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How to get Ambient Display on your Nexus 5

Get Nexus 6 notification system and sounds on your Nexus 5 with Ambient Display ZIP, xTraSmooth and Gravity Screen hacks

Ambient Display is a new notification display setting exclusive to the Nexus 6. When Ambient Display is enabled, the device shows a slick black-and-white lock screen whenever a new notification comes through to your device.

If you want to take a closer look at a notification, you can just tap the screen to launch the full colour version of the lock screen. From here, you can jump straight to the app or screen that a particular notification relates to simply by double-tapping that notification. Ambient Display notifications also appear automatically when you pick the device up, thanks to the Nexus 6’s nifty ‘lift to wake’ functionality.

Although the Lollipop update brought many new features for Nexus 5 users, it didn’t include Ambient Display. However, it is possible to get Ambient Display on your Nexus 5, either by flashing a custom ROM with support for the feature or by flashing an Ambient Display ZIP, both of which work well. But neither of these mods replicate the stylish ‘lift to wake’ feature, but we will show you how can still add this to your Nexus 5 by installing the Gravity Screen On/Off app.

This guide will show you how to get the full Ambient Display experience on your rooted Nexus 5, by flashing the custom ROM or the Ambient Display zip and then installing Gravity Screen. It also explores some additional Gravity Screen settings that can help you get more out of your Ambient Display experience.


This tutorial first appeared in Android Magazine issue 49, which is available in all good shops and for digital download now.

  1. Check for updates

    The first step is to ensure that you are running Lollipop. Go to Settings>About phone and check the Android version number. If your device hasn’t updated to Lollipop, force it to look for updates. From the About phone screen, tap System updates and then ‘Check for update’ to search for relevant updates.

  2. Flash Android Lollipop

    If you’ve rooted your device, it’s possible your Nexus 5 is no longer recognising Over-The-Air (OTA) software updates. If this is the case, you’ll need to install Lollipop manually. Download the Nexus 5 update and then flash it to your device.

  3. Flash Ambient Display ZIP

    Once you’ve installed stock Lollipop on your device, either flash a custom ROM or flash the ambient display zip. To flash the zip, download the file, then boot into your custom recovery and select ‘Install update from zip card’.


  4. Enable Ambient Display

    Select the Ambient display ZIP file and select Yes – Install. Once installed, reboot your device. You should now have Ambient display on your Nexus 5. If you aren’t seeing Ambient display notifications, ensure it’s enabled by going to Settings>Display>Ambient display.

  5. Flash xTraSmooth

    Another option is to flash the xTraSmooth for Nexus 5 ROM which includes Ambient display. On your device, click this link. Then download the ROM and boot your device into custom recovery. Flash and reboot your device – you should now have Ambient display on your Nexus 5.

  6. Download Gravity Screen

    At this point you have Nexus 6-style notifications and ambient display, but not its ‘lift to wake’ functionality. To add this functionality to your Nexus 5, head to the Google Play store and download Gravity Screen On/Off. Once it’s finished downloading, launch the app.

  7. Turn off automatically

    Tap the Activate button and read the on-screen warning, tap OK and relaunch the app. You can now edit your Gravity Screen On/Off settings to your liking. Start by telling the app what angle your phone needs to be at for the screen to automatically turn off.

  8. Set pocket sensor

    Use the Pocket Sensor slider to set the desired angle – think about how you angle your phone when you’re popping it into your bag or pocket. To start using this feature properly, tap the On/Off button in the app’s upper-left corner so that it is in the On position.

  9. Lift to wake

    If you are after the ‘lift to wake’ functionality, enable ‘Turn Screen ON by Motion’ and your device will wake up automatically when it’s moved and facing upwards. You can also enable ‘Turn Screen ON by Proximity,’ so your device wakes up whenever the proximity sensor is uncovered.

  10. Sensitivity and Timeout

    To save battery, you can tweak how sensitive your screen is to being turned on by motion. Drag the Sensitivity slider to the desired position. You can also limit how many times your device is woken by motion within a certain time period using the Timeout slider.