Is The iPhone 5 Now The Only Real Option For Handheld Music Making?

The biggest technology news this week, at least in terms of the coverage we’ve seen at sites like TechMeme, has been Apple’s introduction of the iPhone 5.

We haven’t posted anything on it yet at Synthtopia, because the new iPhone is an evolutionary refinement of an already capable device, rather than something that brings radically new possibilities to musicians.

A post at Palm Sounds, a blog that focuses on mobile music making, made us take another look at the new device. It suggests that, while Apple has made the new iPhone incrementally better, Android and Windows alternatives seem to be going nowhere as music devices:

There is no way now to easily step off the Apple machine if you’re into mobile music. It’s where all the great apps are, and I can’t see that changing for quite a while now.

So I decided that as I have no real choice but to stick with iOS, I may as well go for a new iPhone 5.

While we’re reluctant to write off other mobile platforms, iOS is maturing as a music platform while the alternatives are still struggling to be viable.

What do you think? Do musicians interested in mobile music making “have no real choice but to stick with iOS”?

If not, let us know what devices and apps you think make compelling alternatives!


65 thoughts on “Is The iPhone 5 Now The Only Real Option For Handheld Music Making?

  1. Probably. Android is still has high audio latency and no MIDI. Windows phone 8 is still unknown but they have optimized the audio latency for VOIP so there is some hope, although it will not have a MIDI API (and neither does Windows 8 Metro).

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1
  2. Before I got an iPad, I bought an Android phone. To be fair it was not the most expensive phone in the galaxy, but it had it where it counted. One of my goals with a smart phone was to program drum parts and record little ideas while out and about. I downloaded a bunch of apps and… well, none of them felt great. There was lag, the audio would skip, or the app would crash. Not fun. That was the main problem, they weren’t fun. I still have the phone and it has only gotten slower and worse.

    Some time since I bought that phone, I switched to Mac (after over 20 years with Windows and Linux). I really like Mac now which made me interested in the iPad. When they made it so you could move iPad GarageBand sessions to the Mac, I was sold. I LOVE iOS for this reason. It’s powerful, compatible with my Mac, and FUN. I’m getting my first iPhone later this month. I’m sure there are plenty of capable, maybe even better Android devices. But the Apple ecosystem trumps everything else for me. I’m not doing it for “fashion” or whatever people always accuse Apple users of doing. I just LIKE using it. Sorry if that bothers anyone.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 41 Thumb down 5
  3. Once again, the press is focusing too much on the hardware and not the operating environment:

    Given the usual longevity of Apple hardware, there is no reason to rush right out and buy an iPhone 5 to make music. A used 64GB iPad 2nd Gen might be a much better purchase for making music.

    It’s the operating environment, guys …

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 0
    • Lemur runs on my 2nd Gen Itouch. You can get those for $50-70 bucks these days.Which is almost cheaper than Lemur.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. Mobile is not a good platform for serious music making, period, regardless of the OS. Yeah, it’s fun to joink around with something while you’re in line at the bank. And there will be some musicians who find a way to express their creativity through mobile – in the same way that some musicians use toys or kitchen utensils or whatever to make their music. But it’s a far cry from being a serious platform for music at this point.

    So to say iOS is the only real alternative is like saying some guy is the tallest dwarf in the group – he’s taller than all the others but he’s still a dwarf.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 26 Thumb down 47
    • If you cannot make good sounding music with iPad, your a musical dwarf. And not even one of the longer ones.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 38 Thumb down 11
      • You mean keyboard and mouse vs. multitouch screen? That didn’t really help your case… There’s a reason there are tons of apps that make the iPad a midi controller.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2
        • IPad as a forum reading tool on the other hand… Not so hot. This was of course meant as a reply to triplizard’s comment below.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2
        • Didn’t vs anything. If you cannot make good sounding music with iPad, I’ve got bad news for you; its not iPads fault.

          Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 5
      • I’m not including the iPad in my argument. I actually like the iPad interface and think some apps like AniMoog make good use of it in an interesting way.

        And by the way FUCK the voting system here. You can’t state an opinion without having a bunch of people thumbs down and have it hidden. Ridiculous.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 36
        • Maybe it’s because you stated you opinion in a hostile manner. If you had said it in a less insulting way, I wouldn’t have downvoted you. I downvoted you mostly for the attitude, not the opinion.

