This app can replicate the Now Playing feature of Pixel devices on your Android smartphone


Each new Android update brings several new features to the community, but some are exclusive to Pixel phones. One of these exclusive features, called Now Playing, left us burning with envy. Thanks to an independent app developer, things have changed for the better.

What’s playing now?

In case you didn’t know, Now Playing is a passive music identification and detection system introduced with the Pixel 2 in 2018. Since then, it’s been a staple of Pixel devices, much like the Google Camera app. It works like Shazam and SoundHound, but the difference is that you don’t need to open an app to identify what music is playing. You don’t even need an internet connection. Everything works passively.

The Now Playing feature is available for all Android devices, thanks to an app called Ambient Music Mod developed by a professional app developer, Kieron Quinn. The app helps users passively detect and identify songs on their smartphones. android font reports that Quinn’s audio capture and detection systems are similar to Google’s Now Playing feature.

Pixel currently playing

How it works

In a blog post, Quinn explained that instead of a full ambient detection system, the Ambient Music Mod app uses device activities as triggers and preset audio recording durations. So the app can start listening for, say, 15 seconds when the screen turns on. Quinn said this implementation is less “finicky” than bypassing ambient music detection, which the first version of her app used.

Once the audio is passively recorded, the song identification works exactly like how Google Assistant constantly processes passive audio to detect the keyword “Hey Google”. This “keyword” detection system is processed by a dedicated signal processor (DSP), found on most modern Android devices. Once the DSP detects that the ambient sounds include music, an eight-second recording is started and passed to the Android System Intelligence service, which compares the recording to a database of tracks.

Quinn explained that the database includes 53,000 tracks (as of June 2022 in the United States). It is stored offline as it only takes up 250MB on your phone. According to tests conducted by the app developer, Now Playing correctly identified all 56 songs played on a radio station over a five-hour period. During the same period, Ambient Music Mod failed with only one track but identified all others correctly.

App updates

Previously, Ambient Music Mod required root access on devices running Android 12. The latest app update released last week removes this requirement, making the app much more accessible to Android users around the world.

The latest (open source) app package available on GitHub includes the Ambient Music Mod app along with a barebones version of the Android System Intelligence app required for music detection. The app also records any songs it has detected, displays album art, and sports a dedicated mode using which users can manually trigger recognition attempts. You can even dive into the app settings and change recording times.

Have you tried Ambient Music Mod on your Android device? Do you think Google should make Pixel-exclusive apps and software more widely available? Tell us why in the comments section below.

[Via Android Police]

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