Why Is Android Going Nowhere Fast As An Audio Platform?

android audio

There’s an interesting rant at the Some Audio Guy blog about the state of audio on Android devices:

In playing around with the Yeti Pro I recently reviewed, I got curious about what else I might be able to do with this USB wunder-mic.

Both the Nexus and the Galaxy Tab both powered the mic. Unfortunately, neither phone nor tablet knew what to DO with a USB mic, and that’s where I was stopped short of my dream mobile recording rig.

There’s exactly ZERO software to support external mics on Android. None. Zilch. Nada.

It’s time Android. It’s time. If I can use my tablet as a live view monitor and control surface for my Canon 7D, It’s long past time for me to be able to connect a USB mic to my tablet and record my voice over.

Meanwhile, IOS, especially on the iPad, has become a new platform for musicians – with 48-track recorders, dozens of software synths, high-end control apps and more. And this is despite the fact that Android is the more popular OS for smartphones.

There are Android music apps. But they are few and far between, while iOS users have a wide array of options.

We’ve noted several hurdles for Android as a music & audio platform in the past, including audio latency, OS fragmentation and inconsistent hardware. It may be a combination of these things that’s stifling the platforms development for audio and music.

What do you think? Why is Android going nowhere fast as an audio platform? And do you see this changing anytime soon?

70 thoughts on “Why Is Android Going Nowhere Fast As An Audio Platform?

      1. We are talking about *phones* and *tablets*, not portable audio gear built to make and record music.

        It’s like to feel the urge to make music with your portable DVD or mp3 player, just because they are pocket sized and the can output sounds.
        Maybe I’m a bit conservative, but I think that phones are made to call people, and synthesizers and digital recorders to make music…

        1. Get off my damn lawn!

          Anyone who thinks an iPad 2 is a step down from *all* analog gear clearly didn’t get started making music with a 4-track cassette Portastudio…

          Is it as good as a Studer 2″ reel? No. But it sounds better than the first-gen ADAT I owned. And easier to carry.

          I’ve got a studio full of gear, ranging from home-built analog synths to modern VA keyboards, guitars, an EWI, and a bunch of digital controllers — including the iPad. They’re all just tools to get the sound/control that I want for a particular song. Same with the iPad. The fact that *you* can’t figure out how to use it in a ‘real’ music situation doesn’t invalidate it for the rest of the world. And I won’t even get started on how much easier it is to haul to a live jazz gig instead of three Real Books and a stack of loose leaf binders.

    1. Is there any downside to compatibility?

      ‘Real audio gear’ is going to start looking more like smartphones – solid state drives for speed, touch screen interfaces, inexpensive multi-use devices instead of expensive niche devices.

    2. That’s a total cop out—NOBODY is saying that in regards to music apps on iOS. Believe me I know I have an iPad and the apps are AMAZING!

      But I also have an Android phone and a tablet, and IT’S ABSURD AND INFURIATING that Google CAN’T BE BOTHERED to put a little effort in to give musicians the tools they need and deserve to make great music with Android as well!

      I don’t know, maybe it does require such a tight integration of software to hardware that only a company like Apple can pull it off, but it very disappointing.

    3. Android will never be able to compete with ios until they develope a real time kernel. The will keep latency issues at bay and allow for developement of pro music apps.

  1. I think it is just a matter of time before someone will come out with an app to turn your mobile A-phone into a Digital Audio Workstation 🙂 I suppose no PC user has a need to turn anything i-something into a DAW.

    Reaper on a USB stick, running on any PC that I have access to and installed on a (PC) laptop and my recording studio is just simply enough to make music.

    On i-thingies I’d miss all my VST Instruments and the possibilities to program things myself to my likings.

    Besides I’d honestly hate to spent the money that software companies charge Apple users and: I do not support exploitation of chinese labour that is used to make the Apple i-thingies.

    Raphael J.

  2. I have a Multitouch Screen connected to my PC and with OSC – even running on android via VMbox – it’s a good combo to control your VST’s etc. It would be nice if android would become more creative friendly. It’s a great marketing tool i’d say. Being an open platform will always have it’s limitations tho i guess.