          “Mobile is not a platform that is conducive to serious music production., regardless of the OS. Yeah, it’s fun to joink around with an app while you have some free time out and about. And, yeah, there will always be some musicians who find a way to incorporate–or dominate–their creative process with mobile, much in the same way there are creative people who use unexpected tools to their own advantage. But, mobile is a far cry from being a drop in replacement for a desktop production environment.”

          And, really, drop the inflammatory simile.

          Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2
  5. I should qualify my comment above by saying I’m speaking specifically about the interface. The sound generation engine on an iOS device or upcoming Win8 mobile devices have a lot of potential.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 15
  6. dudes…………….i dont need any new tools. theres enough potential in my older tools. i need fresh air and trees….

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 38 Thumb down 2
  7. I agree out of the mobile devices, Ios is the only one you can use for music making at the moment. Android dont seem to want to go for this market or they would have sorted the audio out by now. They cant even do that on their own phone -Nexus 7. I really hope MS do bring out something thats as good or better though just for competition. I think people forget that most people who are going to make music seriously are going to use a DAW on a PC or MAC. You need monitor space, perfect Midi timing and/or CPU power for software synth/effects, perfect signal to noise ratio audio and precise control over many instruments and effects which you are never going to want have on a mobile even if you actually wanted to do

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1
  8. Android would be just as big as IOS if they had less devices. There are too many different devices, which makes it hard to develop for. Also, the android community expects to get apps for free. Would you use nano studio if it had advertisement banners and such?

    I hate apple, but right now, they have the best apps. Now with the new ipod touch having a decent camera and longer screen, seems like the perfect pocket device for a traveling musician. $299 starting price though, is kind of steep. I would have liked them to have a 8gb model for $199, and bring the 8gb previous model down to $129, but apple never seems to lower the price of the older stuff :P

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2
    • They only do it when it makes business sense.

      They’re offering older iPhones for cheap or free with contract, to capture buyers that make their decision primarily on ‘price’.

      They never aim for cheap, though.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
      • iPhones on a contract suck. I dont know about anyone else, but I dont want to pay almost $100 a month for phone service I will never use. I would like to see data only plans, but that will never happen cause of apps that give you free texting or cheap calling. I use textfree on my ipod touch for calling and texting. I was able to earn 800 free minutes, only 100 of which I have used since the 4th gen ipod touch came out, because incoming calls are free.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2
    • Two other issues:

      Google hasn’t tuned Android to have low latency audio.

      Music app developers don’t want to port their apps to Android, because piracy is rampant.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1
  9. Windows Phone has always seemed to have better latency than Android but hopefully Windows Phone 8 will make some more improvements.
    Windows RT tablets probably won’t have many serious apps for music considering a Windows 8 Pro tablet will be able to run any of the software we’re using right now in Win7 as long as you’re in Desktop Mode. Apps from the marketplace (Metro apps, both ARM and X86) won’t have MIDI support in this version of the OS anyway.
    I’m very interested in getting a Win8 Pro tablets sometime but a phone is just too small for anything other than being a “phone” for me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
    • I’m anxious for the Windows Surface tablets to be released.

      They are puzzling but also interesting.

      I’m skeptical about their prospects as ‘iPad-killers’, but the Intel version could be an interesting new laptop form factor.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
  10. There is also a very capable new iPod touch as an option….that thing might be something like an iPhone 4s (without the phone)..

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0
  11. Korg tiny plastic anything. I personally LOVE the Kaosillator. Sure they’re made for anyone to make music, but that’s exactly the point. As soon as you say the apple whatever is the only real option for anything, you begin to sound like the big brother apple has become.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1
  12. Stick with your iPhone 4, and save $30 on the adapter you’ll have to buy to make the 5 connect to your hardware. Ripoff.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4
  13. it’s all unknown factors with iphone5 now they’ve changed the dock. will there still be dedicated pins for audio in/out midi etc? not likely. plus a whole set of attachments have been relegated to the dustbin due to their old docks. sure there are adapters. by again what will that do to quality, latency, etc?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
    • It seems like for whatever reason the need to use special hardware with the older iPhone/iPod touch for MIDI and audio was a software decision and coulda functioned with he CCK just like the iPad. I don’t get why Apple did this because they would have sold more camera kits and probably even more iPod touchs to use as sound modules.

      It was a planned feature in iOS 5 that disappointingly disappeared.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  14. I have Droid phone and it is fine but not good for the music. Will switch to iPhone probably with next phone. Too much good stuff for music on iPhone and iPad – Animoog, imaschine and lots of other!

