Understanding Android Daydream

There is no a shortage of the so-called “gimmicky” features when you look at today’s Android devices. While I mostly find the use of that term “gimmicky” hugely subjective, it is deserving in some cases. More so when those cases involve some half-baked software enhancements added thoughtlessly into Android. You only need to see the LG G2’s custom UI to get what I am talking about (and no I am not bashing that device). While OEMs take all the time they have to add as many features as possible to their own iterations of Android, Google has slowly been taking notes from the sidelines and adding some bare-bones features to its mobile platform. Those that will hardly have any heavy impact to your device’s battery life or its response rate or cause lag. One of these features, which we hardly ever talk about, is Daydream.

As you may have noticed with the unveiling of Android 4.3 not so many days ago, some new features that are added whenever a newer version of Android is announced are usually get swept under the carpet of instant news that floods our social media timelines, news feeds and mail inboxes. Such was the case with Daydream. So much that hours after activating it on my Galaxy S4 and leaving the phone charging publicly I was greeted by many silent stares, curious glances and even in some cases, people wondering loudly what it was. It seems that majority of the non-geeky Android user base has either no idea this feature exists or thanks to Android’s legendary fragmentation horrors, are yet to upgrade to the Android version (4.2+) that supports Daydream. Whichever the case is, let me put the case of Daydream to rest.

Android Daydream

Android Daydream

What is Daydream?

Remember using Windows 95 and having those fancy animated pipes as your screen saver? Or that 3D Text Marquee? Yeah, it’s like one of those. Only that it is more modern-looking.

Daydream is a feature that Google introduced to Android in the 4.2 update of Jelly Bean and is what I would call a “pseudo-screensaver” since it is neither a true screen saver in the sense of the screen saver as we know it from traditional desktop computing nor is it something entirely new or otherwise unheard of. I am sorry, that may sound vague but it is the closest to correctly defining Android Daydreams that I can get.

This is what Google says of Daydreams:

Daydream lets your Android device display useful and delightful information when idle or docked. Show off your photo albums, get the latest news from Google Currents, and more.

How do you activate/set it up?

One of the questions I got was ‘how do I set it up or activate it on my device?’ It’s easy. For starters, your device needs to running at least Android 4.2 and up. I am aware there are several Android 4+ ROMs that have hacked the system to enable this feature on older devices. While it may not work fully or as intuitively as it may be working on Android 4.2 devices, it works, at least. To be on the safe side and to have it working well, update to Android 4.2 if there’s an update for your device. If you have a device running Android 4.2 or up (Android 4.3 for the lucky few) then you are good to go.

Next, go to Settings > Display and lookup Daydream. You should see a toggle to turn Daydream on or off. It’s that simple. Basically the Daydream on/off toggle is found in the Settings app of your device. Not necessarily under Display, though that’s where it will be located on most devices. On the Galaxy S4 for instance, there’s an extra before you get to Daydreams: Settings > My Device > Display.

daydream echenze 1

Beyond the Daydream on/off toggle you get you get various options on what to put as your Daydream. There is a huge variety of apps that take advantage of this Daydream feature and you will find them listed here. Just one tap and they are your set Daydream. A good example of such apps is Google’s own Currents. You can configure Currents to display the latest news from your subscribed feeds and instead of the boring colours that your Android device will display by default, you’ll have the latest news popping up on your device’s display when it is docked or charging. There is also Flipboard that will do much the same thing as Currents. The good thing about Flipboard is that the configuration settings aren’t that many and confusing as is the case with Currents. Other apps like Beautiful Widgets also tap into Daydream offering some of the most beautiful Android daydreams you’ll see out there. My favourite is Dashclock, the app that brings the stock Jelly Bean clock to us using non-vanilla Android devices as widget for both home screens and lock screens. It was recently updated to include support for Daydreams. Some other app that I use that has some cool Daydream is Battery Widget Reborn. You can take your music addiction a tad further with the musicXmatch, my favourite lyrics finder app as your Daydream.

There is no shortage of Daydream apps or apps that do something else while also tapping into Android Daydream on the Google Play Store. If you are interested in trying out Daydream on your device, besides the ones I’ve already mentioned, you should check these ones out too:

  • ClockPlus DayDream
  • Weather DayDream Screensaver
  • Daydream Quotes
  • ClockTower 3D
  • Website Daydream
  • Lucid – Daydream Screensaver

The good thing about Android is that you are only limited by your imagination and device specs as far as the customization options go. To ride on the functionality of Daydreams, someone put out something that I find really cool: an app, Daydream Launcher. Daydream Launcher simply stretches the Daydream feature from being triggered only when your device is docked or charging to just about any time that you want to see your beautiful Daydream. It creates a shortcut on your home screen that launches Daydream when tapped. Just press the app icon and you are good to go.

Daydream is a small feature and there isn’t much to it but being one of those people who really love waving at my Galaxy S4 just to see notifications when it is idle or charging, this feature makes that unnecessary since I can glance over my docked or charging device and get all I wanted. Feel free to try it out, if you haven’t already, and tell me how you like or hate it. There are some who argue that having Daydream on slows down the time it takes for your device to be fully charged. While I am not sure that is the case, I don’t find the argument convincing or practical. For starters there has been no change in the amount of time it takes to fully charge my device so I cannot complain. Maybe that is because I have an AMOLED display that only lights up the white (or other colours) parts of the screen and does not power the remainder of the black area but for LCD displays I doubt there would be much of a difference.

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About Emmanuel Chenze

Student of life, tech & social media enthusiast and blogger. I love gadgets, isn't that obvious? When I'm not on my Droid reading something or tweeting, I'm hunched over my computer doing my classwork and checking out the latest in tech. Basically, I have no life besides gadgets :)

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