    The chinese labour thing is getting old real quick btw.

    I am an android user. I dont like Apple as a company – Yet i am typing this on one of thir keyboards (granted it’s connected to a PC)

    1. It is for live sound, but I can’t see issues with using sequencers, single track recording, or editing . Multi-track could theoretically be possible if the latency is compensated for post recording.

  3. As much as I like my Android phone and tablet…..Android, in spite of its Linux roots, is becoming the Windows of the ARM chip/smartphone/tablet world. Not in the sense of it being a grossly, incompetently engineered, bloated piece of crap. But at its core is an OS that is not engineered from the start to be a creative person’s OS. It’s an everyman OS. iOS having its underpinnings from OS X which has been developed, as was its predecessor MacOS, with creative services in mind….ie….audio, video, graphics, etc…..is much more enabled from the start to be an OS that does not get in the way with issues such as latency to name one in particular seeing as how we are talking about audio production.

    Until the Linux kernel is fundamentally developed from the beginning as an audio friendly, low latency kernel (either as a base for the Android kernel spin-off or until someone in the Android team makes it so) you will never see Android as a platform for serious professional use for audio production. The Linux kernel and thus the Android kernel are everymans kernel…..a jack of all trades….master of none (well….a master in the server world). I know you can find distributions in the Linux world which have a hacked low latency kernel. I’m sure someone could come up with a low latency version of Android….sort of a Cyanogen Mod version for audio. The only problem with that is it still would not encourage developers to embrace Android since they could never be sure their stuff would work consistently as opposed to something that was developed in house and supported by the Android Team and Google.

    I would LOVE to see my phone and tablet become as enabled and enabling as the iPhone and iPad for music production. But it will never be so until Google and the Android team adopt the same attitude as Apple when it comes to creative services. They have the know-how, the technology is already there…..it is simply a matter of priority…..and right now…Google and the Android team simply do not give a shit about this issue.

    1. Dude, the high latency of Android is not because of Linux kernel it’s because of Java. Everything in Android runs in a JVM that’s on an abstraction layer above the kernel. This gives vendors more flexibility to produce their own hardware but on the other hand makes everything slow. Of course using Java makes the “open source” Android system into a farce since Java is patent encumbered and owned by Oracle!

      1. Dude….strip Java out and the kernel would still be a problem. NOT as big….fairly easily fixed….but still an issue.

        When everything is reduced to numbers….aka code…..and all it takes is time since the knowledge base is there and the awareness of latency is established……

        ….the only differentiation is simply priority.

        1. Java is absolutely not the language you would use to implement a soft-synth in – but on Android you don’t have to – there’s the NDK for that eventuality that allows the business need of applications to be written in C or C++ (or even hand-tuned ARM assembler).

          The problem with latency is not Java per se – it’s not particularly well suited – but would be capable of rendering audio at low latency if used for it – rather it’s that Google have provided a very high level API for audio applications to use. This is implemented by the phone (or more likely chipset) vendor, and doesn’t specifically cater for the low latency use-cases we’re interested in here.
          In practice, many vendors build a thin wrapper around ALSA, but application can’t rely this to be the case. If they do, they’ll probably not work on a significant number of devices.

          So, the problem a developer of a low latency audio app has on Android is that all bets are off – they’ll get good performance on some devices, but it will be terrible on others. This represents a testing nightmare, and likely an even worse customer experience.

    2. Stock Linux kernels these days are more than real-time enough or low latency audio, providing applications can request real-time thread priorities and lock their address space into physical RAM. This is not the case on general purpose desktop linux distros and highly likely not for Android phone apps – unless run on a rooted phone.

      There are no obvious changes that need to be made to the Linux kernel to better support audio. The problem lies in user-space. The restrictions on real-time threading and memory locking, for instance, are there to maintain system security. Applications that screw up with either can take the operating system out.

      MacOSX (and iOS thanks for its MacOSX heritage) are both very well set up for audio applications – and Apple has actively targeted this sector for professional applications in the past. iOS audio applications are allowed to request very small buffer sizing the real-time threading needed to service them.

