Many iPhone owners live their lives in silent mode, relying solely on the vibrate function to detect incoming calls, messages, and notifications. I’m guilty of this myself.
But there’s no reason your alerts should be boring. iOS lets you create custom vibrate patterns and deploy them across the OS, so you can better identify the incoming alert.
Haptics and Vibration
Custom vibration patterns work whether your phone is in silent mode or not. You can put your iPhone into silent mode at any time with the small toggle switch on the left-hand side of the device.
If you have an iPhone 7 or newer, your device has haptic feedback by way of Apple’s Taptic engine. This is the same technology seen on the Apple Watch and in the MacBook Pro’s Force Touchpad. Haptic feedback is making its way into many devices these days, including game consoles like the Nintendo Switch.
Whereas a traditional vibrating smartphone uses a spinning mechanism to deliver alerts, haptic feedback uses magnets in a way similar to a speaker. This results in a wider range of feedback by varying the oscillation, plus a near-instantaneous response.
If you have a modern smartphone, your vibration patterns are thus punchier. It’s easier to create rapid patterns since the vibration motor doesn’t have to spin up and spin down. Experiment and see what you can come up with!
Customizable iPhone Vibration Patterns
You can customize a whole range of patterns on iOS, but you can’t apply these patterns to individual apps. That means your Twitter and Facebook notifications will remain the same.
The full list of alerts to which you can assign custom patterns (and custom ringtones/sound alerts):
- Incoming call ringtone
- Text tone
- Voicemail alert
- Incoming email alert
- Sent mail confirmation
- Calendar alert
- Reminder alert
- AirDrop notifications
Apple has steadily improved the customization options in iOS over the past few iterations, so this is something it may eventually add to each app’s entry under Settings > Notifications.
How to Create Your Own Custom iPhone Vibrations
To create your own alerts, head to Settings > Sounds & Haptics. On earlier iPhones, head to Settings > Sounds.
This menu also allows you to toggle Vibrate on Ring and Vibrate on Silent, if you want to. You can also disable the haptic feedback you feel while using iOS in general, like when invoking 3D Touch or refreshing your mailbox.
Choose the alert you want to customize. Keep in mind that any custom alerts you create are saved for use elsewhere, so you can deploy them as you see fit.
In the following menu, tap Vibration at the top of the screen. Here you can choose from a variety of preset vibration patterns, including a heartbeat and the odd inclusion of the SOS Morse code alert. To create your own pattern, tap Create New Vibration.
Now you’ll see a blank panel, and a few grayed-out text options. Tap the panel to begin recording your pattern. It doesn’t matter where you touch on the panel, since the vibration is the same wherever you touch.
Your alert can be as long or as short as you like. Tap Stop at any time to set a point at which your alert will loop. If you start recording an alert and let it run to the end, your alert will include all that “blank” space too.
Once complete you can tap Record again to overwrite your alert, or hit Save to give it a name and save it to your custom alerts list. You can then revisit the other alert settings—text tone, incoming email, and so on—and deploy it wherever you want.
Removing Unwanted Alerts
If you have previously recorded an alert that you now want to get rid of, you can do so by swiping right-to-left on it in the respective menu. Keep in mind this will force any other alerts that use this pattern to revert back to default settings.
Apply Custom iPhone Vibration Alerts to Contacts
Maybe you’ve got a few super-important contacts that you absolutely cannot ignore. A good resolution is to create an aggressive vibrating alert and assign it to that contact.
To do so, find your contact in the Phone or Contacts app, then tap Edit in the top right-corner. Choose either Ringtone or Text tone, then tap Vibration. Create or assign a custom pattern here, then back out of the menu to apply your changes.
You might also want to enable Emergency Bypass, which notifies you of incoming alerts even when Do Not Disturb mode is enabled.
Customize iPhone Vibration Alerts for Email
Even if you disable all alerts for a particular mail account, you’ll still need to disable the sound and vibration to stop your phone from randomly vibrating or playing an alert for seemingly no reason. To do so, head to Settings > Notifications > Mail.
If you don’t want any alerts from any of your accounts, simply disable Allow Notifications. Most of us want some alerts however, so head to the account you’d like to adjust and disable any banners and lock screen entries as you see fit.
Next, tap on Sounds and set Alert Tones to None to disable the chime. Head to Vibration and choose None to disable this also. You can use these options to set specific tones and vibration patterns on a per-account basis.
You can also customize alerts for VIP contacts and individual thread notifications. With a bit of time and effort, you can set up a sophisticated system of alerts that will make perfect sense to you.
Another Way to Customize iPhone Alerts: LED Flash!
So you’ve got sounds on, have set up custom vibration patterns, and you’re still missing your alerts? There’s one more trick you can try: LED flash alerts. As the name would suggest, this causes the camera LED on the back of your device to flash whenever you receive an incoming alert.
Head to Settings > General > Accessibility and toggle LED Flash for Alerts on. You can also choose whether or not these alerts should flash when you set your phone to silent. Keep in mind that while these alerts can be useful, they may draw attention to you in dark rooms or cause strangers to think you’re taking photos of them!
The LED flash is just one of the many useful iOS accessibility controls hiding in that menu, so check it out for more handy functions.