It's 2018 and Android phones still can't compare to the iPhone's Taptic Engine

You've probably heard of Apple's Taptic Engine before. It's the vibration motor that first appeared on the iPhone 6S, eventually running out the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 and consequent models. It's also what allowed Apple to replicate the clicking button of the old days on newer iPhones with nothing more than a firm buzz under a pressure-sensitive portion of the glass. Subtle as it may be, the Taptic Engine has made a huge difference in the overall experience of using an iPhone.

Meanwhile, Android phones haven't exactly made haptic feedback a high priority, with most phones limited to only a few different settings for vibration intensity. Most users probably don't notice the difference, largely because they've likely never experienced the iPhone's Taptic Engine, but spending even a few hours with a modern iPhone can make it hard to go back to the rattly motors of most Android phones.

What's so great about the Taptic Engine?

Remember that HTC phone you used to have that sounded like it was going to explode every time you got a notification? Remember getting scared half to death because you left your phone on the table and the vibrations practically shook the entire room?

The Taptic Engine focuses on more subtle and focused vibrations. Unlike a lot of other phones, the iPhone doesn't aggressively alert you of a new text or email; it's more like a tap or a knock in your hands. But the Taptic Engine isn't special just because it's gentle; it's because nearly every interaction with it is different.

Thanks to the Taptic Engine, getting a text won't cause an earthquake with your iPhone.

When you get a text, the iPhone vibrates along with your notification tone, matching the dynamics with softer and harder pulses. Same goes for phone calls — you can really take advantage of this by setting different ringtones for certain callers. Even with the phone set on vibrate, you can literally feel who's calling.

The Taptic Engine works great alongside the iPhone's 3D Touch display, as well. As I mentioned before, the non-moving home button on newer iPhones (save for the iPhone X, which eliminates the home button entirely) is just a pressure-sensitive portion of the front glass. The "click" is emulated by the Taptic Engine, and you can adjust how hard you need to press down — and how strongly it vibrates back at you — in the settings.

You can also feel the effects of 3D Touch and the Taptic Engine on the home screen and throughout the UI; pressing an icon on your home screen with a bit of force will prompt a small buzz and open a contextual menu for the corresponding app. Similarly, you can 3D Touch a module in Control Center to open additional options — again, with a light haptic response.

The Taptic Engine isn't great because of any one feature; it's a series of nuanced interactions that make the iPhone more enjoyable to use.

Which Android phones get the closest?

I've seen a lot of people clamor over the great haptic feedback on the Pixel 2, and it's certainly better than that of any Pixel or Nexus before it. But after buying a Pixel 2, along with an iPhone X, earlier this month (for my fiancee and myself, respectively) and using both side by side ... let's be honest, it's not even close. It doesn't feel rattly like other Android phones, which is a huge plus, but there's really no correspondence between the vibration motor and the different actions on your phone.

The LG V30 has the best haptic response of any Android phone I've tried, and it's not even close.

LG gets a lot closer to greatness with its HD TouchSense technology on the V30. Rather than using the same two or three vibration settings throughout the entire UI, LG spent some time configuring parts of its software to exhibit small details in the haptic feedback, much like on the iPhone. Pressing one of the navigation keys feels nice, with a quick tap-like response, but the best showcase of the V30's high-quality actuator is the camera software.

If you personally carry a V30, you already know what I'm talking about. Tapping the shutter button to take a photo actually sort of feels like taking a photo with a real camera because the button clicks back at you. If you dive into manual controls, scrolling lists will click back at you as if you were spinning a dial. It's one of my favorite uses of what LG calls "HD haptics," and something even the iPhone doesn't do, because, well — the camera doesn't have manual controls.

When I was formulating this article, my colleague Daniel Bader mentioned that Sony's newly announced Xperia XZ2 has some pretty great haptics of its own, and while I haven't yet tried it for myself, it definitely has my interest. In short, the "Dynamic Vibration System," as Sony likes to call it, uses a larger than normal vibration motor and buzzes along with movies and music. Unfortunately, Daniel also says that Sony's motor isn't as accurate as that of the V30 or iPhone X in general, but it's a step in the right direction.

