Propellerhead CEO Ernst Nathorst-Böös On Why They Don’t Make Figure For Android

Mac Pro Video has published an interesting interview with Propellerhead CEO Ernst Nathorst-Böös.

In the interview, he explains why Propellerhead isn’t putting their new Figure app out on Android:

There are some issues with the Android platform that we need to research and understand more about. One of them is that Android phones are all different, they’re not all exactly the same. You need to do a lot more testing and compatibility work than on iOS.

Apple’s iOS is an incredible platform for developers like us because we know that every iPhone and iPod Touch is exactly the same for every user. With Android we’re back into the territory we were in with computers: PCs with different sound cards, etc. It’s not that we don’t like the Android platform, but it’s just not as easy to develop for.

Nathorst-Böös’s comments echo the feedback we’ve had from indie developers – the diversity of devices on Android is a double-edged sword.

Nathorst-Böös also hinted at Propellerhead’s future plans for the iPad:

Figure for iPhone was a good way to start because it forced us to think differently. The iPad is munch closer to a computer than an iPhone is, and we really wanted to bring a new take on mobile music making, so it was a conscious decision to start with the iPhone.

What do you think of Propellerhead’s stance?

52 thoughts on “Propellerhead CEO Ernst Nathorst-Böös On Why They Don’t Make Figure For Android

    1. No sir, Androids aren’t just “phones” Android OS is far more flexible than apple iOS, not to mention the fact that you aren’t locked down to do things Apple’s way and their way ONLY.

  1. I like his name very munch! I can’t even begin to pronounce it. The only reason I know how to say Ernst is due to my love of James Bond movies.

    Oh yeah, android…insult of some sort. We all know we don’t get to make music on our androids.

    1. i mean come on, we are talking about phones, some are upset that their phones cannot make music with apps, some say that music made by ios or android apps is shite..but the simple basic evidence is that ios apps sell by the ton! apple is the biggest corp on the planet..that is the reality so people are buying the devices and the apps, there has to be a “reason” for that, so go er…”figure”

      but in all seriousness, props are just doing the sensible thing, as are korg, as are moog, big names in the game, they are GOING FOR THE STABLE option, any sane person does this, android is no where near as fast or as stable a platform.

      it is a simple fact of life, if you want to make mobile music ( wether it is considered pro or toy), you have to buy an apple devices and apps that are on ios platform?

      why do we keep arguing over the same damn point?

      until a better mobile os that ios comes out, you have no other choice!

      apple haters can hate, but that wont change the situation- just drop the issue it is wasting everyones time

      i have an ipad two ipod touches and an android phone, i use the former for djing and music and the latter for what it was made for-phone calls, cannot make music on it-the apps sux and it is slow for everything apart from phone calls, so i use it for that…

      thumbs up or down on this i dont care

      1. Wow! Not sure what kind of Android you have, but get your money back. You got ripped. iPhone is, I guess I should say, WAS, good for one thing – name recognition for the snobs. Sorry, but the truth will set you free.

  2. Nintendo also makes devices that are exactly the same for every users, by that same logic I guess there are good chances we will see Figure on the DS right? ( /s for those who needs it )

    Now what does Propellerhead think about developping for Windows and OSX, which operates on different hardware? It doesn’t seem that difficult considering the amount of software they have produced for those two platforms.

    Its one thing not wanting to develop for a specific platform, but go out like this and try to explain why using fake arguments like that is just sad, especially with apps like Caustic, MPA and even the newest Morphwiz being available on Android. And BTW, Figure is really not that great compared to its big brother Reason.

    1. If you think it’s a “fake argument” then I can see you’ve never looked in to porting an app to Android…

      If you want to make music stupid being cheap and buy an iPhone.

    2. It’s not a fake argument. Ask any developer who produced software for Windows 95 and you will get all kinds of horror stories. Android today looks a lot like that same market. A plethora of options usually results in a huge limitation of end potential. It’s only when Microsoft started forming standards and enforcing them that things could really take off in the development world, especially regarding high-demand tasks such as audio and video processing.