      1. Or MIDI drivers for that matter. It takes about 10 seconds to change a Linux kernel configuration to build the ALSA drivers.

        In fact, there are also drivers to allow the device to appear as a USB Target (e.g. Type B) device rather than host for both MIDI and audio. You really could expect your tablet/phone to appear as an attached audio and MIDI device when plugged into your computer with a USB cable.

        The reason they are not in Android? Most likely that Google hasn’t produced a high-level API for them, and maybe hasn’t even considered it.

        One of Apple’s HUGE wins was to include USB MIDI and Audio support in iOS – either through a 3rd party accessory or the camera connection kit (which is essentially a USB Host interface).

  4. well, you don’t expect making phone calls with an ordinary TV set or grilling meat with dishwasher – so it is with Android – IT IS NOT designed for multimedia applications. If you need multimedia you chose iOS. Actually android is not top notch even for business – on my old symbian device I had much better calendar, and pretty much everything except wifi and gps. Android just have some marketing because google is so big they can afford invest in such toys.

  5. I think it has a two simple reasons:

    1.) iOS is commercially more interesting that Android, because without a jailbroken iOS device you can’t run copies. On Android that’s possible with a normal device.

    2.) There are too many different android devices out there. All having different specs and displaysizes. Try to imagine to port a Korg iMS 20 for example on other different screen sizes. This is a big hassle.

    Add fact 1 + fact 2 and you have the result.

  6. I’m late to the mobile/tablet party, but I naively assumed a few months back that there would be a parity of sorts with Android and iOS devices in terms of apps. Bought a cheap android tablet at Fry’s and was shocked at how little usable software there was for music. I read up on the latency issue and gleaned that the situation would not be changing without a major OS revision, which seems unlikely. So I returned the android pad and got an iPhone. Music was the major deciding factor for me.

  7. This is a really easy thing to work out if you examine the motivations of the three big phone developers:

    1 – Microsoft – MS wants to sell software. Unfortunately they only want to sell their own software, which is overpriced and under-featured, and comes with a deadly and expensive upgrade cycle. By trying to control everything they have lost any real footing in the market. Since developing for Windows mobile is completely unlike developing for any other platform and phone sales are so low, the incentive to develop anything beyond weather and sports apps is pretty low, and it’s pretty much a guarantee that MS DAW will never be created.

    2 – Google – Despite being thought of as a tech company, Google is actually an add agency. They make 99% of all their money from selling adds (and related…). The android platform was not developed for you to run music apps on, or play great games on, or in fact do anything other than connect to the sources of google advertising. So if you can get email, surf the web and log onto Facebook, the needs of the Android platform have been met. Do a little research and you might even be shocked to find that almost no Android device has ever shipped with a current operating system, or received an OS upgrade. So the next time you wonder why there are no great music apps on the Android, re-fraim the question to it’s real format… “Why doesn’t that add agency put in the extra effort and money it would take so I could make music on my budget phone?” Then the answer is self evident.

    3 – Apple – Apple sells hardware, and it does that by providing great software at fair to exceptional prices. So to sell hardware they have to make sure it’s hardware people want, and the iOS platform is exactly that. If you have a particular need, it can almost always be expressed and achieved through software development on an Apple device. All those “limitations” that some developers gripe about are actually good things that create a stable and predictable platform. Finally, if you spent money on an iOS device, you are ready to spend more on apps. This is completely the opposite case any other phone/tablet user.

  8. The problem with Android is even if they manage to sort out the audio latency there is no advantage in the manufacturers spending time retrofitting microcode to older devices – they only make money from selling new ones. Unlike Apple which makes tons of money on commission from it’s appstore to it always updates the capable devices to the latest OS.
    Also by this time Windows 8 will be on the scene and hopefully the ARM version will have low latency audio capability. The fact that anything written for WINRT (which can be in C++) will run on both tablets and the desktop will be a big advantage.

    1. The advantage in the android ecosystem short term wouldn’t be in selling the app, but selling hardware. If a simple recording app could be downloaded for the Yeti, more people using android devices would consider buying the yeti.

