Nexus 5 can theoretically support always-on touchless controls

March 11, 2014

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Android fans might be all too familiar with the phrase "OK Google" by now, especially as it is supercharged on the Nexus 5. Unfortunately, that feature works only in a limited number of situations. But it doesn't have to, which is what this proof of concept demo, well, proves.

Always-on Touchless Controls. That is the Motorola Moto X's call to fame, allowing users to access Google Now and other functionality no matter what the state the smartphone is in. Meaning that the device will sense and respond to your voice prompts even if the display is turned off or the device is asleep. While there are definitely apps that can imitate this feature, like Samsung's S Voice, Motorola's implementation has one distinct and substantial advantage: low power usage.

That feature doesn't have to be exclusive to the Moto X though, as proven by Guillaume Lesniak, more popular for his Focal camera app that once graced CyanogenMod. This proof of concept was done on a Nexus 5, which is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800. The low-power always-on capability was made possible by fiddling around with the Snapdragon 800's audio processor. The CPU is turned off and remains turned off, leaving the audio processor to do the heavy lifting of listening for the voice command and only kicking in once the device has been woken up.

[youtube F1ANpeexBTQ]

The technical capability is there, but, as they say, the devil is in the details. Not only is the current implementation still too unstable for a release, it is also hindered by legal problems. Due to licensing issues, Lesniak's changes can't be legally redistributed. Unfortunately, it all now depends on getting a greenlight from Qualcomm, which might not be so enthused with just any developer messing around with its hardware.

VIA: Droid Life

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  • Too bad it doesn’t support a Micro SD card, I’d own one.

    • HZD

      Who needs micro SD on what is essentially a developer phone still, I can get over two weeks of music on my 16gb phone and have room for Gapps / day to day apps ( not games ).

      If your consuming mass video and using it as a mountable storage device buy a tablet with SD card support or a usbOTG and flash Drive.

      • PoopSimpson

        He does. I thought that was rather clear.

      • Josh Nickerson

        …and he can make the choice to pay an additional $300+ dollars for a phone with top of the line specs AND a Micro SD card slot, or he can get the Nexus 5 and a USB OTG cable (~$5) and ANY storage device that doesn’t require external power (32GB flash drive ~$15). I have T-Mobile (I understand the service isn’t good/not available everywhere) and just stream everything. I barely use my home Wi-Fi. Between 15GB and 20GB usage each month. The phone is amazing AND cheap and, because Android is open to customization, there are options for people who want/need supplementary storage.

      • PoopSimpson

        Yes, he certainly could. The thing is, Android used to be about flexibility. In a real way, not a hobbled together rooting extra cable flash drives dangling from your phone kind of way.

        We used to laugh at how the iPhone people could remove their battery. We used to praise the superiority of a product that didn’t require a bulky portable charger, but instead could have extended battery. No extra crap in your pockets.

        We said the same thing about memory. We talked about how ridiculous it was for Apple to lock down internal storage just they could charge an obscene amount for upgrades only the company could provide.

        Someone desiring these things from a device that offers a pure android experience is not out of line. The nexus 5 forced you to use steaming if you have a large collection of music/movies, or it forces you to carry extra stuff.

        I bought one to try out, and while the phone is useable, I definitely miss the freedom of just tossing a bigger card or battery solve the problems this phone. To each their own.

    • Liam Phoenix

      Heck, Google is even meddling in other manufacturers to kill SD.


      Just get the 32gb model, if you need more than that get an SD Card adapter for your micro USB port or put games on a tablet like I do and you’ll have tons of room for apps and music on your phone