      The difference with the Android market is that there is another viable option that has a massive amount of users. So developers choose between higher sales with less development effort, or higher development effort with far fewer sales. No. Brainer.

    3. >Now what does Propellerhead think about developping for Windows and OSX, which operates on different hardware?

      Not that different anymore. Same CPU, same motherboard components, same video cards, etc. Everyone buys from the same hardware manufacturers these days, and any Mac made in the last several years will run Windows natively with zero emulation. So if you choose your development environment/languages appropriately you can have a much easier time of developing for both systems.

    4. “Now what does Propellerhead think about developping for Windows and OSX, which operates on different hardware”

      What planet are you living on? Ever heard of the Intel processor?

  3. >the diversity of devices on Android is a double-edged sword.

    It’s not a double edged sword. It’s a complete platform killer for anything beyond basic phone functionality. You can buy really beefy android hardware… but then what? The old rules of “faster/better” that we used to use for desktop computers don’t apply anymore. I’m not speaking from any kind of android hate here… it’s just the truth. If Microsoft got their crap together they could sweep in and take the #2 position without much effort, based on nothing more than a standardized platform and a healthy selection of apps. But I don’t see that happening any more than I see Google starting to act like a competent software company, rather than the add agency that it really is.

  4. And besides Propellerhead is not an app developer to invest in Android versions of their two apps. Jordan Rudess can afford to invest in porting Morphwiz to Android, but Propellerhead has different priorities, especially now with the rack extensions for Reason, hardware development (my bet is they’ll continue with that as well) and so on. Apps are somewhere at the bottom for them I would guess, more like a way to test the water with the finger before plunging in.

    1. I agree – they seem to just be testing the water.

      It’s funny that they’re first iOS app, ReBirth, gave people exactly what they were asking for – and the result kind of sucked.

      Figure is basically a 2nd take on ReBirth – a couple of monophonic synths and a drum machine. But they tried a cpletely different approach, which seems a lot more well thought out.

      Now if they could just bring the more advanced feature set of ReBirth to Figure.

      1. I think the big mistakes they made with ReBirth was having two versions, and a higher price tag. Users expected to buy one version that ran on all iOS devices, not pay twice. Couple that with a price tag that was between 5 and 10 times more expensive as the competition and you get a luke-warm reception at best, especially since we have all seen the app before. I know, it’s only $10, but relative is more important to consumers than absolutes.

        They seem to have completely adjusted their strategy now though, and good for them!

  5. Audio processing is a pipeline — an audio or touch signal comes in, the operating system hands it to the app, the app generates audio, and then the sound gets sent out. Thanks to the iPod, Apple has engineered this pipeline to death. There’s very little latency between input and output, and all the iPhone hardware behaves in a predictable manner. You can push the hardware to the edge, without worrying about falling off.

    The challenge with Android is that there are few guarantees on latency, and the hardware delays are all over the map. Because of this, notes don’t always fall on the beat. There can be noticeable delays between triggering a note and an audio response. All sorts of bad stuff. I can’t blame Propellerhead for not wanting to make an app that everyone would bitch about.

    1. I have an iPad and I love using apps like BeatMaker 2, Animoog, NanoStudio, etc., and I think Android doesn’t have anything that compares to those, but on my Android phone there’s this app called Caustic, which is a combination of ReBirth and Reason in a mobile package, and I think it’s amazing. It’s so good I want it on iOS so it can gain real time recording in addition to step sequencing. If a single developer like Rej from Single Cell can make such a great app on Android despite the obstacles I have no doubt that Propellerhead can assemble a a team to make something non-real time like ReBirth on the Android platform. They’re probably not even trying.

      1. Aaah, but you have to have a certain android to run caustic right? Won’t work on all their many different droid os around..

        If its as good as you say, you should tell dev to make for ios

        Or is he an apple hater?