      1. This rather neglects the phalanx of iPhone/iPad specific hardware accessories that have turned up over the last few years, not to mention products such as mixing consoles, keyboards audio interfaces and so on with dock connectors. Again, the total lack of standardisation and balkanised market with many players means that no OEM will be making these products for Android devices – not unless one manufacturer becomes dominant.

        [I incidentally work for just such an OEM]

    2. Well, the thing is Windows isn’t really particularly low latency OS either! Ever try using a DAW on Windows that isn’t setup with Steinberg’s ASIO? It’s slooooow, so you better hope Microsoft lets you install ASIO on Windows phones or it’s going to be lag city.

  9. because the android community is smarter then the ios community.

    they actually realize that the hardware and software are currently no match for real computers and laptops.

    little kids apps with cute little programs that make synthedit like sounds with basic kid like approaches, why don’t you think the android community isn’t buying up this crap like @ itunes?

    less kids, more educated musicians that know that the processing power is half the battle.

  10. aside from the fact that i don’t understand why anyone would buy an android tablet (a phone, sure – they’re usually cheaper or free on a contract). any tablet with a similar spec to an iPad is at least as expensive and not as useful, precisely for all the reasons noted above – latency, fragmentation of software and hardware, etc.

    a couple of other issues, too :

    1) from everything i’ve read, the developer experience on android is torture. multiple stores, multiple formats, a bajillion different screen resolutions and sizes (how can you optimise a UI for a 5″ device and a 11″ device?), massive hardware variation

    2) apple’s core customers, for a long while, were people in audio, video, and design. in their dark days in the nineties, pretty much the only people buying macs were in these areas, and apple had a pretty deep commitment to them. it’s not the case any more – they sold more iOS devices last year than the total number of macs since 1984, but the fact that things like core midi, core audio, core animation, etc are built into iOS and OS X makes a massive difference to developers and end users alike. they also make industry-leading desktop apps – final cut and logic.

    3) momentum. apple is about to hit 25 billion app downloads. the 4th best selling paid app out of these 25 billion is garageband. does google or htc or samsung or anyone else have the expertise and or intra-company cross-fertilisation to make something like this possible? No.

    these are not small things to overcome, and i doubt google is that concerned. they’re still likely to start to “beat” iOS, like windows “beat” mac os in the desktop world, but who cares? right now, and for a few years to come, you just won’t be able to do audio properly on android.

    and for all the people on this thread who are saying “tape and tubes, man” and “iOS music devices are toys” it’s difficult to see how you could make less sense. no one is suggesting that an iPad can replace a “proper” studio (whatever that is) just yet, but if you can’t make usable music on an iPad, that’s not because of the iPad.

  11. First up, thanks for the shout out, I really appreciate it. I feel any discussion generated around topics like these is valuable.

    In reply to some of the concerns regarding things like the known Android Latency issue, it MIGHT be a concern for live audio, if you were PLAYING an instrument, but I think most apps that would be suitable for live performance would actually be things like sequencers, which even then, buffer latency issues aren’t really much of a problem.
    If monitoring is the big concern, then only allow devices with on board sound, like my Zoom or the Blue I used above.

    When you dock an ios device into a mixer, or use it with a USB mic, you’re not benefiting from any of it’s latency advantage. When you edit, the only advantage you’ll receive is playback will happen about 200ms faster after you hit the play button. That’s it.

    The fact that android suffers real time audio issues has clouded the perception of the platform for EVERY OTHER audio related use that it can still accomplish, and that’s disappointing.

    As for supporting legacy devices, why would anyone do that? Start writing code now for Android4, and only devices that support USB host. No one would EVER say “Well we shouldn’t write new apps for the iPad 3 because it wont run on the original iPad”.

    As for fragmentation, yes that would affect an individual app coded by a company, but hy not start with A USB audio api? That way established recording apps like RecForge and Tape Machine could take advantage of hardware now. Later companies like Blue could carry over their recording solutions.