    Sorry about bad English!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  15. The iPhone 5 isn’t that much of a big improvement for music makers. Surely the larger screen is a big plus, but musicians that don’t like the small screen of the iPhone already have an iPad and the rest are happy with the small screen as it is. The new processor promises to be twice as fast but I’m not sure what that will make for music apps. The resolution seems to be the same except you can now watch videos in 16:9 format. The new iOS 6 at least promises to fix some battery issues at make the iPhone last longer, which is a big plus. So I wouldn’t throw away my iPhone 4S and get an iPhone 5. The small harware modifications aren’t worth it. And the new features of Siri and Maps etc those that have an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad will get anyway once they update to the new iOS 6. As it looks right now I’ll most likely wait for the iPhone 6S.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2
    • Not so much a big deal for iPhone 4s owners, but if you have an Android phone, all the music apps look very nice on the iPhone!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
    • 1GB memory on the iPhone 5, vs 512MB on the iPhone 4s.
      iPhone 5 also has double the processor speed of the 4s (according to Apple)

      These could be very meaningful spec increases for music now that Audiobus is approved.
      Minimum recommended spec listed in the Audiobus FAQ is an iPhone 4s.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
  16. Aside from the obvious point that articles like this are flame-bait to drive traffic, there are a few things worth saying

    First, the fact that you can get an iPad, and (albeit not as quickly and easily as on a desktop) make a finished record on it is nothing short of miraculous.

    Second, iOS is carving out the same space as mac os did in the 90s and onwards. Apple computers on a spec for spec, dollar for dollar basis where much “worse” than windows based machines but using them in a professional environment was simply out of the question. So, a generation of engineers and programmers won’t go anywhere near windows. It may change, but it will take a while to convince people

    Microsoft weren’t interested of course, because they were making oodles of cash from office use – why should they are about musicians and graphic designers?

    Same with google/android. They sell a bucketload of phones which are cheaper and technically higher spec’d (though as many have pointed out, it’s the os, stupid). Why would they reengineer their os for a niche set of users?

    There are a few cool music apps on android but they’re kind of at the level of the very first iOS music toys. Auria and wave generator aren’t going to be showing up on android any time soon

    So, if you want a phone or tablet that can also run some really pretty amazing music apps get an iOS device.

    Like macs were (and probably still are- there’s that flame starter we’ve been itching for) its just better.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
    • iPhones for music is where some people want to be, go check out galaxy explorer on bandcamp or soundcloud, he makes astounding burnt stuff on iphone4

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8
    • I also think that it’s a case of to each their own

      If they have certain tools and it works for them then it’s great

      Obviously if the speed of the device is better then the workflow is faster, but still, the amount of creative potential due to the idevices and some incredible apps is unprecedented

      Now we have the excellent PPG wave generator , there is surely no doubt proper synthesis can be had on the touchscreen

      And you’ll see it on the iPhone soon enough ( the man himself told me )

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9
  17. Iphone5 has the a6 chip which means ipad4 will have this at least or even one faster

    Main thing about the iPhone is that it’s truly for mobile purposes ( stick it in your pocket), for sure the likes of nano studio, beat maker etc will run faster aswell as animoog, but most will be looking to an ipad4 for the music making.

    Having said that, wolfgang palms PPG wave generator 1.01 version which I have beta tested runs VERY smooth on my iPad 1 and apps such as drumjam and impaktor have no issues on my ipodtouch 4gs

    CPU issues are almost non existant if one ensures a proper reboot and disables multitasking, but let’s see exactly what happens with audio bus..

    I maintain that most idevices have no real issues if one is cautious, virtual midi on the other hand is an issue with ipad1, unless you are using say- nodebeat to control sunrizer or alchemy

    I think developers will get a good idea what this a6 chip can do when their iphone5s arrive and make some sound judgements for future apps or for improving existing ones

    But again, I maintain that the newest apps- Magellan, PPG, drumjam, impaktor et al have been very smooth on my older devices

    Nexus? Android? Never issues for me, I had a quick play with the nexus but it felt very toy like in my hands to be honest…

    Cannot comment on windows tablets as yet, but for me I see things very clearly- iOS goes from strength to strength- its always getting better gradually, there has been no backtracking so I stick with it

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11
  18. Iphone5 has the a6 chip which means ipad4 will have this at least or even one faster

    Main thing about the iPhone is that it’s truly for mobile purposes ( stick it in your pocket), for sure the likes of nano studio, beat maker etc will run faster aswell as animoog, but most will be looking to an ipad4 for the music making.

