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Smartphones have been delivering sound since their inception, but it's usually done using a conventional speaker. Synaptics has a technology called Synaptics Resonate that instead utilizes the glass display via haptic feedback technology (see figure). I talked with Reuben Espitia, Product Applications Engineer, about Resonate (see video above).
Synaptics was already providing haptic feedback through the screen, whereby a finger would pick up the vibration as it touched an area that the software was presenting as a button. The same piezoelectric system simply operates at a higher frequency when delivering sound—it essentially performs double duty generating sound and haptic feedback as needed.
The advantages are significant. One or more speakers are eliminated and the system can be sealed more effectively. It also shrinks system real estate as well as reduces power due to more efficient sound generation.