Why Android Phones Need Better Haptic Feedback

More than a feeling

Key Takeaways

  • Lofelt is making its new VTX haptic framework available to Android phone manufacturers in an attempt to create better industry-wide feedback.
  • The new framework will allow manufacturers to provide stronger and more customizable tactile responses.
  • Accessibility experts say the system could unlock new features vital for allowing people with disabilities to make the most of their devices.
Closeup of a hand using a smartphone in the dark.

Oscar Wong / Getty Images

A new haptic feedback framework could bring better physical responses on Android devices, enabling more accessibility options for smartphone users.

Haptic (touch) feedback has a lot of uses on smartphones. It adds immersion to mobile games, and also can provide a physical response when you press buttons or interact with your smartphone’s screen. This opens a lot of space for accessibility functions, especially for those who may need tactile feedback to get the most out of their device.

Now, thanks to a new haptic framework from Lofelt, Android phones finally could see some significant advancements in how these systems work on those devices, something experts say is greatly needed.

"Lofelt is one of the few companies that truly understand the potential and possibilities of the technology. What they are doing is absolutely commendable," Sreejith Omanakuttan, a software engineer who advocates for haptic feedback, told Lifewire in an email.

"Providing a cutting-edge platform to design and integrate haptics to the latest device ecosystem at a one-time fee is going to bring in more developers to dabble in and possibly get hooked on the possibilities and understand the potential market for it."

Feel It in Your Fingers

While haptic feedback can provide a more immersive experience for everyday users, the most notable additions that it can bring to smartphones come in the form of accessibility features.

"Haptics allows for better accessibility to the latest and greatest technology advancements for people with disabilities," Omanakuttan advised. 

"It allows for them to receive feedback for the input they give, which they traditionally wouldn’t receive, allows them to get more out of their devices, and enjoy an immersive experience that most of the current devices fail to offer."

Of course, this isn’t a new feature for Android devices. However, the problem is that the systems installed on many Android phones just don’t deliver the kind of feedback that users need, especially for accessibility-focused reasons. Many times, the vibrations that come from touching or tapping the screen aren’t strong enough for users to properly feel them, which can lead to people having trouble using the device in the first place.

By centralizing the framework used to deliver those responses, Lofelt gives manufacturers a way to better incorporate tactile responses into their own devices. It also could lead to a more universal approach for these systems on Android, as well.

As more users turn to mobile devices to meet their daily computing needs, making the most of the hardware they have is essential. And because Android devices make up 87 % of the almost 3.5 billion smartphones owned in the world, it’s never been more important for users to be able to receive proper levels of physical feedback from their phones.

Balancing Act

Of course, providing great physical feedback isn’t as simple as turning the vibration levels up to 100 and calling it a day. Instead, the vibrations have to be meaningful, and they have to be customizable to fit the needs of the people using them.

Haptics allows for better accessibility to the latest and greatest technology advancements for people with disabilities.

According to Sheri Byrne-Haber, an accessibility evangelist, these systems need to be changeable depending on the accessibility needs of the people using them.

"People who are blind, in particular, benefit from haptic feedback.  It provides a non-auditory way of giving feedback that augments the auditory stream from the blind user's screen reader," she told us. "People with attention deficit disorder are harmed by haptic feedback. They find it distracting, and it slows them down."

Playing to Your Strengths

One of the most important goals with Lofelt’s framework is getting improved haptics into as many devices as possible. The need for the system is clear, and the benefits it brings aren’t easy to ignore, which is why the company has created an adaptive experience built into the framework.

With the adaptive experience, Lofelt’s framework can convert universal haptic signals into vibrations that work based on the strength of the phone’s internal vibration modules. This takes into account the driver, the hardware, and any algorithms that control it. 

The framework also will let developers design their own haptics, allowing users to take advantage of more customized responses based on the application or game they are using at the time. Customization could play an important role in broadening the scope of entertainment and accessibility options available on any device.

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