to other devices in the near future, but it's unclear what that roadmap currently looks like.

In addition to Ambient Mode, the Google Assistant is also making its way to more headphones, speakers, and soundbars. For headphones, you can look forward to the Assistant on:

  • Harman Kardon FLY ANC
  • Bose NC700
  • Cleer Flow II and Halo
  • Phillips PN505
  • Sony WI-1000XM2 and WH-H910N

As for speakers and soundbars, the list is as follows:

  • JBL Link Music
  • Phillips AW25 and TAPN805
  • Konka G1
  • SEIKI Tough and Cigar
  • Braun Audio LE01, LE02, and LE03

Google Assistant is also coming to the newly announced Sonos Move, which Daniel Bader recently raved about in his hands-on preview of the portable speaker.

The Sonos Move is the portable smart speaker of my dreams

Joe Maring

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.