What makes a phone buzz? Google's new tech vs Apple's Taptic Engine and the rest
posted by Milen Y. / Oct 24, 2016, 8:14 AM
One of the big idiosyncrasies of today's smartphones, and one that is rarely discussed, is how each model vibrates in its own, distinctive way when ringing or receiving notifications. Each phone feels and sounds different when buzzing in your hand or pocket, or when left on a hard flat surface, such as the desk at your office. This, of course, comes down partially to their structural features — both interior and exterior — the materials used in the build and how well put together the whole thing is. These factors, combined with the specifics of the feedback source — that surprisingly small motor inside your phone — can be the difference between getting annoyed looks from your coworkers when your phone begins its short, vibrant stroll around your desk for the fiftieth time that day (thus forcing you to keep it on a pad of post-it notes), and nobody ever noticing its quiet buzz.
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.
Samsung phones are also using linear motors for quite a while now. They are much better than the rotational ones found in most phones. A lighter load on spring will have more and faster harmonic motions and hence will provide worse feedback in general. That's where iPhone's taptic engine beats the others. It's just a higher quality, bigger and heavier load, hence better. However, the one on the iPhone is not nearly as good as the one on the macbooks. On a newer macbook, you get a click exactly where you press. Also it's a uniform press and a more believable experience. Off-topic: I'm back.
posted on Oct 24, 2016, 8:31 AM 8
Posts: 28; Member since: Oct 29, 2013
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posted on Oct 24, 2016, 8:43 AM 0
Posts: 7209; Member since: Mar 16, 2013
This article is just crap. Let's get real. Vibrations and especially the amount, or type of vibrations are totally useless if the phone is in you coat, purse, or even in your pants pocket. You will definitely loose some of those vibrations. Especially when other materials in your clothing can dampen those vibrations. No matter how good the phone can make them. What is more important is what the phone and software can do.
posted on Oct 24, 2016, 2:29 PM 0
Posts: 358; Member since: Dec 13, 2010
I would have assumed that a ligther load would allow for higher oscillating frequencies. Since the motor in the pixel can be more precise I think it can be more seameless and more acute feedback. I have tried the iphone 7and it disperses the vibration through a larger surface area but it feels slugish to me. I havent tried the pixel but im assuming is very sibtle and precise, unless they're feeding it too much current.
posted on Oct 24, 2016, 1:29 PM 0
Posts: 3343; Member since: Jul 22, 2014
I don't mean to be a party pooper but does having distinct vibrations really matter? I used macs, iphones and androids and they're just simple vibrations to me.
posted on Oct 24, 2016, 8:58 AM 3
Posts: 256; Member since: Oct 21, 2015
Now apply this to a vibrator
posted on Oct 24, 2016, 9:46 AM 0
Posts: 3343; Member since: Jul 22, 2014
With taptic engine? That would be iVibe with force touch feature.
posted on Oct 24, 2016, 9:57 AM 2
Posts: 1318; Member since: Aug 31, 2016
I always turn off feedback though. It saves a little battery throughout the day and I generally don't like it. I find the feedback for the iPhone 7 home button rather weird. Can't they just give us switches like in mechanical keyboards?
posted on Oct 24, 2016, 11:31 AM 2
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