Apple looks to suppress noise created by iPhone 'vibrate' function

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple is investigating ways to make the iPhone's "silent mode" truly silent by monitoring audible sound levels generated by a phone's vibrator and adjusting the mechanism if it becomes too loud.

Vibration Sound Dampening
Source: USPTO


Since the earliest days of portable telecommunications, devices like pagers incorporated a silent option to the standard beeping tones that alerted a user of an incoming message or, years later, cell phone call. The system is flawed, however, in that the so-called "silent mode" is not completely silent, especially when a device vibrates on a hard surface, causing a rattling noise often times more disruptive than a normal audible tone.

The current iPhone 5, with its aluminum uni-body construction, is another candidate that may be less than discreet in some circumstances. To remedy this longstanding problem, Apple has devised a method in which a phone's vibrations, as well as the result of said vibrations, are monitored by microphones or movement sensors. If these sensors detect conditions that may cause an unwanted disturbance, a number of mitigation methods are initiated, including tuning the vibrator and introducing feedback signals to reduce reverberation.

Operation Illustration
Illustration of vibration sound control system.


Apple's solution takes into account two types of haptic devices, or vibrators, commonly used in modern smartphones, both of which present separate problems. The usual rotating vibrator used in many devices has an eccentric weight attached to a spinning drive shaft, while an oscillating linear vibrator relies on magnetic force to drive a weight back and forth.

While the rotating motor is somewhat louder than its magnetically-driven cousin, it produces an arguably more violent vibration which can be an asset for those who wear thick pants or need a stronger alert. For reference, the CDMA version of the iPhone 4 and all versions of the iPhone 4S used a linear vibrator, while the iPhone 5 marks the return of the rotating system found in legacy models.

As described in the invention, movement, sound and visual sensors begin monitoring various attributes when a vibration alert is detected. The sensors can determine If the vibration is causing the phone to move or generate a noise louder than ambient noises in the surrounding environment.

Motion Detection
Illustration of motion detection due to vibration alert.


Once a movement or sound threshold has been reached, the mitigation mechanisms kick in to modify the alert or stop it altogether. In some embodiments, the action of vibrator motor is adjusted. For a rotational vibrator, the frequency of the motor can be slowed, while the motion of a linear vibrator can be dampened by an electromagnetic force.

The patent application goes on to offer alternative alert methods that can be used when a vibrator is found to be disturbing, such as visual alerts or soft audio tones which are output at level deemed to be more quiet than the sound created by the phone's vibrations.

Such mechanisms do not exist in the current iteration of Apple's handset, though the technology may one day make its way to a future iPhone as an enhancement to the product line.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    Easy fix. Turn the vibration off. I've had mine off since I think my 3G or 3GS I don't miss it.
  • Reply 2 of 35
    I'd be happy if they'd just give me the option to dial back the power of the vibration, as the 5's is so completely obnoxious compared to the 4S that I've had it disabled since day one, and instead rely on the camera flash to alert me when it's on silent.
  • Reply 3 of 35


    Agree with you 100%, but i dont know if you can dial back power on a rotor vibrating mechanism. it either buzzes or doesn't, no?


     


    The 4S had a much nicer noise. It's my biggest pet hate with the 5.. 

  • Reply 4 of 35
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Easy fix. Turn the vibration off. I've had mine off since I think my 3G or 3GS I don't miss it.

    That solves the problem for some people, but not everyone.

    Some people need to be notified that they've received a call in circumstances where sound is not appropriate (meetings, etc). There is some value to this invention - the recipient can be notified that they've received a call, but noise is reduced or eliminated so that they don't disturb anyone else.

    It's not an end-of-the-world problem, but it would be useful for lots of people.
  • Reply 5 of 35
    Apple has a point, yet they should have you a setting of certain features, alternative to it ringing or flashing maybe set other settings.
  • Reply 6 of 35
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    wdowell wrote: »
    Agree with you 100%, but i dont know if you can dial back power on a rotor vibrating mechanism. it either buzzes or doesn't, no?

    The 4S had a much nicer noise. It's my biggest pet hate with the 5.

    This I think would be a selective reduction, if the phone is in contact with a hard surface, it creates excessive noise, so it can dial back or try alternative alert means.
  • Reply 7 of 35
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,947member
    I remember owning a phone that not only could I set how hard it vibrated I could also adjust the length.
  • Reply 8 of 35
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Apple has a point, yet they should have you a setting of certain features, alternative to it ringing or flashing maybe set other settings.

    There's a trade-off. The more features you add and the more flexibility you add in controlling individual features, the more complicated the device becomes. In addition, development and testing of new OS versions becomes exponentially more difficult.

    Personally, I don't want a phone that tries to be everything to everybody. I've used devices like that and it takes too much time finding the right settings. Even if you know where the settings are, the more features you add, the deeper you have to bury things - slowing the entire process down.