        See the point is that devs don’t hate droid, just a pain in the ass to make apps for it,,

        1. Caustic runs on ~95% of Android devices out there. Everything except the lower-end phones, with tiny screens. If you want to call that fragmentation, fine. But I’ve honestly had 0 reports of Caustic looking or working differently across devices. Latency is bad on Android, that’s a fact. Caustic is a sequencer, not a live instrument.

          Caustic IS coming to iOS eventually (I got it running a few weeks ago actually), but one of the places Android excels compared to iOS is file access. You see on Android you can simply connect your device to a computer and it will be recognized as a USB drive, allowing you to add samples and retrieve your exported songs with ease. No FTP server / iTunes / DropBox shenanigans. Caustic ships pretty lean as far as demo samples so once I can figure out the best way of letting users add/access their files, I’ll publish.

          No Apple hate, they’re great devices. Android was just a better platform for this indie dev to grow an app without interference from big guys like Props.

          1. Ok I gave u a thumbs up for that…but…you said u got it running on iOS? How?

            Are u the dev? Or just cracked it?


            Caustic does look sweet actually and I like the UI so I would use it on iPad

            1. Rest assured, I’m the dev. Both Android and iOS allow for native code (C/C++) which makes porting a lot easier than if I had written Caustic in Java.

              I’m glad you like the look of the UI. While it’s probably not as pretty as some of the other stuff on iPad, it still gets the job done really well and I think that’s what counts the most. I’ll look forward to your business once it’s up on iPad.

              I think the truth to this story is simple. You can think of all the technical excuses you want for Propellerhead not bringing Figure to Android, the most probable one is money. If you look at numbers even today, Android app purchases are a small fraction of iOS ones. I love my Andorid users, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re a large company looking only at the bottom line, supporting an Android build for the small amount of extra profit it might bring probably isn’t worth it yet.

              It’s their business, and their call to make. Time will tell if it was a good decision…

    1. There is nothing as aggravating as having purchased an expensive device because its popular, and media keeps parrotting about its supposed superiority, but it proves to be useless. Some are willing to defend their purchase with their blood, some notice that they were bamboozled.

      1. It has absolutely nothing to do with how fast the hardware is, and it never has been. You could have an Android device with 8 cores and it will still be useless for music if the audio subsystem has giant buffers, or if the touch hardware takes too long to get the physical touch represented to the application. Having a faster processor allows the buffer to be smaller of course, but if you can’t actually make it smaller then you can’t get the control rate high enough. For example: 44100hz sample rate and 441hz control rate means that 100 samples pass in between new information coming from the controller (ie: touches moved, etc).

        Most iOS apps request (and get) 44.1khz buffers of size 512, and some of the better ones go down to 256 or possibly 128; even though the default is 1024 – which is too large for instruments, but ok for non-interactive audio playback. On Android, you can end up with truly gargantuan buffers… 8192 or higher (wtf?!) with little that you can do about it. As a developer, you end up having to put up with hundreds of “Fix this lag!!!” comments and bad ratings due to something you can’t control, all as payment for the huge efforts you put into simply making it run without crashing on all of the different Androids.

        A similar and related issue issue to think about what 60ms actually means:

        And Google’s own Android team:

        It’s not iOS fan-boyism. The people running Android understand the problem (it’s related to Linux’s fair scheduler in addition to the general chaos of whatever-$company-wanted-to-do attitude). But this understanding is a little late now that there are a lot of devices released for which any slightly interactive music app experience is just going to suck.

        Android users have to start barking up the right tree. This is Google’s problem. They need to make sure that the people building devices for them stop ignoring all of the fundamentals of signal processing. This is the difference between a “fast” operating system and a “real-time” operating system. “Fast” systems typically are about high throughput, and “real-time” systems are about latency guarantees.

        1. >Android users have to start barking up the right tree. This is Google’s problem.

          Spot on! Great post.

          There are tens of millions of Android devices out there. What person in their right mind thinks that developers are just “being lazy” when they don’t make apps for that huge market? Even a take of $1 each from 1% of that market size would be serious income. Audio, games, whatever… every developer in the world would love to be on the Android platform, and they can’t all be wrong, lame, and lazy! 🙂

        2. “it’s not iOS fan-boyish”

          True – if it were easy to make a great Android music app, iOS developers would be all over it so they could sell twice as many apps.

