Tactile feedback

There are two cases where vibration or audio of the device is used as an output method:

  • As a tacticon to inform users through physical feedback, that an important event is occurring in the device. For example, when a new message arrives or a warning note is displayed.

  • As tactile feedback to indicate to the user that an interaction event has been made. For example, users receive tactile feedback when they press a button on the touch screen.

As with sounds, tactile feedback must be used carefully so as not to desensitize the user to the vibration; the attention grabbing quality remains and functions so long as the feedback is not too frequent.

Tactile feedback is enabled for all the Symbian platform UI components. Tactile feedback can be disabled for the common UI components in an application. However, this is acceptable only if tactile feedback causes interference with other device functions.

The user can choose the level of tactile feedback and turn tacticons ON and OFF.

The following table lists the tactile feedback effects:

Table: Tactile feedback effects



Sensitive button

Provides single pulse effect on repeated key presses with buttons. It is also possible with other similar components.

Basic button

Provides stronger single pulse effect to buttons. It is also possible with other similar components.

Sensitive list

Provides single pulse effect to lists and grids. Effect is used with move (drag and flick) when new item appears on the screen.

Basic list

Provides stronger single pulse effect to lists and grids. Effect is used with touch down and release when tap makes an action.

In hierarchical list, collapsing/expanding item provides basic list effect with touch down and release.

Bounce effect

Provides pulse effect when list returns to its normal state after boundary effect.

Sensitive slider

Provides pulse effect with scrollbar and slider thumbs. Effect is provided with touch down and release in thumb area.

Smooth slider

Provides continuous smooth feedback when dragging scrollbar or slider thumb. This can also be increasing or decreasing depending of the slider type.

Hold slider

Provides sensitive pulse effect when touch down and hold on the slider or scrollbar area. Slider thumb starts moving step by step towards the touch point. Every step gives one sensitive pulse. If slider thumb moves directly to the touch point, then basic slider effect is provided.


Provides sensitive pulse effect when pop-up is opened or closed. If the theme animations are ON, then pop-up effect is used with opening event after increasing long touch effect. In this scenario, there is no pop-up effect .

Note: All pop-ups do not have theme animation.

Pop-up close

Provides decreasing smooth feedback a pop-up and when theme animations are ON.

Increasing long touch

Provides increasing smooth feedback. This can be used with either long tap animation or pop-up opening theme effects. If the theme effects are ON and long tap opens a pop-up, then feedback is provided only with long tap. This is followed by pop-up.

Basic tab

Provides strong pulse effect with touch down event in tab area.

Smooth flick

Provides smooth feedback with drag when horizontal movement is possible.

Sensitive flick

Provides sensitive pulse effect with touch release when horizontal movement is possible.

Sensitive edit

Provides sensitive pulse effect in editors with touch down and release.

Text edit

Provides pulse effect when painting the text. Effect is provided with every character while painting the text.

Blank edit

Provides pulse effect when painting blank character. By default, it is none.

Line edit

Provides pulse effect when painting a line.

Empty line

Provides pulse effect when painting an empty line. By default, it is none.

Check box

Provides pulse effect when marking/unmarking a check box.

Multiple Touch recognition

Provides double pulse (sensitive + sensitive) effect when multiple touch is recognized (generally, when second finger is touched down).

Smooth pinch

Provides smooth continuous feedback while moving fingers in multiple touch pinch situation.

Smooth rotate

Provides smooth continuous feedback while moving fingers in multiple touch rotate situation.

Haptics concept

The different senses associated to the skin are called cutaneous senses. These senses are temperature, pressure (touch itself), pain, tickle, itch and vibration senses. We can characterize touch as passive or active. Passive touch means the sense of touch itself, whereas active touch means the touch action.

To communicate through the sense of touch, we have to stimulate some of the cutaneous senses or the movement sense. The stimulation of the cutaneous senses or one of them by a product is called tactile stimulation. Respectively, the stimulation of the movement sense by a product is called haptic stimulation or just haptics. Haptics is also used as general term for all issues related to sense of touch, both human and machine.

Haptic feedback, often referred to as "Haptics", is the use of the sense of touch in a user interface design to provide information to an end user. In mobile phones, this generally means the use of vibrations from the device's vibration alarm to denote that a touch screen button has been pressed. In this particular example, the phone would vibrate slightly in response to the user's activation of an on-screen control, making up for the lack of a normal tactile response that the user would experience when pressing a physical button.

Characteristics of haptics related APIs

You can use the following APIs to create haptic effects:

  • Tactile Feedback Client API

    • Available from S60 5th Edition onwards.

    • It can be used on all S60 5th Edition or later mobile devices. However, the feedback is played only on touch enabled layouts.

    • Provides simple functions for triggering various predefined tactile feedback (vibration or audio) effects.

    • Enables a consistent user experience in all applications of the mobile device (an application gives a logical feedback type as an input and the actual physical effect depends on the mobile device configuration and end user settings).

    • When the area feedback is used, latency is low for the feedback triggering (a tactile feedback can already be triggered at the window server level prior to the corresponding pointer event being delivered to the visible application).

    • Direct feedback can be easily integrated into CCoeControl::HandlePointerEventL().

    • An application can select the logical tactile feedback from certain types. The produced effect may be different on various mobile devices.

  • Haptics API

    • Available from S60 5th Edition, FP2 onwards.

    • It can be used in touch and hybrid mobile devices.

    • Provides an interface for accessing Haptics player that can control different actuator types.

    • Enables producing of complex vibrator effects, such as an explosion or machine gun effect in a game, bass boost for a music player, advanced ringing tone vibration, and so on.

    • Enables simultaneous playing of different kinds of basis effects and modifying them when played.

    • Allows the design of complex effects (using a separate PC application) that can be loaded on Haptics player for playing.

    • It may require a special license key for third-party applications (to be set at runtime) to enable the Haptics player functionality.

  • Vibra API

    • Available from S60 3.0 onwards.

    • It can be used for running device vibrator with given intensity for a given period of time.

    • It can be used by a privileged client application to play pulse effects, which have a very short duration (as the ones used for tactile feedback).

When to use Tactile Feedback Client API, Haptics API, and Vibra API

  • Tactile Feedback Client API for providing tactile feedback in custom controls (grids, lists, and so on), which will comply with the style of Core UI components to ensure a uniform user experience among applications.

  • Haptics API on touch and hybrid mobile devices for producing complex vibration feedback, which cannot be achieved with Tactile Framework (games, simulations, demos, and so on).

  • Vibra API for producing haptic effects such as ringing tone vibration in those mobile devices where Haptics API is not available or functional.

Using tactile feedback in applications

The API to use for tactile feedback is the Tactile feedback client API.

The Symbian platform includes a tactile feedback interface to add, modify and remove feedback areas in the registry. There is also an option to trigger direct feedback and bypass the registry. MTouchFeedback::Instance() is used for acquiring a pointer to a touch feedback instance. When touch feedback is activated, the mobile device users get a slight vibration when the control with the feedback interface is touched.

Note: Tactile feedback can be set and disabled in a client application or a mobile device in some scenarios, for example, during phone calls.

Client applications cannot determine the actual physical feedback that is generated. It depends on device configuration and current settings. In current devices, the user changeable settings include vibration and audio feedback intensity level.

For more information, see Feedback.