    To anyone complaining that these tablet solutions can’t beat real studios, we’re not trying to. Not in the slightest. But anyone who can’t see the advantage of high quality mobile recording is at BEST ridiculously short sighted. The number of applications from live sound, spoken word, Voice Over, journalism, or even just the hobbyist market is enormous. Hell, even just improving video chat audio would be enough for me to invest in a portable USB solution.

    1. There are already truckloads of iPhone/iOS hardware accessories on the market for the field recording/journalism/eng market – and the cost of them even with an iPad makes them highly attractive for the B2B market when compared against dedicated devices. That market doesn’t give a flying toss about the android vs iOS debate -they buy products that are serviceable, exist now and – crucially – work.

      As for attempting to retro-fit USB Audio into Android – not happening unless the device is rooted because you will need to install kernel-mode device drivers. You’ve then got the complication of which kernel version, architecture and instruction set is being used. To put it in perspective, there are 2 architectures (x86, ARM) with two instruction set variants of ARM, 4 major system-on-chips in use and countless versions of Linux. That’s a lot of permutations.

      Unless Google mandates that all devices support a feature and provide a high-level API to it, nobody can reliable write software against it.

    2. >As for supporting legacy devices, why would anyone do that? Start writing code now for Android4,
      >and only devices that support USB host. No one would EVER say “Well we shouldn’t write new apps
      >for the iPad 3 because it wont run on the original iPad”.

      This is completely the wrong approach to developing software in a mobile market. They key to success is “the long tail”. If you only write to the latest and newest you get a handful of customers. But if you write for several generations of hardware you get, quite literally, tens of millions of people who could buy your app. HUGE difference of income potential. This approach doesn’t work on desktops anymore either. For instance, look at sales figures for games that try to be bleeding edge vs games that will run on a $400 laptop with an integrated graphics chip.

      The days of catering to the newest, high powered customer is over. Way over.

  12. I doubt android will come up with the goods as far as music apps, everyone knows that if you want portable music making, apple rule the roost. Most developers will go ios due to its efficiency and acp.

    Admitted, some hate apple as a company, a lot of that is envy. But the fact is, the blatant fact is that apple has the monopoly, and untl someone can beat their iOS, they will retain that monopoly.

    Wether android fans or windows mobile fans admit it or not, they know for sure that their mobile devices will never have pro music apps.

    It’s an open market, so go develop a better system than apple, if you can’t, don’t whine about it

    You just may well have to buy an iPad or iPhone, or even a pod touch, if you want mobile music, if not then stick with pcs and er, use your phone just for re phone calls

  13. As an owner of an iPhone and iPad, I can say I hate the former, but like the latter. As my 8th phone, it ranks as 8th, especially with mechanical reliability. But the iPad is a different story. It’s got the fun apps, and a screen large enough to actually do things with. A personall favorite of mine is Xenon Groove Synthesizer, as it has 4 synths plus a drum machine, and lots of modulation. Though as soon as the headphones come off, the sound quality deteriorates and I become unimpressed.

    Just my two bits.

  14. problem is, it’s not just buffer latency. the UI has significant latency too, and given this fact, i can’t think of an audio application, aside from simple press record/record audio/press play/hear audio that isn’t adversely affected by such latency. you can’t have any playable software instruments (or any realtime sequencer input of any kind) , any useful automation – even mutes that work when you actually press them rather than a beat later, no adding edit markers on the fly. even things like dj apps are precluded – no kill switches, no realtime effects, no cueing

    someaudioguy, i understand your frustration with android’s patent failure in this regard, but why are you so wedded to your android tablet? is there some killer app that is available on android that isn’t available on an iPad? if you want a tablet that has a huge array of amazing music creation / audio applications, you have the wrong tablet. i come from a very mac-centric world – audio, and i have used almost nothing but macs to make music since about 1990, but the mastering guys i know switched from sonic solutions on a mac to sadie on windows in the late 90’s. why? because sonic fell behind, sadie kept getting better and it became the best platform to do their job. same with avid, same with 3D & animation, same until very recently for CAD/CAM/Architecture.

    essentially, and i hope you’ll forgive me for saying so, you’re cross because you bought a hammer and have just discovered it’s no good for polishing glass.

