What makes a phone buzz? Google's new tech vs Apple's Taptic Engine and the rest
Up until now, the haptic feedback of most phones was handled by either a rotary motor with an off-balanced weight, or more recently, a coin vibration motor (a.k.a pancake motor). With Apple's introduction of the Taptic Engine, however, things are likely to change a bit in the near future. Designed to bridge the digital-physical divide, the Taptic Engine is capable of replicating tactile sensations unlike any other device of its kind, such as providing feedback with varying levels of intensity when using Force Touch, or even simulating motion when pressing iPhone 7's new solid-state home button. It is also responsible for syncing the iPhone 7's vibration patterns to the ringtone, as well as for the overall solid feel of the phone's haptic feedback.
We are now getting our first glimpse at what exactly is driving the feedback system inside the Google Pixel and Pixel XL. Similar to the Taptic Engine, it is a linear actutator, although much smaller in size, that makes the Pixel phones buzz. In the video below, you will see the two devices in motion, and how the Taptic Engine relies on shorter, more precise movements, while the smaller motor in Google's phone sways side to side more aggressively and with greater rapidity. Still, the Pixel and Pixel XL pack some of the better motors out there, making the phones' haptic feedback well-pronounced and solid, while keeping it quiet and unobtrusive at the same time. In terms of precision, however, it has a lot of catching up to do.