Double Tap vs Raise vs Wave vs Voice: exploring alternative ways to wake up a phone

Double Tap vs Raise vs Wave vs Voice: exploring alternative ways to wake up a phone
In the past few years, some smartphone manufacturers have started placing the standby/power button and the fingerprint sensors in various places on modern smartphones. Sometimes, this alternative placement makes the buttons harder to reach if you just want to take a peek at your lock screen to view your notifications or check the time. In turn, a new problem has arisen: how do you wake up a phone without touching any buttons?

What is now an issue that’s limited to only a few smartphone models may turn out to be a real problem as smartphone makers get increasingly closer to launching all-screen phones, handsets that integrate home buttons and fingerprint sensors in the display itself. As it turns out, device manufacturers have already come up with several solutions for allowing users to wake up their phones without pressing any button (and performing some odd finger gymnastics to achieve this goal).

Among them, the most popular are Double Tap To Wake, Camera Wave, Raise To Wake, and Voice Commands. While the names of these features may vary between implementations, the principle behind them remains consistent. Today, we're here to discuss what these features mean, how they are accomplished, and try to uncover the advantages of disadvantages of each one.

Before heading on any further, it should be noted that, if you have a lockscreen password or pattern lock, these features will wake the phone to the corresponding security login screen. If not, you'll be taken straight to the previous screen, which is either the app that you had open before locking the device or the home screen itself.

Double Tap

If you're rocking an LG, Sony, or HTC flagship smartphone, then you already know what Double Tap To Wake is and how it works. LG calls this feature Knock On, HTC integrates it in its Motion Launch system, while Sony has the feature listed under Ease Of Use. Regardless of its name, however, the feature allows users to wake up their phones through a simple double tap on the display. 

To achieve this task, the phone's digitizer is constantly monitoring user input. When two taps occur in quick succession in roughly the same place on the screen, the system wakes up the device.

The main advantage of this feature compared to alternatives is ease of use: double tapping the screen to wake the phone seems natural, especially if you're a Windows user who is used to double clicking. 

On most smartphones which support double-tap, you can also double tap the home screen to have the phone enter sleep mode. This means that you can both unlock and lock your phone using the system. Sadly, some smartphones can only be woken up using double tap. 

Convenient and intuitive as this method may be, accidental triggering may happen when users keep their phones in the pocket. This usually happens when the display touch sensitivity is too high, as was the case with the Sony Xperia Z5.

If a lockscreen password or pattern is set up, then the damage is minimal. In the absence of a login system, however, your phone may end up sending illegible messages to your boss or call your parents during the oddest of conversations.

Raise To Wake – Ambient Display

With stock Android Lollipop, Google introduced a new feature called Ambient Display. In principle, the gyroscope and accelerometer detect that you’ve picked up the phone and wake the phone up to reveal your notifications. With the new iOS 10, Apple’s has introduced a similar feature called Raise To Wake.

These systems may have fancy names, but their implementation is fairly simple: users just need to raise their phone to have it wake up. From what we’ve experienced, this feature works fairly accurate, as there is little chance of accidental triggering because users rarely raise their phones without trying to activate it.

Overall, this currently seems to be the best way of waking the phone up without touching any button, although the feature doesn’t work when the phone is lying on the table. Furthermore, Ambient Display can lower the standby battery life of Android phones by up to 20%, which is quite a lot. 

Wave To Wake

Wave To Wake is a decent alternative to waking your phone without picking it up. In fact, with this method, users don't even need to touch their smartphones. Instead, users only need to wave at the proximity sensor, which is usually located above the display near the front-facing camera.

There are times when your hands are too dirty to touch your phone but still need to wake up the device (to check the time, for instance), which is where this alternative wake-up feature proves its utility.

Samsung has first introduced this feature on the Galaxy S5, but devices such as the Galaxy Note 4, the Galaxy S6 series, the Galaxy Note 5, and the Galaxy S7 series have received it as well in the meantime. Whether it’s called Air Wake Up or Gesture Wake, the feature had the same functionality on all of Samsung’s devices.

In more technical terms, the software is constantly monitoring data coming from the proximity sensor, and will wake up the phone when it detects that your hand is close to the screen. Furthermore, the best of these systems also pull data from the gyroscope, meaning that they won’t activate the device if it’s not sitting it isn’t laying on a flat surface.

OK Google / Voice Commands

Last but not least, we should also mention that some devices can be woken up through voice. Yes, we're talking about the famous OK Google voice command. On most Android phones, you can invoke Google Now’s voice search from any screen following the corresponding setup procedure. On a limited number of devices, the OK Google command also works when the screen is off. 

This feature was first introduced with the original Motorola Moto X, but has since been made available to devices such as the Nexus 9, the Nexus 5, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Unfortunately, no current-generation device supports voice activation when the screen is off.

The major problem with the voice-enabled wake up is battery drain. To be able to interpret your commands when the screen is off, the device needs to be constantly monitoring the input from its microphone. This requires much more resources compared to double taps and camera waves.
On the original Moto X, Motorola fitted in a custom SoC that included a separate chip designed to monitor and process microphone input without waking up the main processor. Unfortunately, however, the resources that go into such an endeavor are not validated by the result. 


Now that we’ve briefly summarized the alternative ways of waking up a smartphone, we turn to you, our readers, to provide some feedback. 

Which is your favorite method of waking up a phone without touching a physical button? Express your opinion by voting in the poll below, but also make sure to drop us a comment if your thoughts cannot be fully expressed by a single choice poll answer.

Double Tap vs Raise vs Wave vs Voice: Which Is Your Favorite?

Double Tap
Ambient Display / Raise To Wake
OK Google / Voice Commands


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