Is it really that big a deal?

If you're coming away from this article thinking "it doesn't matter that much," I don't blame you. Haptic feedback will vary in importance from person to person, but it's hard to imagine calling poor haptics a deal-breaker on an otherwise attractive phone.

Still, the more I use the iPhone X it's becoming increasingly noticeable when I pick up another phone and feel just how far behind other vibration motors are. I sincerely hope LG continues to integrate its fantastic TouchSense system, and hopefully other OEMs will soon follow suit.

What are your thoughts and experiences with haptic feedback, Taptic or otherwise? Let us know in the comments below!

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.

107 Comments
  • Apple fan boy? That's what makes their phones better, better subjective haptic feedback? Pretty good on the Note 8 friend, and iPhone's don't have a back button so that is way more important to most of us.
  • Apple is all about the user experience and having its tech work very well cause it's done right. Whether the Taptic engine is a huge plus or not the fact it's much better compared to what other manufacturers have.
  • I really wish people would stop calling out "Apple fan boys" just because of pointing out things that they do right and actually like them. Believe it or not, iPhones are enjoyable. I miss the downvote button.
  • You'd think some around here believe a positive comment about Apple product here would cause half of us to rush out mindlessly and buy one. It's projection.txt
  • I think the author is right. The haptics on most Androids dont come anywhere near how the new iPhones feel and operate. On Android - It gets the job done and thats all most of us Android users usually ask for. I'd be open to seeing more manufacturers improve it ...because why not? For example - hitting the fake home button on the iPhone 7 is pretty impressive. My friends didn't even know there wasn't an actual button until I told them.
  • Author should try a Huawei Mate 9.
  • More like Mr-Insecure-Guy. Jesus. The article is about haptic feedback being better. Which it is. And he even says at the end, it's not going to matter much to some people. Yeah, what a raging "Apple fan boy."
  • Go ahead and put a notch on the Pixel 3....Make a homely phone even uglier.
  • Not once have I ever thought I wish my taptic engine was better or like iPhones...
  • Nobody has. He's making nonsense into an article. Next you'll see an article for "Why are iPhone's volume rockers so much nicer than Android" despite the fact that "Android" is a generalization across dozens of actual manufacturers and completely irrelevant... like this topic
  • I strongly dislike Apple and their products, love my Pixel 2 XL, and every time I've used a recent iPhone for my clients I've thought, "man, I wish my phone had this Taptic engine." Yes, people have absolutely had this thought. And your comparison makes zero sense. This is a standard function across all iPhones that's software-dependent and a component of the OS and overall experience. NO Android phone has done it or come close, and they can't do it to this degree without it being standardized. Different concepts.
  • I turn off all vibration feedback. I thought anyone who was an adult and knew how to use phones turned it off in all but when the phone is in vibrate mode?
    Taptic feedback? Ha Ha!
  • I agree. If it matters that much, get an iPhone.
  • I *despise* taptic engines. I wish I could open my iPhone and yank it out without iOS complaining.
  • One of the first things I turn off is the haptic feedback.
  • Ditto. I also don't want gentler more targeted vibrations. I want them to be more aggressive. I've missed calls because I didn't feel them when my phone was in my pocket.
  • Same, I don't like it at all. I didn't like it on the iPhone either.
  • Agreed. I can't stand it even long enough to go through setup.
  • I gotta be honest: I don't care about haptic feedback whatsoever. Whenever I get a new phone, that's one of the first things I disable.
  • I bet that iPhone taptic engine works wonders typing when that iPhone x is laying flat on that hideous camera hump rocking back and forth
  • If I choose an iPhone over a Samsung solely because the only thing it can't beat it in, is the quality of hepatic feed back....shoot me.
  • What a stupid article...
  • Is this really a thing? 🤔
  • Just give me Nintendo's "HD Rumble" capability in my phone and I'll be happy... Haha! Seriously though, I don't really pay much attention to vibration as my phone is rarely in vibrate mode. I also don't use haptic feedback for screen taps or the keyboard.
  • It is much better, but it's not that important. I don't use it really, it waste battery. Only for ringing.
