5 Reasons Musicians Don’t Need An iPhone

Our recent article on Apple’s iPhone 4 introduction and what it means for musicians – 5 Reasons Musicians Should Get An iPhone 4 – generated a lot of discussion.

While a few of the comments didn’t rise above crazy knee-jerk Apple-phobia (things like “i want to piss on you!”), most of the comments added thoughtful perspectives.

Now some other music websites, including MusicRadar and CDM, have joined in the discussion. CDM’s Peter Kirn, in particular, laid the smack down on me, saying “James at Synthopia lists a number of reasons to buy one that to me just aren’t quite right,” and going on to offer his idea of a reality check.

I’ve collected the most interesting arguments for why musicians don’t need an iPhone below.

Check ’em out and let me know what you think!

5 Reasons Musicians Don’t Need An iPhone

Windows Is The Top Mobile Platform

Over at CDM, Peter Kirn argues that the iPhone isn’t the top mobile platform for music, arguing that Windows is the top mobile music platform:

“The iPhone isn’t the top mobile music OS. That’d be … Windows.

Seriously. Top handheld, yes. Top mobile, no, because the remaining popular “mobile” solution for music is a laptop.”

Some readers had similar arguments.

Joel says “A Netbook with Skype and free Open Source Applications does more for much less – and no monthly fees. Plus it runs Reaper (licensed, of course!) just fine.”

“For the past year I’ve been using a $179 netbook that seems to do way more than my roomate’s Iphone. I’ve been amazed with how much you can get done with just a 900mhz celeron and XP. Especially without having to re-purchase your applications in a different format.” adds Chris.

iPhones are expensive and musicians are poor.

Several readers pointed out the the cost of a new iPhone is a lot more than the $200 phone cost, when you include the cost of a 2-year contract.

That’s true. When you include the phone & data service cost, iPhone owners are going to pay a couple of grand over a 2-year contract. That’s a lot of money for a phone.

Who can affort that sh**?

Real Musicians Play On Real Instruments. iPhone Apps Are Toys.

“Real musician play on real devices,” says reader trz303. “All those ‘music’ apps are nothing more than toys.’

And Chris notes that “Mutlitouch devices are cool and can be fun, but I’ve found the standard keyboard and mouse to be most productive.”

The tiny screen of an iPhone can be fiddly, compared to traditional music interfaces. And, while the iPhone 4 bumps up the screen resolution, it doesn’t make the virtual buttons & keys any bigger, or your fingers any smaller.

And the iPhone was not designed to be a professional musical device, so it lacks the standard connectivity that would ensure interoperability and quality audio output.

We Live In The Future And The Internet Is Awesome

Kirn argues that musicians don’t need iPhones, because we live in the future and the Internet is awesome.

I’ll let Kirn explain himself:

Not needing a device or a platform is part of the beauty of this being the year 2010 and not 1984. In 1984, a sea of incompatible computers with proprietary standards for everything from simple serial connectors to displays cost more money, were harder to operate, and eventually wasted your time. (One plus: they hooked up to your TV set, no DRM-locked HDMI cables required …but I digress.)

Now, we live in the future. We can choose from platforms that use standards, that communicate via standards, that talk via The Internet and Internet Standards and Browsers so it doesn’t matter what gadgets your friends might have.

We have obscenely cheap electronics, so you can make electronic music with $30 in parts and a speaker, not a six-month residency at a prestigious Research Institution in Paris.

In other words – the iPhone locks you into a contract, the apps Apple approves and a limited selection of peripherals.

$30 in parts and a speaker, on the other hand, let you avoid the six-month residency at a prestigious Research Institution in Paris so you can make electronic music on the cheap.

I don’t need that crap!

“I don’t need that crap! I don’t need that crap!” says reader Andy.

Gordon fleshes this idea out a little better, saying “I find myself increasingly using a notebook for jotting down ideas as they come to me. By that I mean a $1 pad of paper and a biro.”

“Maybe a good test of whether or not some musical idea is worth developing or not is whether or not it survives in your imagination until such times as you have access to an instrument,” adds Gordon. “As for ‘on the go’, what about all of the real world around us – full of amazing possibilities – when we’re not intent on peering at yet another electronic screen?”

