Haptic feedback on Android phones running the Snapdragon 888 chipset could improve markedly from the second half of 2021. Qualcomm recently announced (via 9to5Google) who is working independently with a company called Lofelt to improve haptic by software, not hardware.
That was initially interpreted as a puzzling decision, as hardware, not software, appears to play a bigger role in vibration quality. But this actually sounds pretty smart, definitely smarter than Lofelt’s vibrating Basslet wearable that launched on Kickstarter in 2016.
Outside of some high-end LG phones, most Android phones offer murky or noisy vibes that don’t feel as good. Even the best ones can’t compete with Apple’s Taptic Engine, which is built in-house and integrated into iPhones and Apple Watch wearables. Forceful, tactile vibration is probably not at the top of many people’s list in terms of must-have features, but it can go a long way in making you feel like you’re using a quality product.
Lofelt has developed an open API and framework for phone manufacturers (as well as in game controllers “and beyond,” the press release says) that can convert universal haptic data into signals that are finely tuned and enhanced for the hardware specific to that device.
So instead of incorporating a standard haptic actuator into the chipset that companies must adopt, it developed a more scalable software solution that can work on any phone running the required Snapdragon hardware. Manufacturers can continue to make phones the way they want, and the Lofelt API can help create a more consistent haptic experience across the vast Android ecosystem.
Lofelt CEO and co-founder Daniel Büttner spoke extensively about Means, medium in a post called “Keys to Delivering Better Haptics on Android,” and it covers everything you’d want to know about why the gap between haptics on Android and Apple devices has been so wide in recent years. It all comes down to fragmentation, of course.
Apple could set a standard for haptic technology at both the hardware and software levels that is governed by its small batch of phones. Android, on the other hand, is the Wild West in terms of haptics, as it is in most other areas. The post illustrates that pretty much the only way to improve haptics on Android is through software. Hey, if you can’t reverse the fragmentation at this point, you can also lean on it.