  • My wife has an iPhone 7 and it bugs me even with the minimal interactions I have with it.
  • Honestly never thought about it, or had a sense I was missing out on something. The iPhone vs. Android thing is getting old - just get the phone that does what you want and be happy with the choice.
  • Haptic feedback is pretty good with the Note 8. The Essential Phone has the worst haptic engine ever.
  • Yeah, the Essential Phone feels way too harsh, like its vibration is going to jar all its components inside or something. I quickly turned it off because it was so awful.
  • The v30 has the best haptic motor on an Android phone right now.
  • I like the aggressive vibration when I get a text. If its gentle like on the iphone then I won't feel it while I'm holding my phone. Thanks Android for being better to me.
  • So true. My pixels keyboard feedback just plan sucks.
  • Honestly haptic feedback is pretty much the least important thing on a phone for me. That being said, and having both a Pixel 2 XL a an iPhone X myself, yes, the haptic feedback is better on the iPhone, but, for me, the Pixel comes incredibly close. Still, on both cases, I'd much rather have a headphone jack than "good" haptic feedback.
  • It's only a matter of priorities. Do you want great battery life, with a headphone jack, and an average taptic engine, or average battery life, no headphone jack, and a great taptic engine? I've made my choice.
  • Do you want a phone from almost two years ago, that's faster than Samsung's flagship? Do you want a camera, that just works? Do you want to have a battery gauge that tells you when your battery is degrading? If so? Buy an iPhone. If you want the future to be chinese phones that spy on you, then buy an Android. We know you won't buy a Pixel. You are just TOO GOOD for quality Android. Oh yeah, the headphone jack is dead. DEAL WITH IT.
  • Speak for yourself, I DID buy a Pixel.
  • I like feedback. I just do. It's reassuring and satisfying. I've never had an Iphone so i can't compare the differences with Android but it sounds great. I've got to come up with an Iphone one day. I feel like there's a huge area of the mobile world I've never experienced. I dont like that.
  • You should try it. Then see how you feel when you switch back. If you miss your iPhone, then you know what to choose.
  • Aside from notifications, I could care less about haptic feedback. I simply don't want any. While the Android notification vibration could be better, it's pretty low on my list of improvements I'd like to see.
  • This is the first time I've ever read an article regarding haptic feedback on a phone. It's interesting. Maybe it's something that we don't think of until we actually try it. Maybe there is a reason why some of us disable haptic feedback when we get new phones.
  • Exactly. There is no point in disabling haptic on iPhones because it feels so good. I mean, who doesn't like good vibrations? =)
  • It’s funny how the comments here fell right into the same trap that the article alluded to. Most of you have no clue how big the difference is between iPhone and literally-every-other Android haptic feedback. Most of you haven’t used an iPhone long enough to appreciate what Apple has done. I use both platforms interchangeably, all the time. Android sucks for haptic feedback. How bad? It feels like I’m using one of those old Nokia phones I used to race on tables when they vibrate.
  • Nailed it. Some extremely close-minded people around here.
  • Agreed. I love Android and can't see myself ever switching to iPhone, but once you spend even a few minutes using their Taptic engine, the difference is far, far more dramatic than these commenters realize. It's not merely a better vibration. It transcends that. I'd love to have that on Android. See, I'm capable of recognizing and praising things the competitors of products I like do without being a fanboy of said product. There's a bunch of things Apple does really well that Android doesn't. But none is enough to make me remotely consider switching. Doesn't mean I can't admire them.
  • Exactly. I love my Android experience, but I appreciate what the iPhones can do too.
  • I think the tactic feedback is what kills iphone battery lol I hate that feature. I had iphone 3 to 8. Never really cared for,
  • It's "haptic" not "tactic"
  • Darn auto-correct! Lol.
  • Lol I didn't even notice the auto- correct lol
  • I've used it on my Mom's iPhone (I am the IT guy for my parents haha). While I admit it is nice, it definitely is not a game-changer or an absolute must to switch me away (on a Pixel 2XL... previously Nexus 6P, Nexus 5, Galaxy Nexus, Droid X)
  • There's a setting for vibrate when taking a picture with a V30?
