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Haptics on iPhone: A Complete Guide

updated by Chad Evans
July 29, 2023 at 2:23 p.m. PST
  • Haptics is a user interface technology that stimulates touch for purposes of user feedback.
  • The vibrate feature on any cell phone is an example of haptics.
  • The Apple Watch was Apple’s first device with the Taptic Engine, capable of simulating a tap on the wrist.
  • Apple added the Taptic Engine to the iPhone 6S, making it the first model with advanced system haptics.

Table of Contents

What Does Haptics Mean on an iPhone?
iPhone Models Featuring System Haptics
How Does Haptic Feedback Work?
What is the Purpose of Haptics?
Should iPhone Haptics Be on Or Off?
How to Turn Haptics On or Off
What Is a Haptic Sound?

What Does Haptics Mean on an iPhone?

Haptics is the technology of reproducing touch sensations, providing user feedback. For example, if you’re wearing your Apple Watch while driving, a navigation app may tap your wrist to indicate an upcoming turn. It’s one of my favorite haptic features on my Apple Watch.

Beginning with the iPhone 6S, all iPhone models incorporate a Taptic Engine capable of producing haptic feedback. For example, your iPhone’s system haptics can issue a slight tap when you press a key on the on-screen keyboard.

Haptic stimuli inform you that you are pressing keys, verifying each tap. It also feels more realistic, with tactile feedback simulating subtle physical key presses.

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The following iPhone features use haptic feedback:

  • AirDrop
  • alarms and timers
  • animated Messages
  • App Switcher
  • flashlight brightness (in expanded view)
  • incoming phone call
  • Home screen editing
  • keyboard taps
  • on/off switches in Settings
  • photo bursts
  • refresh Mail
  • rotating UI controls (e.g., setting a timer)
  • side volume adjustment buttons
  • undo
  • zooming beyond boundaries

Other apps created by third parties can take advantage of haptic feedback. Many games use it in innovative ways.

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iPhone Models Featuring System Haptics

Apple Watch was the iPhone maker’s first device employing haptic feedback beyond vibration. It was so successful that Apple ported the technology to the iPhone. Since 2015, every iPhone has featured the Taptic Engine, enhancing user interaction for almost a billion people.

Although the iPhone 6S features a Taptic Engine, iOS no longer fully supports system haptics on this model. Apple’s iPhone 8 is the earliest model supporting haptic feedback.

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The following table displays every iPhone equipped with a relevant Taptic Engine:

iPhone Models With System Haptics

iPhone 8
iPhone 8 Plus
iPhone X
iPhone XR
iPhone XS
iPhone XS Max
iPhone 11
iPhone 11 Pro
iPhone 11 Pro Max
iPhone SE (2nd Gen)
iPhone 12 mini
iPhone 12
iPhone 12 Pro
iPhone 12 Pro Max
iPhone 13 mini
iPhone 13
iPhone 13 Pro
iPhone 13 Pro Max
iPhone 14
iPhone 14 Plus
iPhone 14 Pro
iPhone 14 Pro Max

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How Does Haptic Feedback Work?

Essentially, Apple embeds an actuator (small motor). There are three types of haptic actuators — linear resonant actuators, eccentric rotating mass motors, and piezo actuators. The iPhone’s Taptic Engine uses a linear resonant actuator, also known as an LRA.

A linear resonant actuator employs a magnetic coil to move a small metal weight inside the Taptic Engine. A small spring adds more force to the actuator’s moving mass.

The Taptic Engine houses an LRA near the bottom of your iPhone. Whenever you perform an action invoking a haptic response, the magnetic coil activates, moving a small weight with appropriate force to generate haptics on your iPhone.

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One of the advantages of a linear resonant actuator is that it’s very efficient. This is important with battery-powered devices. Unfortunately, it cannot produce a wide range of forces, which is why system haptics on an iPhone tend to be combinations of the same tactile sensation.

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What is the Purpose of Haptics?

Haptic feedback enhances user interaction by providing physical stimuli. The most common example is receiving an incoming phone call on any cell phone made within the past few decades. The haptic feedback, in this case, a vibration, informs you of an incoming call.
Apple’s Taptic Engine provides more efficiency and versatility than vibration motors employed in older cell phones.

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Should iPhone Haptics Be on Or Off?

By default, Apple enables haptic feedback on your iPhone. The company prides itself on top-notch user experience, and the Taptic Engine is integral to its design.

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Overall, haptic feedback is useful. It’s why you pay the big bucks for an iPhone. There are, however, a few cases where you may want to disable the feature.

The Taptic Engine is very efficient, but it does use power. If you’re looking to get more time out of each iPhone charge, turn off system haptics. (This webpage provides instructions on disabling system haptics in the next section.)

You may also find haptics to be annoying. My Apple Watch almost fell off my nightstand onto a hardwood floor from haptic feedback. The screen could have cracked if I didn’t catch it in time. It was a close call!

It’s less likely that the Taptic Engine will knock your iPhone off a table, but it is possible, especially with the rather strong incoming call vibration. If this is a concern, you should turn off the haptic feature. Let’s look at how to do this.

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How to Turn Haptics On or Off

Turning your iPhone’s haptic feedback on or off is easily accomplished:

How to Turn Haptics On or Off

1. launch Settings
Tap Settings
I like to launch settings using Spotlight Search. Just swipe down on the middle of your Home Screen and type in “Settings”. You’ll see the icon before you finish typing.
2. tap on Sounds & Haptics
Tap On Sounds & Haptics
Scroll down a little to find Sound & Haptics.
3. switch on/off System Haptics
Switch On/Off System Haptics
The System Haptics switch is at the bottom of the Sound & Haptics screen. Turn it on (green) if you want to feel a tactile response. Turn it off (gray) if you want your iPhone to be perfectly still and absolutely silent.

That’s it. Your System Haptics are now deactivated. This should preserve battery life and provide more discreet iPhone usage.

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What Is a Haptic Sound?

The notion of a “haptic sound” is a misunderstanding. Haptics are used to replace sounds for user feedback. Apple realized that people use their iPhones in public spaces that often expect or require silence.

Although system haptics may make slight sounds, they aren’t easy to detect. For example, if you set up iOS to enable keyboard sounds for your iPhone, this could irritate those around you. If you’re trying to send a quick text in a meeting, a clicking keyboard makes it seem like you’re not paying attention.

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