Android Intelligence Advice

20 seconds to extreme Android awesomeness

Waiting for Android 14 to arrive? Try this easy enhancement to bring new life into your existing device in the meantime — no rollouts or high-priced hardware required.

Android Standby Mode
Google/JR Raphael

Android Intelligence Advice

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Well, my gaggle of giddy gibbons, it's a ginormous week here in the land o' Googley matters.

We've got Le Googlé's official fall hardware event on Wednesday, with the coming launch of this year's new Pixel 8 flagship phones and a new Pixel Watch to join 'em. And we're expecting to see the long-awaited arrival of Android 14 any day now, too.

It's a lot to watch for, and odds are, none of it will deliver any immediate satisfaction to you as an Android-observing animal. But while you wait (and perhaps salivate), good golly, have I got just the treat for you.

It's a simple app you can install on any Android device this minute to add a whole new dimension of usefulness into your current purse and/or pocket companion. It takes a cue from Apple, in a way, but also ties into a long-standing (and long-underappreciated) classic Android component and brings some refreshingly fresh energy into that arena.

This thing is so darn good, in fact, it'll make you wonder why Google doesn't give it to us as a stock Android element right out of the box. But on the plus side, since it isn't part of the platform as of yet, you don't need any particular Android version to run it. All you need is a point in the right direction and roughly 20 seconds of time.

Prepare to be pleased.

[Get fresh 'n' zesty tips in your inbox with my Android Intelligence newsletter. Three new things to try every Friday!]

Android in standby

The feature with which we're about to fiddle is an Android-friendly version of the StandBy Mode concept introduced for iPhones as part of the iOS 17 update last month.

That system, in case you've forgotten or maybe just tune out such Apple-scented topics, is a nifty notion that turns your phone into an info-totin', interactive display anytime it's charging and not in use. You can choose from numerous specialized widgets and have 'em shown side-by-side on your screen while the device is sitting around and effectively create your own custom Smart Display without any extra hardware or meaningful effort.

And the app you need to make it happen is a spiffy little ditty called StandBy Mode Pro.

Once you install it on your favorite Android gizmo and get it set up initially, it'll automatically kick in anytime your phone is plugged in and sitting in the horizontal (landscape) position. It'll show you things like the current time and date, a scrollable view of your upcoming calendar appointments, the latest weather, or a collection of interactive audio panels to control any actively playing music, podcasts, or platypus sound anthologies.

Android Standby Mode — date, clock JR

There's even a mode that shows you a live view of Earth from the International Space Station, if that's your (space) jam.

Android Standby Mode — Space Station JR

You can swipe side to side to switch from one configuration to another and then swipe up and down to scroll through the available widget options within each pattern.

Android Standby Mode — swipe JR

(Yes, that's what my schedule actually looks like as of late. It's a long story.)

And anytime your phone is charging, you'll have that useful view of relevant information in any arrangement you like.

StandBy Mode Pro has a handful of interesting options that let you control the nuances of your device's downtime presentation, too, including a night mode that makes the app's interface especially dim for sleepytime hours and a portrait-mode version of the standby interface.

Some of those (including both the night mode and the portrait mode) require a one-time $4 upgrade to the app's premium version to work. But all the main features work fine even if you don't opt to shell out that dough.

Oh, and a side note: If you've got one of Google's Pixel Tablets, this actually makes for an even nicer and more robust docked-state setup than what that device gives you on its own. (Hey, Google: Are you listening?)

Android Standby Mode — Pixel Tablet JR

Now, if you prefer a more self-made version of this concept with a combination of standard Android widgets, you can make that happen, too. (We went over the steps for that earlier this summer!) This is Android, after all, and the choice is in your hands. Plus, you don't need your device-maker's permission to do something new and interesting.

But for a simple, sleek, and supremely impressive out-of-the-box experience, the setup from StandBy Mode Pro is pretty tough to beat.

The app does require a handful of permissions to operate, by the way, but they're all reasonable requests that are genuinely required for what it needs to do. And the developer is clear about the fact that no data is ever collected or shared in any way.

It may not be Android 14 or a fancy new Pixel, but it's a pretty spectacular upgrade — and it's ready to be applied to whatever Android device you're carrying this second, no rollouts or purchases required.

Some weeks, it just doesn't get much better than that.

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