    Where?
    Not in general settings or in the camera settings.
    Where where.....
  • Like many others here, I disable all haptic feedback except for vibrations for notifications and calls. The vast majority of the time I gesture type with Gboard so I wouldn't want the phone to be vibrating for that, nor do I want it to be buzzing away in my hand in response to other UI interactions.
  • You want to disable it on most Android phones because it is absolute garbage.
  • Lol 😂, just came here for the sh*tshow, not disappointed. Job well done. 👏🏻
  • Ahh I love this article as haptic feedback is badly missing on Android and sorely underrated. The Pixel 2 can not come close to how great the iPhone X is, but I would love to try a V30 to see what that is all about. Hopefully if we bring more attention to haptics, Google will step up their game with the Pixel 3. They like to copy Apple for everything so why not for haptics too?
  • I'm really surprised to see haptic feedback get such attention. The first thing I do on a new phone, is to switch all congressional feedback off. I think it's a nuisance, and use swipe-type keyboards to type. A bit comical how it can be a highlighted feature.
  • It's different though. I disable it on all my Android phones too (except notifications). It's not like typing on the keyboard vibrates. Only when you long press to use the keyboard as a cursor. It vibrates through certain parts of gameplay if the developer enables it, when using 3D Touch, and a few other areas. It's much more subtle than what I've used on Android.
  • I agree with all of this article. It is really not a big deal at all for me, but it is all definitely true. Android OEMs should step up their vibration game here. Seems like an easy thing to do to improve the user experience, and it is an item that is lacking in Android phones. The other comments bashing it are either Android fan boys, or folks for whom it doesn't matter. I have always used Android, but the vibration motors suck. Now back in the day when I had a Blackberry on the other hand .. :-)
  • Weird how merely praising an advantage a competing system has brings out the fanboy comments. How deeply-entrenched are all of you that you can't see ANY nice thing said about a competitor as anything less than unyielding support? There's lots of things Apple does well, and this is one of them. I've had to use my clients' iPhones to support them, and while there's so much of the experience I find painfully frustrating that makes me so glad I'm on Android, the Taptic engine is one of the few things that makes me drool a little and wish I had it. So many comments here ignore the thrust of the article and suggest they've never used it themselves, because it's not as simple as a better motor. It's way more nuanced than that. The feel yes, but also the level of information it provides and the way it enhances everything. A ringtone also has a rhythm to it, independent of the tone, which expands the experience. Individual notifications can be clearly recognized beyond just "was that one vibration, two, or three? Short, or long?" And pressing and interacting with things on the screen feels like a direct manipulation instead of a simple confirmation buzz. I can't imagine ever switching to an iPhone, and unlike all of the strawman complaints in this comment thread suggest, NOBODY is saying this is worth switching to an iPhone over. But if this came to Pixel, or any other popular Android phone (with OS-level support), I would be very, very pleased.
  • More clickbait bullshit. Filler pieces in lieu of actual newsworthy articles.
  • This article was a waste of my time. I generally turn off the haptic feedback and I don't use vibration for notifications. It's a very minor feature. What's next? Are the phone corners better on the iPhone than Android phones? Based on the iPhones that I see in my friends hands, they need a shatterproof screen more than any other feature.
  • but you had more time to comment. So I guess you had nothing better to do... So now it seems that your just wasting your own time.
  • Haha! Slam!
  • I never thought about it till I actually started reading about it. I thought the button on my phone was a hardware one till I came to know it's the haptic engine mimicking it. I thought that was pretty cool. I also like the smooth vibration on 3D touch. But, honestly, it is not something I would be like "Whoaaaa", iPhone has THIS!!!!! It's ok. I would have loved to see a technical comparison between Apple's Vs Android's haptic approach.