    At some point, you have to trade off 'more features' against usability.
  • Reply 9 of 35
    galleygalley Posts: 971member
    wdowell wrote: »
    Agree with you 100%, but i dont know if you can dial back power on a rotor vibrating mechanism. it either buzzes or doesn't, no?

    The 4S had a much nicer noise. It's my biggest pet hate with the 5.. 

    The intensity of a vibrating mechanism can be controlled. That is how force feedback is achieved on PlayStation controllers. Some of the vibrations can be very subtle, like when your wheel goes off the road in a driving game.
  • Reply 10 of 35


    Instead of assigning a hardware engineer on resolving this "issue" why not look into:


    - adding a dedicated shutter button


    - wireless recharging


    - enabling nfc


    - etc...


     


    Personally, too much vibration while in vibration mode is -1 on my list of priorities....

  • Reply 11 of 35


    I prefer the vibrate function to be as loud as possible.  I think it's a bit too subdued at the moment, especially the models (CDMA 4 and all 4S models) using the oscillating motor.  

  • Reply 12 of 35
    gqbgqb Posts: 1,934member
    Whenever I lose my phone in the house, and I've set it to 'stin', the only way I find it is by calling it and listening for the buzz. Don't make it quieter.
  • Reply 13 of 35


    Here are a few suggestions to solve the noise problem:


    1) Never place the iPhone directly on a hard surface like a table.  Place it on a pad of paper, napkin, book, mousepad, etc.


    2) Keep the iPhone in your pocket.


    3) Place it on an empty seat next to you.


    4) Use a soft, rubbery case.


    5) Hold it in your hand.

  • Reply 14 of 35
    vorsosvorsos Posts: 302member


    replicant View Post


    Instead of assigning a hardware engineer on resolving this "issue" why not look into:


    - adding a dedicated shutter button


    - wireless recharging


    - enabling nfc...



     


    Since iOS 5, Volume + is the shutter button.


    Wireless recharging is inefficient and adds bulk, but there is probably a 3rd party case that uses it. NFC can be accomplished by putting your iPhone in a case that holds NFC cards. That's why the accessories market is awesome; you get the features you want, while I keep my thin nude iPhone.

  • Reply 15 of 35
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    replicant wrote: »
    Instead of assigning a hardware engineer on resolving this "issue" why not look into:
    - adding a dedicated shutter button
    - wireless recharging
    - enabling nfc
    - etc...

    Personally, too much vibration while in vibration mode is -1 on my list of priorities....

    They should probably have some of those lawyers look into those things instead of litigating¡
  • Reply 16 of 35
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Bob NYC View Post


    Here are a few suggestions to solve the noise problem:


    1) Never place the iPhone directly on a hard surface like a table.  Place it on a pad of paper, napkin, book, mousepad, etc.


    2) Keep the iPhone in your pocket.


    3) Place it on an empty seat next to you.


    4) Use a soft, rubbery case.


    5) Hold it in your hand.



     


    This is too much common sense.  Are you sure you know how this forum works?  


     


    I'm just waiting for the crowd who freak out about the vibration when you are talking on a call to show up.  image  yeah, let's hear that rant for the millionth time. 

  • Reply 17 of 35
    replicant wrote: »
    Instead of assigning a hardware engineer on resolving this "issue" why not look into:
    - adding a dedicated shutter button
    - wireless recharging
    - enabling nfc
    - etc...

    Personally, too much vibration while in vibration mode is -1 on my list of priorities....

    And of course YOU are the only person that matters
  • Reply 18 of 35
    solipsismx wrote: »
    They should probably have some of those lawyers look into those things instead of litigating¡

    Remember that thing Tim said about frig-toasters.

    Same holds true for lawyer-engineers.
  • Reply 19 of 35
    dcgoodcgoo Posts: 196member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post


    I prefer the vibrate function to be as loud as possible.  I think it's a bit too subdued at the moment, especially the models (CDMA 4 and all 4S models) using the oscillating motor.  



     


    I agree.  I found the vibrate function to be pretty anemic on all of the iPhones I've had.  The iPhone 5 vibrate, is almost useless.  

  • Reply 20 of 35
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,706member
    Would someone please engineer quieter garbage trucks, motor cycles, busses, cars, air conditioners, power tools, lawn care tools, doors, windows and building construction, etc., first? And please make them out to be hip and cool, so all my idiot fellow USA citizens stop making so much damned noise 24 hours a day.

    And work on making computers, printers, copiers and other office stuff quieter.

    And THEN work on making cell phone vibration noise suppressor technology.

    I HATE noise. But the cell phone vibrate mode is not even on my list of hate. At the moment: the obnoxious whining buzzing of a chainsaw behind my house is number one on my list.

    A society that values quiet will value a quieter cell phone vibration. Currently, it seems like USAmericans are in love with noise.
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