What is a Taptic Engine?
An interesting fact about the 2022 iPhone SE’s home button – It has no moving parts! The last iPhones to use the old-fashioned clicky mechanical button was the iPhone 6S and the little 5S-sized iPhone SE from 2016. While you may get the sensation that this new solid-state button clicks in when you press it, that’s the magic of the Taptic Engine – Apple’s patented haptic feedback module. The home button is actually just a sensor that reacts not only to touch but also to pressure. That way, it can differentiate between a press (for returning to the home screen or activating Siri) or a touch (for unlocking the phone with Touch ID or activating the Reachability feature). This is also the reason why you can customize the way it feels when pressing the home button – it’s just different programming for the little haptic module.
But that’s not all that the Taptic Engine is good for. Any time you get force feedback from your iPhone, that’s the haptic module – if your ringer is set to vibrate, if you have haptic turned on for your keyboard, and spinning the date and time wheels are all examples of the haptic module at work.
The Taptic Engine actually replaces the old style of vibrate motor which is called “eccentric rotating mass” (ERM). Those worked using a small unbalanced piece of material connected to an electric motor that spins it around when activated. New-style haptic modules work using “linear resonant actuators” (LRA) which is a spring that can move up and down with great speed precision offering superior feedback.
When Nintendo announced the Switch back in 2017, one of their big talking points was HD Rumble which uses LRA technology in the Joy-Con controllers to If you look back to the Nintendo 64’s big chunky Rumble pack which used ERM technology, you can see how far we’ve come in shrinking the size of the vibrate motor.
Going far beyond the old buzzing vibrate motors, haptic feedback can now simulate sensations from pouring water or rolling balls within a container to faking a simple button click!