UX Design

UX Design of the Week – Pixel’s Always On Display

Lara Williams

Lara Williams, Editor-at-large

How a small display feature makes a huge difference to user experience.

We’ve all been there. You pick up your phone simply to check the time, but before you know it, you’re several scrolls deep into Instagram or checking your email (and you haven’t even registered what time it is.)

Google Pixel 2‘s display, as pointed out by FastCo.Design, aims to stop this unproductive cycle.

always on display pixel 2

Source: 9to5Google


The ‘Always on Ambient Display’ feature enables the time, date and a very small row of notification icons to show up on the Pixel at all times. In a power-saving black and white (only the white pixels that need to light up are lit), it may sound distracting but in fact, it’s designed to reduce the need to open your phone.

It’s the minimalism that makes it work. Termed as ‘glanceable’, the stripped back display only shows the user what they really want to quickly check their phone for – the time.

The icon notifications are similarly minimal and aren’t displayed in full for long. Users are less enticed to fall down the rabbit hole (think how many times you’ve wanted to see which Instagram photo someone liked, or what meme you’ve been tagged in on Facebook) if the notifications aren’t detailed and they don’t need to open their phone in the first place.

Now Playing

This sober minimalism doesn’t mean the Always On display isn’t fun too.

Utilising the always on microphones, the phone listens out for music in the background and uses Shazam to tell you what you’re listening to.

While perhaps a little unnecessary – it’s one of those delightful user experiences that’ll no doubt excite new Pixel 2 owners.

Against the Grain

You might call it unusual that a tech company such as Google want you to use their phone less.

Most apps and gadgets are measured in engagement and activity – if you’re always on them for example, that’s surely a success.

But Google doesn’t see it like this. Instead they’d rather you be productive, get your tasks done without distraction from news alerts or Snapchat. You aren’t, after all, going to get bored of having a phone.

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