    1. … plus, if you really want sideloading, you can just jailbreak it. My iPhone is jb, but I haven’t felt the need to do it on my iPad yet. Best of both worlds.

    1. How so when even this site is advertising warehouses full of synths gathering dust?

      Resist all you like, and nowt wrong with keeping your analog trinkets but they are fast becoming antiques. Do the research, sales are slumping, apps ARE the dominant market as of past sux months, just the way it is

      1. This is a pretty accurate assessment – pretty much the entire MI industry is focused on building iOS applications. And more often than not, they’ve not worked out how they’re going to make any money out of it.

        1. ummm- pay any attention to NAMM 2012?
          Lots of iOS hardware, sure, but more analog gear than I can remember is coming out these days.

  15. I’m just going to go ahead and say it: If you keep buying these cheap Android devices, you’ll ultimately just end up disappointed. I mean, if you get one free in a box of Apple Jacks, then by all means, feel free to keep it for the novelty. But, you need to get an iOS device if you’re serious about mobile music tech.

    1. Well, the iPhone 3G is “free” …. with carrier contract, which is the expensive part! But I rather like making music with mine using the SynthStation25, MIDI mobilizer, etc..

  16. I’ve commented on a lot of other peoples’ replies on here so far, so thought I’d gather my thoughts in one place. For the record, I work as a software engineer for a company in the MI industry that you’ve probably heard of. I have 2 published iOS applications which between them have had about 100k downloads. We constantly have users complaining that there isn’t an android version.

    Here’s why audio developers are staying clear of Android:

    1) Lack of Application Programming Interface support: Large amount of useful stuff just isn’t there in Android, or if it is, it isn’t suited to writing audio applications. iOS on the other hand use the same APIs as MacOSX, and they work and perform exactly the same. Apple provides some really handy, optimised DSP acceleration libraries.

    1a) Portability. Lots of audio software already exists for MacOSX. It’s fairly easy to port to iOS. Almost nobody on the other hand has written audio software in Java that can be re-used.

    2) Consistency: Audio software is all about the user-experience. Android devices have a wide range of capabilities, performance, screen size and versions of Android. There are some *really* cheap and nasty android products out there. Where would you as a developer draw the line? Do you support them all? Do you accept the experience will suck for some of your customers?

    3) Lack of USB Audio and MIDI support. This rules out all loads of potential applications

    4) Lack of stardardized (or indeed any) dock connector. You won’t be plugging Android devices into a mixer, keyboard or dock anytime soon. iPad/iPhone docks have become feature-du-jour on lots of MI products recently.

    5) Testing. Yes, we do actually do some of it. But with device fragmentation in Android, just how many devices do we need to test? It gets mind-boggling.

    6) Developer Tools. Google’s are getting better. Apple is miles ahead. Especially when it comes to performance tuning – which is something you tend to do lots of for audio apps.

    7) Low latency audio is a minefield on Android. Milage varies between devices. Good luck explaining to the customer with a non-name tablet why the app they’ve just paid for has 50ms of latency.

    8) Java: Synthesis and audio effects tend to be highly optimised, and phones and tablets are relative underpowered compared to desktop PCs. For this reason, they tend to be developed in C, C++ and even assembler in order to squeeze every last ounce of performance out of the hardware. Whilst the Dalvik virtual machine in Android is good, optimising for the vector processors isn’t one of its strong suits. Not doing this on the ARM Cortex processors in almost all phones and tablets is a BIG performance drag.

    Yes, you can write native code for Android in C or C++, but interfacing this into Java is not pretty.

    9) Market share. Android phones are outselling iPhone (just) but iPad is outselling all of its competitors put together by a factor of 3 to 4 if market analysts are to be believed. QED if you’re selling tablet apps, the market for iPad is about 10 times larger.
    If you target an android app at later versions, just how big is the market share then?
    Of course, the dearth of Android audio apps means that there is less competition…

    10) Content protection. Audio apps are often laden with content. iOS is generally a more secure environment. Certainly in my dealings with right-holders, the possibility of Jail-broken iDevices hasn’t been a concern. Android on the other hand is considered to the wild-west, and further more, rights-holders feel that Google is out to shaft them (again).

