The phones nowadays contain a vibrator that is used to notify the user about an action or to give a feedback regarding requested event.

Is there any standard pattern or general rules that specify the implementation of vibration tone, e.g. 3 long vibrations mean that a text is received or 1 long hard vibration means that the operation has failed?

Is there a book or article describing them?


3 Answers 3


One consideration is that sets of 3 may indicate emergency/distress.


As I understand it, this has history in visual design: A true triangle is uncommon in nature, so it catches the eye. As such, it is reserved for the communication of danger. ISO caution signs are an artificial example that incorporates this.

Aural and tactile design has some of these elements. The "SOS" distress signal of "...---...", incorporates this element. The mountain distress signals mentioned above suggest sets of three sounds for distress.

So this may not be codified, but could be culturally relevant to choices.


I don't think there are any standards around this. Likewise I would argue that this is something that the user should be in full control of.

I personally have a custom vibration tone for SMS messages as the default on my phone is too weak to notice when my phone is in my pocket.

For emails I get 100's every day, I only want to be notified if I get an email from 1 of 4 or 5 specific senders and as such only emails from those senders vibrate/make a sound.


So for me, there are a few different types of notifications (assuming that's what we're talking about, not vibrations for phone calls or alarms)

  • Important/Non-recurring Reminder (Text message, reminder to take cookies out of oven)
  • Not important/Recurring Reminder (E-mail [because we get so many of them], reminder to walk the dog)
  • Not even close to important (daily weather alert?)

And basically I think that the length of the vibration pattern should reflect that.

So maybe a 1 second pattern for important, 0.5 second pattern for non-important, and just no vibration at all for anything that isn't even close to important

As to what the exact pattern should be-- as others have mentioned, that doesn't really have a standard AFAIK. But I only have the apple watch, so I couldn't speak to if there is a standard or not.

One thing to note is that you can add some feeling into the vibration pattern. Quick staccato beats give a happier mood, while a longer legato pattern gives more of a sad mood

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