  • I absolutely love the haptic feedback on my LG V30. Every time I try and explain it to someone who has never experienced it they just give me a dull stare as if it was the most uninteresting thing ever. My ringtone is a custom LG song where it starts with a car revving its engine and then it makes electronic clicking noises and the haptic feedback motor rumbles in sync with the sounds and its almost magical. I actually look forward to the few phone calls I get just so I can experience it.
  • Honestly, I don't like the haptic feedback that much. I try not to use it that often. I find it somewhat distracting. Especially, when I type.
  • Not even iPhones use haptic feedback when you type. That's an Android thing, and something I don't like either.
  • I played around with the haptic settings on the Note8 and I found that if you get it right, it actually doesn't feel too far off from what I would get on my sister's iPhone 8+. Of course, the haptics on the iPhone feel more pleasant, but I was able to replicate some of it.
  • I have used the haptic feedback verify brief on iPhone 6S and iPhone X and I can objectively say it is nice. Never something I would trade my Android phone in for, but still it would be nice to have added to Android. It enhances the UX experience. I find it similar to background of a button or list item changing temporarily when selected. The button or item still works just fine when you tap it but the feedback, whether visual or physical ro even a combination of both, really just immerses and delights me. I believe there are a few headline features (also improvements) that need to be added to Android first, but it would be nice to get in a future release.
  • I gave up on Android waiting for Haptic feedback to get good like Apples. The vibration just spooks the crap out of me. Always too strong and for something that is supposed to vibrate makes too damn much noise. I turn it off everywhere I can on my phones.
  • Wow folks amazing how ignorant people are here that Apple DOES have better feedback than Android. And I say this as someone is fully invested in using Android. Being an Android fanboy to the point where you ignore other better technologies on other platforms is just stupid and not good for your favored platform in the long run. If you blindly support everything Android has, there is no constructive criticism and no chance for
    improvement. Cough, Dark Theme, Cough....how long have we been waiting for that?
  • Oh it absolutely does... but for most of us, it is not a feature we absolutely have to switch to Apple from Android.
  • I hate tactic engine, is the first feature I turn off on any phone. Waste of battery. If I want real feedback, I rather use keyone keyboard.
  • Haptic, not tactic
  • Good article. This feature does need to be greatly defined and advanced. Especially for typing.
  • People still care about haptic feedback? I always turn that off immediately on any device I own. It's really annoying.
  • It's the only thing I use most of the time. I use it when I am at work or my phone is on my pocket.
  • Have you tried the samsung phones? My s8 has a lot if the same haptic feedback. Press the virtual home button even when the screen is black and the phone vibrates. I can have different vibrations for different callers. It's not a big deal for me since my smartwatch alerts me also and it's always on vibrate.
  • But at least they're copying the things that matter like the notch.
  • It's no deal breaker but it sure is nice when you notice the subtler stuff they've done with it. Like hitting the bottom of a list you get a tap, or on the apple watch you get these great little knocks and taps with various notifications. Very subtle and smart things that make interaction with the device seem more "alive". I like it.
  • One of the first things I do on every phone I get is turn off haptic feedback. Totally unnecessary. If you can't tell you took a picture without the phone buzzing at you, I think you have a bigger problem than haptics.
  • What if you have the device in your pocket?
  • Yeah, this is definitely something that lacks on Android. I'm sure there are plenty of people who turn off vibration, but if you've used an iPhone or MBP with 3d touch you can definitely appreciate it. In fact, on the iPhone 6s I briefly used for work, I actually enjoyed the keyboard feedback, and I do turn that off on my Androids. The taptic engine is capable of quicker and sharper vibrations and clicks than a traditional vibration motor. People are always amazed when they feel the touchpad on my MBP, then I turn it off and tell them to try to press on it again. It's incredible how much it feels like it clicks for being a solid piece of glass. It makes me really dislike the slight movement my HP Spectre x360's touchpad has, and it has one of my favorite PC touchpads.
  • This article is hilarious, considering haptic feedback is literally the FIRST thing I d