    In saying this, there are still lots of audio apps you *can* develop easily for Android – control surfaces being the obvious type. Just so long as you don’t need low-latency audio, USB-MIDI or USB-Audio, and don’t want to dock into a device, you should be fine.

    1. “Just as long as you don’t need low-latency audio, USB-MIDI or USB-Audio, and don’t want to dock into a device, you should be fine.”

      That about sums it up – if you get an Android device, you’re screwed for music.

    2. 1) Cheap answer. You could also say ‘No easy way to port from iOS to Android.’ If you want to write something and you’re missing a piece – you write a piece. I don’t believe iOS has THAT huge a lead on Android in the area of audio – and that’s the only place that matters in this discussion.
      1a) And look – that’s just what you said (but the other way around).
      2) Unless I”m going to be buying a lot of different Android tablets – or unless a feature I want isn’t on the tablet I want, this is a non-issue. People (even musicians) don’t switch systems that often. You use what you have as long as what you have is what you need.
      3) I can’t speak to MIDI since I don’t use it for composition or mixing – but you’re wrong about USB Audio. Android does indeed support it – at least it does on the tablets I have.
      [Sidenote to this: it’s entirely normal for a developer to say ‘I need this system feature and it’s only on Android 4.0 or higher… that also limits the diversity of tablets… if that feature is needed by one music app writer – it’ll probably be the same for others and that sets an automatic ‘quality’ level for the tablets on which it’ll run.. which means musicians will bias for the better tablets]
      4) *groans* Almost EVERY Android tablet currently in production supports USB – which is an actual standard unlike iOS’s ‘dock’. Blame the closed loop iOS development world that supports a proprietary dock, which then makes the argument ‘but my dock doesn’t work on Android tablets’.
      5) Red herring. Again, for a specialised app like a music app, it’s perfectly ok to set a baseline and only support a subset. Either way, this is a lame argument. We have music apps for Windows and that has a VASTLY bigger problem.
      6) I agree, ADT on Eclipse is lame… but compared to Visual Studio, XCode is lame. Switching to Windows? I didn’t think so. This is really a ‘preference’ issue.
      7) While technically valid – I’ve been searching the web for some real, accurate measurements and they range on BOTH platforms from 12ms to 200ms. iOS is definitely better at the moment – getting down to 5ms but there’s more than small evidence to suggest that we’re getting iOS programmers trying to write code for Android and botching it up badly.
      8) I’m going to assume you’ve never heard of Android NDK (Native Development Kit) which lets you use C++ directly for high performance functions?
      9) Bad news… as of today – not only is Android ahead of iOS on smartphones – one manufacterer’s phones (Samsung) are almost double the marketshare of Apple. Meanwhile over on tablets, Android is now almost neck and neck with iPads (and again, most of them are either Samsung or Kindle). The fact that the largest maker of smartphones AND tablets (together) is Samsung, we’re actually in a similar situation as just supporting Apple.
      10) Oi. Please, please learn something about Android AND security. First off, there’s an entire DRM infrastructure in Android. Second you can do your own fairly simply using PKI. Again, this arguments sounds like “We’re too lazy to do the work and since Apple does it for us, we’re staying here.”

      Then again, this could explain why almost every music app looks like every other music app and why there’s such an unnerving lack of innovation in this marketplace.

      1. Jeff

        Lots of words, but you seemed to have completely ignored the topic: “Why Is Android Going Nowhere Fast As An Audio Platform?”

        As an Android owner, I know it’s a wasteland compared to what I see happening on iOS. Next phone will probably be an iPhone, as a result, and I’m thinking about getting an iPad, too.

        Why, if all you say is true, is Android years behind Apple as a music platform?

  17. “7) Low latency audio is a minefield on Android. Milage varies between devices. Good luck explaining to the customer with a non-name tablet why the app they’ve just paid for has 50ms of latency.”