    Having said that, wolfgang palms PPG wave generator 1.01 version which I have beta tested runs VERY smooth on my iPad 1 and apps such as drumjam and impaktor have no issues on my ipodtouch 4gs

    CPU issues are almost non existant if one ensures a proper reboot and disables multitasking, but let’s see exactly what happens with audio bus..

    I maintain that most idevices have no real issues if one is cautious, virtual midi on the other hand is an issue with ipad1, unless you are using say- nodebeat to control sunrizer or alchemy

    I think developers will get a good idea what this a6 chip can do when their iphone5s arrive and make some sound judgements for future apps or for improving existing ones

    But again, I maintain that the newest apps- Magellan, PPG, drumjam, impaktor et al have been very smooth on my older devices

    Nexus? Android? Never issues for me, I had a quick play with the nexus but it felt very toy like in my hands to be honest…

    Cannot comment on windows tablets as yet, but for me I see things very clearly- iOS goes from strength to strength- its always getting better gradually, there has been no backtracking so I stick with it

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 0 Thumb down 12
    • Mr Laurent, aka evolutionary, aka iDev, aka fungimactrippy, aka Appster, etc

      You comments are currently getting flagged for moderation based on your commenting history.

      To avoid this, establish a credible comment presence under one name, instead of posting things under a variety of aliases.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0
  19. ?
    What the hell are you talking about synthhead?
    Something wrong with your posting system, I tried posting under zaxis but it says comment failed
    I tried one post as evolutionary and that failed so I posted with mr Laurent, not my fault something is wrong with your system

    Now, I never posted as any mac trippy or whatever and I’d appreciate it if you would not accuse me of such in public

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 0 Thumb down 16
  20. So synthhead, even is someone did publish under aliases, in my case I didn’t, I’d say it’s in poor taste to highlight it in public don’t you think?
    A bit dissapointed seeing as yours is literally the only site/ blog that I recommend to my own readers

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 0 Thumb down 16
  21. And while u r at it synthhead, kindly remove any of my comments on this thread immediately as I don’t want my name associated with your site in any way shape or form, to accuse me in public like that is low class sir
    I will no longer be reccomending readers or directing traffic to your site
    I appreciate your immediate implementation of my request thanx

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 0 Thumb down 17
  22. Alright synthhead

    I’m going public about this and will be speaking to my solicitor in the morning

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 0 Thumb down 15
    • You might not be aware of it, but this is already public, the internet is a public place, all of your posts are public.

      If you don’t want to be associated with this website, maybe you should not make so much posts on it?.. maybe?… Why didn’t you used the private feedback form?

      “Hello sollicitor, I made all those dumb comment on this public website, and the operators don’t want to waste time deleting everything I said.”

      Yeah.. I remember when you pulled the same shit on Palm Sound Mr Evolutionaryarts.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1
  23. Honestly, I couldn’t use anything but iOS for mobile making apps. I’ve had a few different android phones, and every one has dissapointed. My iPad/iPhone app combination can’t be touched with an android phone. The power of music apps on the iPad is getting bigger weekly.
    The PPG Wave Generator, is made specifically for iPad. If you haven’t seen it, then you will believe me after you have. Nothing can touch iOS for mobile music making. sorry/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
    • I wouldn’t hold your breath!

      It would probably make more sense to look at one of the new windows 8 tablets, which would let you run tge full FL Studio.

      Did you see the touch demo of it?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  24. there are many other options for hand held musicians
    i just got 4 used Nintendo dsi xl with original ds10+ and (R4 home brew )
    for less than the price of the iphone 5
    !!that’s 4 syncable stereo outputs !!
    who really needs a iphone ?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2
  25. There have been some way better synth apps on Android recently, just check out EerieSynth! It’s got some of the lowest latency I’ve seen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  26. Gee, I don’t know. I have a lot of fun making some really nice sounds with my Nintendo DSi XL. I have the Korg DS-10, the Korg M-01, the funky little Abylight keyboards which are always fun, and even the Petit Computer which, with a little effort, can be used to program virtual synths with its wide range of sound and GUI commands. Not so serious? The sounds are more than just from a toy. And then there is my Roland PMA-5, which is as capable a GM synth as any that fits on a stand. I hesitate to hand Apple a monopoly on anything. They certainly haven’t earned it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  27. it’s true; GarageBand iOS is absolutely amazing, especially with the Smart guitar. I have not seen any other mobile OS come nearly this close, which is sad. there needs to be competition!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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