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Create Custom iPhone Vibration Patterns: And Know Your Caller

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Custom ring tones have come and gone several times over as novel ways to identify incoming calls. Your mom can have a few bars from ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’. Your girlfriend can have a riff from ‘Super Freak’. Yeah, yeah, it’s as old as the sand in our modern day, digital desert. 

Personally, I’m not big on annoying bursts of sound or music catching me off guard. And, I don’t necessarily want people to know, or question me when I get a phone call. But, I do like knowing when people call, and who the caller is. 

Vibrations are a wonderful way of knowing who is calling you, without even looking. And, in this quick tutorial, I’d like to show you how to actually create custom vibrations on your iPhone running iOS 6.

Step 1- Go where the Vibrations are...

From Settings, select Sounds...

select sounds

In the Sounds sub-menu, select Text Tone. You don’t have to choose Text Tone, specifically, but let’s go with this method for the moment.

text tone

Once you’re in the text tone selection menu, choose to adjust the current vibration in the top of the menu. You’ll notice that there are several preset vibrations to choose from. If you’d prefer not to create your own vibrations. you can always pull from this list of Apple created examples. Or, you can...

several presets

Scroll to the bottom of this menu and select Create Custom Vibration.

create custom vibration

Step 2 - Creating your own Vibration  

This is where things get fun. Once you’re in the custom vibration screen, you are greeted with a very simple user interface. All you need do is begin tapping in the middle of the screen, where it says ‘Tap to create a vibration pattern’ . Recording will begin immediately. Simply press ‘Stop’ when you’re done. And ‘Play’ to hear what you did.  

Your own vibration

Some suggestions are Morse Code, a familiar drum beat, or numbered taps. 

One method I’ve grown fond of is to assign people to specific numbers of taps. For example: If Lawrence calls, it taps 4 times. If Christian calls, it taps 5 times. If Amy calls, it taps, holds, and then taps two more times. The idea is to make distinctive vibrations that you’ll recognize. 

Once you’re finished, tap the Save button, and name your Vibration.

Name your vibration

Immediately, you’ll be returned to the Vibration menu. If you look in the Custom section, towards the bottom of the Vibration menu, you’ll see your new vibration ready for you.

Ideas for Implementation

Personally, I’ve had great success assigning vibrations to people I text regularly. What I like about this is that I can be having a great conversation with someone (in person), and then suddenly, I feel a familiar rhythm on my leg (because my phone is in my pocket), and I instantly know who I’ve received a text from before I look at my phone. 

To me, this beats having to just get a blanket vibration, check the phone, and then I just find out it’s a text I don’t care about. Instead, I get to enjoy what I’m doing currently, and I already know whether the text is important or not, just by the way my phone vibrated.

Check out our GarageBand: Exploring GarageBand For iPad course!

G.W. Childs IV

G.W. Childs IV | Articles by this author

Sound Designer, Musician, Author... G.W. Childs has worn many hats. Beginning in the U.S. Army back in 1991, at the age of 18, G.W. began learning electronics, communications and then ultimately audio and video editing from the Department of Defense. Upon leaving the military G.W. went on to work for many exciting companies like LucasArts, Lucasfilm, Propellerheads, Cakewalk, Midway, MTV. With all of these exciting companies he's either worked as an editor, or sound designer, even sometimes as an actor. G.W. is currently working as an author for Cengage Publishing. He has written the titles 'Creating Music and Sound for Video Games', 'Rewire: Skill Pack', and 'Using Reason on Stage: Skill Pack'. As a musician G.W. has played for years in the band Soil & Eclipse on COP International Records. Additionally, he's worked as a remix artist for acts like Gene Loves Jezebel, Ray Charles, James Brown, Chiazm, Razed in Black, and more.


Mar 18, 2013
Great article! Thanks for posting. I wish more folks knew about this, and with your article, more folks will.
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