What Causes Phantom Vibrations on Mobile Phones?

Everyone seems to get these phantom calls. You get a short vibration from your phone, but no one has called or sent you a message. There appears to be no pattern to them.

Some people believe they are simply imagining them as they often occur when people are expecting a call. Others say they are triggered by bumps or squeezes of the phone when it brushing against things in your pocket, case, purse or other places you store you phone.

The tech-heads claim that the phantom vibrations are real, and are triggered when you phone communicates with the local bases, perhaps when contact is made with a new antenna. Many psychologists claim that the signal is generated not by the phone but by electrical signals triggered by nerves in response to the 'hand shake' signals to and from the base towers.

So what is the cause or causes? This article explores the evidence for the various options.

Cause 1. Phones regularly receive signals from the local tower or base and this triggers vibrations

Your mobile phone is fundamentally very similar to a cordless phone that you use may have in your house. Basically, the phone is a radio transmitter that sends and receives digital information in the form of text, voice, fax, messages and other data from a base station. For your cordless phones, the base is connected to your phone line in the house and the cordless unit communicates with it via radio signals.

For the mobile phone the base is one of those tall towers. But how does the phone and base station know that they are in range, and what happens when you move out of the range of one base station tower and within the range of another? The cellular phone network is continuously polling the phone to work out which base station is within range at any point in time.

If the network system detects that a phone is moving, from the area within range of one base station into the range of another base station, it automatically notifies the network to start using the new base station.

This process is known as ‘hand-over’ and occurs within about 400 milliseconds. If you have a radio or standard phone you can sometimes hear the regular 'hand-shakes' between the mobile phone and the base tower.

Commonly the phone may be responding to the polling from two or three different towers at the same time, and the "here I am message" signal may be sent several times per minute by the phone when the user is moving about at the edge of marginal reception from any tower.

It is this regular contact between the base and the phone which may be the source of the vibration. Either the phone is vibrating when it receives some of these signals and responds or these signals trigger a response in the nerves of the body. The "burst of electrical activity" in the phone due to the 'hand shake' affects nerves in the skin causing muscle stimulation that gives the impression of a vibration.

Cause 2. Shaking or bumping the phone, or inadvertently hitting one of the button triggers the phone to vibrate

Shaking, bumping or squeezing the phone can trigger vibrations, This may be caused by inadvertently pressing the volume buttons or other buttons on the phone when it is in your pocket.

Cause 3. When you are expecting a call, the brain gets tricked into believing that some movement of the body near the phone is the expected call and makes you think the phone i vibrating

For many people, the phantom vibrations occur when the phone' owner is expecting "notifications and alerts" or a call or text. For this reason many people think its some sort of a mental thing and that the vibration may be imaginary. Checking phones when expecting a call or a message becomes almost like a reflex, regardless of whether the phones were vibrating or ringing.

A research study of phantom vibrations, that involved nearly 200 medical staff who used pagers and mobiles found that nearly 70 % said that they received them. This study suggested that these vibrations were triggered in the brain when expecting a call. The signal may be muscle contractions, pressure from clothing or other sensory stimuli associated with body movements.


What do you think?

© janderson99-HubPages

What Causes Phantom Vibrations on Cellphones

  • Hand shaking with the Base Towers
  • Shaking or Bumping the Cellphone
  • Brain being tricked when expecting a call
  • Other
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© 2012 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 4 comments

alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

I've never experienced this but then my phone is such an old-style model. Maybe the simpler circuitry avoid this problem? Voting this Up and Interesting.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 4 years ago from SE MA

This happens to me frequently, especially when driving..


CWanamaker profile image

CWanamaker 4 years ago from Arizona

I get these all of the time. It's pretty annoying actually. Personally I believe that it is all in my head.


shesacraftymom profile image

shesacraftymom 4 years ago

Good to know I'm not crazy! I always thought I was imagining the vibrating pocket! Voted up!

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