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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Create custom iPhone vibrations for your contacts

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

The Apple Watch is going to tap on your wrist to tell you to stand up and that you’ve got a text message and plenty of other stuff. But your iPhone can do some pretty clever tapping of its own, if you know how to set it up.

You probably know that you can set your iPhone to use unique sounds for every phone call and text message you receive from specific contacts1. But did you know that you can also use custom vibrations for each phone call and text message you receive on a per-contact basis?

To customize how your iPhone reacts to a specific contact, open the Phone app and tap Edit. You can set a custom ringtone and custom text tone, as well as custom vibrations for both ringing and texts.


Now here’s the fun part, especially if you fancy yourself a bit of a drummer. You can create custom vibrations right on your iPhone, using the touchscreen and the accelerometer. This is not new—iOS has supported the idea of custom vibrations for ages now. And yet it’s just not a well-known feature.

To record your own custom vibration patterns, edit a contact and tap on the selected Vibration for that contact (probably Default). You’ll see a menu of pre-cooked vibrations provided by Apple, but at the very bottom under the Custom divider, you’ll see the option to Create New Vibration.

The New Vibration screen lets you just start tapping in the center of your phone. You can tap hard or soft, short or long. Then tap on Stop when you’re done. The iPhone puts it all together as a vibration pattern, which is actually visible as a series of dots in the timeline at the bottom of the screen. Tap Play to play it back. If you like what you’ve created, tap Save and give it a name. Now it’ll be available as a custom vibration pattern for any contact you want.

It’s not earth shattering technology, I know, but since I keep my phone in silent mode most of the time, it’s nice to be able to tell when my wife is calling without even looking at my phone.

  1. I use the “red alert” sound for all calls I receive from Apple. 

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