Could the iPhone be a case of too much technology and too much connectivity?

I’m Not Convinced – Why I’m Still Getting An iPhone 4

While I’ve heard some interesting arguments against the value of iPhones for musicians, I’m not convinced.

Here’s why:

  • Windows Is The Top Mobile Platform – Who says this is an either/or proposition? Laptops and mobile phones serve different purposes. Does an iPhone provide unique value to you as a musician vs a laptop? For some it will, others it won’t. I can’t fit a laptop into my pocket and mobile broadband service for laptops is pretty expensive, so a smartphone offers a great solution for me.
  • iPhones Are Expensive. Yes – but so are synthesizers, samplers, laptops, workstations, DAW’s, microphones, mixers and just about everything electronic musicians use. You should definitely consider the total cost of owning something like an iPhone before you buy one. But 95% of you already have a cell phone and the cost of owning an iPhone is competitive with other “smart phones”. So the real question is whether the added benefits of using a device like the iPhone is worth the additional cost of a smart phone service contract vs standard cell phone service.
  • Real Musicians Use Real Instruments; iPhones Apps Are Toys. This argument is entirely subjective. The iPhone currently offers the richest mobile app platform for music and there are a lot of musicians using these apps. And even if these apps were toys – music toys are useful, too. Musicians have long embraced non-professional instruments, including toy pianos and more recent “toy” instruments like the Stylophone.
  • We Live In The Future And The Internet Is Awesome! This is true. And “you can make electronic music with $30 in parts and a speaker.” But a lot of musicians need tools that just work – like keyboard synthesizers, samplers and, yes, iPhones. There’s a place for circuit bending and software hacking and there’s a place for tools that just let you get on with making music.
  • I Don’t Need That Crap! This may be crudely stated – but it’s probably the best reason to pass on the iPhone music software hype. My 5 Reasons Musicians Should Get An iPhone are just that: five reasons why you might want to get an iPhone. You may have one reason, like a preference for a hardware phone keyboard, that kills the value of an iPhone. Or you may not value the connectivity that devices like the iPhone provide. You may just be sick of the iPhone hype. That’s fine – just don’t think that this invalidates the experiences of the many musicians that have found iPhones to be powerful, invaluable tools.

So, there you have it. 5 reasons why you don’t need a new iPhone – and why I’m not convinced.

Got something to add? Leave a comment below!

Update: Peter Kirn offers his Haiku response at CDM.

I’m still waiting for the Scooby Doo ending to this discussion. “I would have rocked the house – if it wasn’t for those meddling kids and their iPhones!”

Image: Mrs Logic

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60 thoughts on “5 Reasons Musicians Don’t Need An iPhone

  1. Thanks for your comment. Yep, I'm always out for the best compromise, and yes, while there's virtually no MIDI support today and audio recording is usually mono-only (except with the BlueMikey Microphone), the iTouch has fully replaced my Yamaha QY22 Music Sequencer that I've used for many, many years.
    With several apps available that can export to MIDI files (Xewton, BeatMaker, iSequence …), I don't really know what use I had for a MIDI cable anyway.
    Funnily, I thought about getting a Mac Mini too, but every time I compare it with a $400 Laptop I find that the Laptop has similar performance but a keyboard and a colour TFT screen and a battery so when power fails my work won't just be gone. +3 for the (Windows) Laptop, so to say.
    Audio performance is a bit better on the Mac Mini, but I can live with a Windows system after some tweaking for good audio performance.

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  2. Also, people in the 60s 70s 80 etc didn’t have any of that stuff and there still going, have wrote the best songs ever, and are the best musicians.

