Google is working on improving game controller rumble, possibly for Android 12
With mobile and cloud gaming on the rise, Google is looking to finally improve the controller rumble situation on Android. Currently, if you connect a game controller to your Android device either via USB or via Bluetooth, chances are it won’t vibrate like it would when playing on a console. That’s because Android only provides minimal support for vibrating connected input devices — it’s either on or it’s off. After announcing back in October that the company is considering adding proper rumble support, we’ve now spotted the code commits that enable improved game controller rumble.
When we first highlighted this issue back in October, we originally noted that Android doesn’t have an API to generate vibrations on external devices like a connected game controller. It turns out that that’s not entirely true, as Switch hacker and emulator dev bylaws pointed out to us that Android does feature rudimentary support for vibrating externally connected devices. The problem with the current implementation is that developers can’t control the amplitude of vibrations or generate custom vibration effects on connected devices, resulting in subpar haptic feedback. As things stand now, it’s better to have no haptic feedback than poor haptic feedback.
Fortunately, Google finally decided to tackle this issue a few months ago, and its engineers have submitted commits to AOSP seeking to improve input device rumble support. The code changes add support for amplitude control and pave the way for generating custom vibration effects. Not all game controllers will be supported since the gamepad’s driver must support force feedback under Linux, but a majority of game controllers should work. This will be useful for supporting rumble in games that were designed for it, which includes many console games that are accessible to mobile players through cloud gaming services like Google’s own Stadia, NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW, Microsoft’s xCloud, and more.
Since these commits have not yet been merged, we don’t know if improved game controller rumble will make its way to Android 12. However, it’s possible that this feature has already been merged internally and that Google is only now uploading the commits to the public AOSP repo. Alternatively, Google can merge these changes within the next few days or weeks, giving these changes enough time to propagate into Android 12.
Featured image: the ASUS ROG Phone 3 with the ROG Kunai 3 game controller