Android 12’s docked audio haptic effect is even cooler than it sounds

If you’re following our blog, I don’t think it’s necessary to tell you that Google released the first builds of Android 12 last week (seriously, we’ve posted a ton about it). While we’ve primarily focused on revealing unreleased features, today we’re taking a step back and testing one of the officially announced features of the new operating system. One of the better sounding features in Android 12 is the docked audio haptic effect, a feature that promises to effectively vibrate your phone according to the current audio session. Google says it will allow developers to create more immersive games and audio experiences, and after seeing it in action, we have to agree.

Developer kdrag0n, who recently gave us our first look at Android 12’s wallpaper-based theme system, wanted to try out the new audio-coupled haptic effect feature, so he created a quick app to see which Pixel phones support the function. According to the HapticGenerator API documentation, “HG is an audio post processor that generates haptic data based on audio channels. The haptic data generated is sent along with the audio data to the audio HAL, which will require the device to support coupled audio haptic playback. ”Unfortunately, it appears that none of Google’s latest Pixel phones, ie Pixel 4a 5G or Pixel 5, it supports HapticGenerator. Google’s Pixel 3 2018 doesn’t seem to support it either (admittedly we only tested the XL model), but luckily Google’s Pixel 4 2019 does.

Google’s Pixel 4 supports Android 12’s docked audio haptic effect feature. Image Credits: XDA Senior Member cstark27

After confirming that Pixel 4 supports it, kdrag0n created another app using the HapticGenerator API. This application generates vibrations based on the music that is being played on the device and the result is better than we expected. Here are two videos, both shot by XDA senior member cstark27, showing the docked audio haptic effect in action:

Daft Punk: once again

Daft Punk: Solar Sailer (remixed by Pretty Lights)

Google has played with audio-coupled haptics in the past, but Android 12’s new feature is far more versatile than anything we’ve seen from the company before. With Pixel 3, Google custom vibration patterns prepared to match every standard ringtone, but obviously it’s not possible for them to create custom vibrations for each and every sound coming out of the speakers.

This is why I think Android 12’s new audio-coupled haptics might be one of the coolest features of the operating system and why it’s unfortunate that Google’s latest Pixel phones seem to lack support for it. Haptic feedback, when done correctly, can really improve the smartphone experience. While I can’t see many people using this for music playback (how many people are holding their phone in their hand while playing music?), I can see how it will make games much more immersive on mobile devices.

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