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  3. The main point of arguing for or against the iPhone is to give us all a break from arguing the relative merits of analogue and digital ;p

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  4. I don't need an iphone, because: 1. I'm a drummer 😉 2. I like (real) knobs. 3. It won't get me drunk. and 4. I can't smoke it. (besides, there's no lighter in/on it<<

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  5. I am not trying to bash apple but with my generation I see almost a cult following of apple products. While they may be innovative and unique, the apple marketing technique basically works upon the principle of selling you something that does something that normal people would already associate with a device. Stupid things like saying “Our apple mac-books have the ability to connect wirelessly to the internet!” is like saying that “This bottled water is cool and refreshing when you drink it!” and sadly I see people fall for this simple marketing ploy far to easily. This has probably been my biggest reason why I have avoided apple products; that and the need for apple to make everything proprietary for their own specific products.

    One example (Using this example when I trying to send a video to my teacher for my ASL class, with my partner who was using a mac; which we attempted to try different file formats on his macbook)—-> In order to get a video to run on quicktime on a Macintosh that you have transferred from your PC, you have to first go through various hoops and hurdles- first trying to find out what incredibly small amount of files are compatible with the apple software, then after you think you have found one file type that works, converting it (then after testing it on quicktime on my PC) you send it to the mac, and what do you get? “File format unplayable, format not recognized”. After I got home I used the mac website and I tried maybe four different formats that were listed as being compatible with quicktime, and when they failed to work on the Mac’s quicktime I broke down and uploaded it to youtube, sending the teacher the link afterwards.

    PC’s has seemed to always strive for the more universal approach- PC’s have programs designed to use both windows based audio and video formats to -Yes- even apple’s proprietary audio formats; and have far more software options thanks to people creating opens source software which is available for users, so they are able to utilize and enhance whatever they are doing, usually for free AND with multiple software options to choose from. (I guess while apple has apps, PC’s have open source, and software generally is based to perform some kind of function, making software productive as opposed to apps, which the general concept of apps are for entertainment, for the time being).

    THAT all being said, I am a jazz pianist, and the main thing that the iPhone has that I am very interested in is the iRealBook app, which is a (rather large) collection/compilation of jazz standards all consolidated on to a single app, with the ability to transpose the chords to any key you want, and the ability to add chord changes to the charts as you please. This is so incredibly useful for a gigin’ musician, when either you don’t know a song or a someone in the band might not know the changes; you can quickly pull up the chart and show either yourself or the other musician the chords.

    Anyways there’s my two cents on the matter.

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  6. Use an imobile device such as an ipod touch…instead of the iphone and you can skip the phone contract…then it becomes obviously clear that with apps like beatmaker2, nanostudio, musicstudio, loopty, and many many others…you can buy under 100 dollars worth of apps, and a 230 dollar ipod…and have an arsenal, for the price of a used crappy drum machine…that will require eqs, mixers, cabling, etc…if not for direct to post production the imobile device does serve as a creative writing tool in many instances where a boring train ride would have been the offering.

    Windows sucks for making music period…started there, never going back to that turd….and windows mobile platform has shit for latency and shit for apps.

    If you want to know why folks use windows over mac..its the cost of the platform, but not figuring in the upgrade to better hardware for quality purposes and latency issues? Also not counting for loss in cpu for antivirus and antispam and ten other things running in the background always…shitty incompatibility issues (constantly abound) and pirated software…

    I use the ipad2 for music and after auria, have just decided…to dump the whole laptop desktop thing period. Of course this is a decision i am invested in solely by my own opinion and experiences…

    Maybe just use what you have access to and make music…most of all have fun.

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  7. haha. Only eloctronic. What about jazz and metal players or both? We need guitars that perfect strings, action, tone, magnetics, amp, picks, care, pedals, cases… And other guitars etc.
    If you are not a class. guitar player. You’ll buy acoustic, electric,archtop,semi-hollow. wah pedal, loop pedal this pedal that amp….. And The perfect guitar is around 5k to 10k in dollars. latest iphone is 1k. Why waste a lot of money in a simple tool? 1k is an amp, and an amp goes like 60 years (if not tube) or a guitar goes lifetime. Well iphone or other craps go like 2-3 years. Cant change the battery etc. Nokia or samsung the real choice of the musicians. We are poor and we try 2 save 2 better. While rich rockers only need an amp an guitar. Most of them dont even know bouts pedals. Lol..

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