Android "Lollipop" introduced a ton of cool new functionality. Unfortunately, the Nexus 5 didn't get all of these features, as some were exclusive to other devices. For example, the Ambient Display function on the Nexus 6 that shows new notifications as they come in with a black-and-white lock screen. Sure, the new Nexus phablet has an AMOLED display that doesn't waste any battery to power black pixels, but it would be nice to have this feature as an option on the Nexus 5, wouldn't it?
Not one to be left out when it comes to new features, developer Raffaele D'Alto came up with a way to add Ambient Display functionality to the Nexus 5. To be clear, his mod does not replicate the Nexus 6's lift-to-wake feature, just the new notification interface. But awesome new functionality like this is more than welcome as our devices begin to get a little long in tooth.
D'Alto's Ambient Display mod comes in the form of a flashable ZIP. To download this file, point your Nexus 5's web browser to this link, but make sure to wait until the download has finished before moving on to the next step.
Next, power your phone completely off. When the screen goes black, press and hold the volume down and power buttons simultaneously. When Android's bootloader menu comes up, press the volume down button twice to highlight "Recovery mode," then press the power button to select it.
From TWRP's main menu, press the "Install" button to begin. (Note that other custom recoveries have a slightly different interface, but the process in general is mostly the same.) Next, navigate to your device's Download folder, then select the "5.0.1Ambient.zip" file.
After that, just swipe the slider at the bottom of the screen to install the mod. When the process has finished, tap "Reboot System."
When you get back up, no further setup is needed. The Ambient Display option can be accessed in Settings under the "Display" menu, but it will already be enabled by default.
New notifications will now wake your device to a black-and-white lock screen for a few seconds. Combined with Lollipop's new lock screen notification interface, this makes reading incoming messages incredibly easy. If you'd like to interact with one of these notifications, just tap anywhere, and the lock screen will return to its full color state.
If you'd like to get the full Nexus 6 Ambient Display experience, try out our GravityScreen guide to add lift-to-wake functionality.