    I would think the latency would be much higher than 50ms on a problematic Android platform, and also that it would have to be higher than that to generate complaints. Based on my own tests, 40-50ms is pretty standard for iOS in both touch and MIDI latency. Using straight OpenGL and the smallest buffers possible, I can’t get much better than 40ms in my own app. Have your tests seen iOS apps with lower latency than that?

  18. I think there’s no reason why Android’s native audio SDK can’t be used for music apps.

    I think a big reason why iOS has more momentum is the iPad, which is still ahead of the game for tablet PCs. Although it took them a while, Apple got Core MIDI working and seems to have made it a priority to get high-quality music apps and hardware on the platform. Not to mention Apple’s own GarageBand – I suspect that Apple being a music software developer itself meant that more people in the company were thinking in that direction.

    If I were a developer of music software for Windows, I’d seriously think of revamping my apps for Windows 8 tablets; for music software, multitouch is a huge bonus and QWERTY keyboards are mostly unnecessary.

    1. Hi everyone,
      It seems that this discussion here is mostly about software and programming.
      I think one thing is ignored here namely “the hardware”.
      I don’t think that for example the hardware of Iphone nor smartphones have decent AD-DA conversion, so sound quality wouldn’t be comparable to other hardware recorders like Olympus, Zoom, … and software can’t change that.
      And yes, we are told by advertisers that the little wonderfull phones can do anything.
      I don’t think so.
      I may be old-fashioned, but I’m still writing music on a keyboard (yes the ones with black and white keys) . In my opinion there are enough affordable hardware recorders to fit the job and they will sound much much better than any smartphone or Apple phone.
      And yes, I have an Android phone, but to me it’s a little extra to be able to make “sketches”, but it’s certainly not my choice as composing/recording tool.
      By the way : many composing apps demand an internet connection, phones have high battery consumtion, … I’ll stick to specialised gear for my recording and composing jobs.
      I think now it’s clear that it’s not a software related problem.

  19. From the music app developer’s perspective, the present situation is not bad. They save the cost of developing for a second platform, while still being able to serve most of the addressable market. The user who will spend $50 total on a library of music apps is the sort of user who will research in advance which tablet to buy — in the present state of affairs, that research would point to buying an iPad.

    From Google’s perspective, the present situation is also not bad. They have more than a few people on the Android team who have worked in the musical instrument market space at some point in their career. They realize the scope of the effort that is needed to make the APIs work well, and they realize that even if they do this work, the best they can hope for is a 50/50 split of the market for avid music types. Given how small that market is, its simply not worth it for them to pursue it.

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  21. Great discussion. I am about to receive a USB-EWI and was wondering if I’d be able to run it on a ‘cheapie’ tablet. Apparently not.
    What I want to do is play and hear what I’m playing, while commuting. This is because I have a four-hour commute each day and it really cuts into the practice time!

  22. “There’s exactly ZERO software to support external mics on Android. None. Zilch. Nada.”

    Well, no – not exactly true. Any microphone that supports standard USB Audio works on most Android 4.x systems – so does any USB audio digitiser. I’ve tried several.

    Now, there’s the question of latency of course – that’s a different (but important) question.

    1. Yup, Jeff has it right. I use a Blue Yeti with my Nexus 7. I did have to pay for a USB app that could actually see the mic. It’s awesome, lower noise floor with my tablet and Yeti than with H4n and any Rode product… which is kinda weird.

  23. I am frustrated by this as well. I prefer the Android OS for all the obvious reasons, but I still can’t part with my ipad because of this very issue. I’m a professional musician and I’ve written and recorded entire orchestra orchestra pieces in the outstanding ios app nonchalantly named “Music Studio”. I’ve played the recordings of some of my works for people who more often than not, were rendered speechless when I told them the entire piece was created on my ipad.

    Yet on Android (Which wipes the floor with iOS performance/versatility wise) I have yet to find a single application that can even scratch the surface of the capabilities the ipad boasts in the field of music production.

    This is literally the ONLY reason I won’t part with my ipad. Come on Android, this is one of the only areas that ios is superior and it had nothing to do with hardware… Because Android is more then capable of providing the same or even better when it comes to apps in the field of music production.


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