10 Years Later, Android Audio Quality Still Lags

Android owners wondering why there aren’t more music apps being developed for the platform may want to check out the Mobile Audio Quality Index, an analysis of audio quality on mobile devices.

Based on testing of over 200 devices:

  • audio latency on Android devices is 4 1/2 times that of iOS devices; and
  • ‘glitchiness’ of audio on Android devices is 30+ times that of iOS devices.

The above chart graphs devices based on Glitchiness and Minimum Latency. Devices with the best performance appear in the lower left corner.

MAQ’s index gives current iOS devices its top ranking, meaning that ‘latency and glitchiness are negligible or virtually nonexistent. These devices are suitable for powering professional live music performances.’

On Android, only four devices achieved that level: Google’s Pixel, Pixel 2 and Pixel XL and the HTC Nexus 9.

The MAQ is a statistical analysis of user generated data on mobile devices, and focuses on the latency and glitchiness of audio on the devices. The MAQ is designed to provide developers and consumers insight into the devices best able to run audio apps.

Based on MAQ stats, devices from Apple & Google are suitable for live audio use, and devices from other manufacturers generally are likely to have glitchiness and latency that makes them unsuitable.

Check out the info at the MAQ Index and let us know what you think!

22 thoughts on “10 Years Later, Android Audio Quality Still Lags

  1. Great! Now I don’t have to spend time explaining people why and how is Android not suitable for making music. I personally prefer Android as a phone any time over iPhone but use iPad here/there just for musical purposes.

    1. The single major issue here is Android’s threading model and how it failed to prioritise the audio thread above everything else. I believe this has been corrected in later Android versions which explains why newer devices perform better.

  2. If cost is an issue of interest…

    Use an Android phone with a cheap plan as your phone. I pay a few dollars a month and it gives me far more than I need.

    And use an unactivated or retired iPhone for your high performance mobile music scratch pad. Preferably something iOS 10.2 or earlier since starting with 10.3 they intentionally sabotaged USB support and everything went to complete ***.

  3. after looking at the 200 android phones they tested
    it is clear there is a bias .
    OLDer android phones vs newer ios devices .. and the winner is ….. APPLE(LOL)

    use android 8.1
    use Google’s Pixel, 2 , XL or HTC Nexus9
    use a external sound card

    not a(crappy Asus ZenFone 2 Laser 156ms!!!!!!!!!! on android 5)

    many hits came out of the 80’s and 90’s with gear that had 40ms-80 ms or more latency
    ————- cheap android devices can be as low as 20-40ms

    .., it really depends on what type music you do …
    don’t blame the gear ………..Android is suitable for making music.

    1. They included Apple devices like the iPad mini 2 and iPhone 6, which are 4-5 generations old, and even the old Apple devices wiped the floor with the Android devices.

      If you wanted to make a more valid criticism, you might make the case that a lot of the Android devices were dirt cheap, and some of the Apple devices are at the top of the price range. But even the entry level Apple devices are faster than almost all Android devices.

      There’s no way to look at the 10 year of suck that is Android audio performance and not call it a complete fail. Professional audio performance is just not a priority on the platform – Android manufacturers are in a race to the bottom.

      That’s why iOS is now a major music platform, and Android peaked with Caustic.

      1. 1. Caustic it is very useful..

        i see your point ..
        but they did not test 200 apple devices only the ones running ios10

        2 – WTF is a ZTE Z981 320ms even doing on a list for music devices
        this is a crappy android phone

        BTW : i still use korg ims20 ios5.11 on my ipad 1
        right next to Kosmische Pro on my Nexus
        but my 2008 nintendo ds-10 is faster than both

    1. iPads have better touch latency, lower audio latency and slightly faster CPU’s, but the Surface Pro has the advantage of being able to run legacy apps and being more open.

      It’s kind of sad, though, that people realize you have to compare iOS to a desktop OS to make it a fair fight.

      Unfortunately, running legacy Windows audio apps on a small touchscreen sucks, and, to be fair, iOS DAWs have not caught up with legacy ones.

  4. Interesting that Googles own Pixel phones perform very well against other android phones. I wonder if this is down to hardware or code.

    1. Both. Android phones tend to be cheap because manufacturers only use good components in a few key areas – like the camera – and then cheap out everywhere else.

      Then, these phone’s operating systems are loaded with crapware by the manufacturer and carrier.

      So the only way Android devices can come close to competing in an audio comparison is if you get a high end device and if it’s free from crapware, and currently, Google’s the best option for this.

      Sadly, most Android owners have no clue about what they’re missing, and anybody that wants to use their devices for music has to switch to iOS.

  5. It’s what iOS users have known for years. I always chuckle when people on this forum ask “but why isn’t there an android version?” Here is the reason.

  6. Its the same argument for Apple and Windows operating systems. Once you pick a side, you really don’t want to hear any claims that your side sucks in some capacity. Even if its clear to see. Glad they finally did a study to figure out whats what because it was crazy to tell someone that Android doesn’t have the apps that IOS does for a reason and it wasn’t because the developers didn’t want to make it cross -platform, its because it would be either unstable or unusable on an Android device.
    Lesson: Don’t pick sides, each has its benefits.

    1. It isn’t necessary a bad thing to use an android as a phone and an iOS device as an dedicated music device.
      The latest basic iPad is well priced. Seems like a pretty good investment, with all sorts of exciting synth apps and midi controllers, and so on. Trying to cram that functionality in to a phone, just doens’t make sense to me, be it an iPhone or an android device.

  7. The main reason is the memory management difference between Android and iOS. Apple had no Garbage collector mechanism ntil recently. Your apps don’t get interrupted for long times, because the system goes thru a long list of freed up memory, to create large blocks of memory from small ones. Cocoa and Objective-C are more demanding when it comes to programming. You have to actively help the system to manage the memory. It’s semi-automatic. I think with Xcode 5 they added full automatic garbage collection as an option.

    1. Apple supported garbage collection as an option in Objective-C 2.0, but later deprecated it. They replaced it with Automatic Reference Counting (ARC), which is supported both in ObjC and Swift and generally offers more consistent and predictable performance than garbage collection. Consistent performance is usually what you want in a music app.

      Another nice feature of ObjC (and Swift as well) is that it has always been statically compiled (“Ahead Of Time” in Google terms) directly to ARM code, rather than relying on bytecode and dynamic JIT translation like Android used to with Dalvik.

      Apple seems to do audio reasonably well, which is not surprising since they need to support Logic on the Mac and GarageBand on iOS.

  8. I fail to see what the problem is, am happy with using Caustic 3 alone and have had no troubles at all =)

    Is this really the problem with Android or does the interface need some work?

    1. If all you’re using is Caustic 3 to sequence, you’re probably not doing anything where realtime audio latency is going to matter much.

      If you do anything more demanding – like ‘playing’ Caustic like an MPC – you’ll want to have one of the Android phones with low latency or you’ll be screwed.

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