If you follow our blog, then I don’t think I need to tell you that Google released the first Android 12 builds last week (seriously, we’ve posted a ton about it). While we’ve mostly focused on revealing unreleased features, today we’re stepping back and testing one of the new OS’s officially-announced features. One of the coolest-sounding features in Android 12 is the audio-coupled haptic effect, a feature that effectively promises to vibrate your phone in accordance with the ongoing audio session. Google says it’ll let developers create more immersive game 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 theming system, wanted to try out the new audio-coupled haptic effect feature, so he whipped up a quick app to see which Pixel phones support the feature. According to the documentation for the HapticGenerator API, “HG is an audio post-processor which generates haptic data based on the audio channels. The generated haptic data is sent along with audio data down to the audio HAL, which will require the device to support audio-coupled-haptic playback.” Unfortunately, it looks like neither of Google’s latest Pixel phones — namely, the Pixel 4a 5G or Pixel 5 — support HapticGenerator. Google’s 2018 Pixel 3 doesn’t seem to support it either (admittedly, we only tested the XL model), but fortunately, Google’s 2019 Pixel 4 does.
After confirming the Pixel 4 supports it, kdrag0n whipped up another app using the HapticGenerator API. This app generates vibrations based on whatever music is playing on the device, and the result is better than we expected. Here are two videos, both recorded by XDA Senior Member cstark27, which showcase the audio-coupled haptic effect in action:
Daft Punk: One More Time
Daft Punk: Solar Sailer (Remixed by Pretty Lights)
Google has toyed with audio-coupled haptics in the past, but Android 12’s new feature is far more versatile than anything we’ve previously seen from the company. With the Pixel 3, Google prepared custom vibration patterns to match each stock ringtone, but it obviously isn’t 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 OS’s coolest features and why it’s unfortunate that Google’s latest Pixel phones seem to lack support for it. Haptic feedback, when done right, can really elevate the smartphone experience. While I can’t see many people using this for music playback (how many people hold their phone in their hand while playing music?), I can see how it’ll make gaming that much more immersive on mobile.
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