How Piezo Haptics Will Shape Gaming Phones UX Design

The video game market has undergone significant changes in recent years. We have moved from a home gamer market to a market dominated by mobile games. According to a study by Statista, the video game market should reach 154,630 $ million US in 2021. The largest market segment would be mobile games, with a market volume of over US $ 109,658 million.

Think about it, over 70% of the market share is attributable to smartphone video games.

This market segment should show a growth rate of over 10% per year, translating into a market revenue of over 160,646 $ million US by 2025. It's normal for big players to fight for their piece of the pie.

For a long time, the mobile video game market was reserved for casual players. As these are not very high-caliber gamers, the difficulty level available on smartphones was relatively low.

Significant investments by companies like Google (Stadia), Amazon (Luna), and Microsoft (xCloud) in cloud gaming should help open up the mobile video game market to serious gamers. Ten years ago, no one would have thought it would be possible to play an AAA video game on a cell phone. Yet, it is now possible.


A parallel with the photography market

When the iPhone 4S hit the market with an 8-megapixel camera capable of producing 720 HD video, no one would have thought that this device heralded the beginning of the end for the point-and-shoot camera industry. It's much easier for most people to use their phones than carry a camera and lenses since we always have them at hand.

The speed with which technology has developed in recent years has also encouraged adopting this new trend. The iPhone 11 Pro and its triple cameras have once again taken a heavy toll on the photography industry. Now, we even see big photo companies like Leica or Hasselblad teaming up with smartphone OEMs to improve cameras in phones.

 You know the adage: adapt or die. Is this the same for the makers of video game consoles?

 What disrupted the photo industry was when smartphone photography reached comparable performance to traditional primary cameras. If Translated to gaming, we should see the same dramatic shift towards mobile games if the mobile gaming user experience approaches the console experience; 

When smartphones become consoles

 Currently, the gaming phone market is booming, and the performance we find in devices is reminiscent of that offered by some consoles. Take the example of the Asus ROG 5, rated as one of the best gaming phones on the market. Equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor and 16 GB of RAM, this phone offers a very high level of performance. Even the display and battery life are better suited to keep you playing for an extended period.

Everything has been designed on this device to make the gaming experience more immersive and realistic. OEMs are trying to attract more active players with a machine like this, gamers who want the quality of a home console and a smartphone's portability.

To improve user experience, companies are experiencing different types of trigger buttons that resemble console controllers. These trigger buttons allow better customization and offer more possibilities to the player.

The technology used by ASUS and Lenovo uses ultrasound to determine the movements made by the fingers. Like sonar arrays, piezoelectric transducers are attached inside the touch surface to transmit and detect ultrasonic waves passing through the surface of the device.

When the finger comes in contact with the surface, the transmitted wave is disturbed. The receiver detects the change in the waveform and understands that you have just pulled the trigger.

With this technology, you can even capture movements that are happening on the periphery of the device. For example, the phone may understand that you are zooming just by sliding your finger down the side of your phone. This motion detection is of great interest to manufacturers who want to push the boundaries of user experience.


Ultrasonic button technology does not provide an immersive experience.

Although this technology seems very interesting for detecting force and movement, it does not provide any haptic feedback. They can use the actuator already available to simulate the click, but this causes the entire phone to vibrate, and it feels nothing like a click. When an ERM (Eccentric Rotating Mass) or LRA (Linear Resonant Actuator) vibrates, your whole hand feels the vibration, and the effect is not localized where you pressed. To know more on the subject, you can read the article: Advantages of Smartphones with Haptic Buttons and why they are the future but if you don't have the time, know that the most important to remember is that this type of effect is far from enjoyable.

The other potential problem occurs if the actuator is already busy handling the game's haptic feedback duties. It won't be able to provide click feedback when the player pulls the trigger. It creates a significant lack of precision for the player. In another blog post, we have already shown that the use of haptics increases accuracy and reduces the risk of errors. If gaming phone companies want to convince serious gamers that their devices are on par with home consoles, they must demonstrate that the level of precision is the same.


Black Shark 4 and its mechanical triggers

Black Shark is another major gaming phone OEM. They used traditional hardware to offer the best gaming experience: mechanical retractable triggers.

The phone's embedded buttons can pop it out with light pressure, thanks to a magnet system. This type of trigger provides much more precision since it clicks. When not in use, the buttons hide on the surface of the phone.

Users have widely praised this type of innovation. The only problem is that this type of button does not allow any motion detection. The addition of its retractable buttons also contravenes manufacturers' desire to create smooth, waterproof products. Plus, it wastes significant space inside the device.

Therefore, we can conclude that the strengths of the triggers on the Black Shark are the weaknesses of ultrasonic solutions and vice versa. If only there were a product that offered the perfect solution.

It is precisely where piezoelectric haptics could shine.


NexusTouch: the biggest smartphone HMI innovation since the touchscreen.

Imagine if you could have all the benefits of a mechanical trigger and extraordinary motion detection capability. A solution that can produce the same customization and feel when you press your button. The future of user experience lies in leading haptic effects that are customizable depending on what the player is doing. Take the PlayStation 5 as an example. The triggers on the controller give haptic feedback to the player when they perform specific actions, which makes the game even more immersive. You can see an example in this video:

We recently launched NexusTouchTM, the first standardized button replacement solution with advanced gesture detection and localized haptics to improve smartphone interaction design. NexusTouchTM is the only solution that blends force sensing, gesture detection, and localized haptic feedback in the same package. Designers can now extend touchscreen user interfaces to the sides of smartphones and gaming phones. The platform allows for seamless, contextual swipes, taps, and clicks while providing rich haptic feedback.

NexusTouchTM enables the best haptics you will ever experience.

Localized piezoelectric haptics is independent of the smartphone haptic motor and creates the best tactile experience for button replacement solutions. The difference is significant: while a haptic motor vibrates the entire smartphone, localized piezo haptics only vibrates the area under the pressing finger. It is not normal to feel a click on the palm of our hand when we press a button with our finger. Plus, the whole device's weight dramatically reduces the click effect sharpness. It just doesn't feel right. NexusTouch solves this problem.

Replacing buttons with detection solutions without haptics or with the haptic engine of the smartphone is a step backward in terms of user-friendliness. Now you have the best of both worlds with NexusTouch.

If you would like to learn more about our NexusTouch, I invite you to fill out this form to chat with a team member. Be among the first to revolutionize the user experience. Your users deserve a better experience.

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