  6. Figure is really not that good (for my use )
    i would not get it for android even if it came out
    i got a ipad for ims20 , ielectribe and animoog

    on android the bristol synths are very usable

    you don’t need tons of apps .. just the right ones for you

    1. I thought that too and I was really disappointed in it initially, but then I noticed its ability to work as an arranger, which is a feature that no other synth app in iOS has. So it had its place in my phone, and the “musical note taking” started to grow on me…of course, saving your work would be nice. Shouldn’t be too much to ask.

      1. I meant to add, that I cannot wait for updates…

        …well, as even saving is missing, theres so much rudimentary work to be done, that seems that I just have to…

        But please open up the synth engine and one more track!!!!

  7. I’m not sure why audio software companies haven’t teamed up with a specific Android phone manufacturer to develop audio apps on a standard android platform specific to that phone manufacturers android build.
    Why couldn’t Propellerhead team up with say HTC to develop apps that are stable on their Android builds specific to their Android devices?
    At least that way you aren’t tackling with numerous different builds of android that may or may not work with your specific audio app.
    It would certainly take a huge chunk out of the iOS music market share having a combined approach.

    1. Unfortunately, that approach would cut out most of the potential buyers for an Android app developer’s work.

  8. They need to incorporate more into figure, two bars just doesn’t cut it! Add the ability to import into reason, and be able to save sequence and this would be an app that would surpass all others at the app store!

    And once again I’m so happy I didn’t let the sales guy talk me into an android phone. Androids is for computer lovers/ programmers / tech geeks iOS is for everyone else!

  9. They need to incorporate more into figure, two bars just doesn’t cut it! Add the ability to import into reason, and be able to save sequence and this would be an app that would surpass all others at the app store! And once again I’m so happy I didn’t let the sales guy talk me into an android phone. Androids is for computer lovers/ programmers / tech geeks iOS is for everyone else!

  10. This argument is going away as Android is not going to be as “Open” as it always has been anymore. As a matter of fact it already isn’t. Newer versions of Android are already universal and manufactures firmware overlays are getting smaller and smaller (i.e. TouchWIZ and HTCSense are much smaller than they have ever been).

    The Nexus devices would be what they should develop them for. Native Android with no overlays, all using the same hardware (just as much as iOS devices do anyways). I would have Figure and iMaschine on my Nexus 7 in a heartbeat if they existed.

    Also, how is it that these indie app-makers can make amazing apps that work on all kinds of different Android devices but big companies like Propellerhead and Native Instruments can’t seem to figure (no pun intended) it out?

  11. I think Propellerhead really got it right with Figure, can’t wait to see what they do with it for iPad. Re-Birth for iPhone/iPad was *horrible* and utterly useless. On Android, Caustic is infinitely better, but still, working with such tiny controls is ridiculous. Can anyone stand making music that way? Obviously, if you’re serious about it you’re using desktop or at least iPad.

    I just switched from an old iPhone 3GS to Galaxy S3, which I like way better as a mobile device. However, sad to lose Figure and also DM1 which is a very slick drum machine app (esp. on iPad). Luckily, I still have an iPad for fun with making music.

  12. Wow. Apparently no one here has heard of or used Caustic 2, because it absolutely blows away what’s available for iOS. I’ve been producing tracks with it for 3 years and there’s an entire community of very talented producers using this software (I hesitate to call it an app, since it has the functionality of a solid DAW). Apple fanboys will probably disagree having never used it, or claim they have after a 30 second Google search and dismiss it as rubbish. Android, Apple, I’ve used both and I don’t really care either way but the fact is this is only available for Android devices.

  13. It’s a cop out, it’s called they have like 5 devs and they all use apple products, so they know how to develop on them. But in their wake of trying to seem cool, trendy and intelligent with their apple phones, they’ve missed out on the reality that apple is really crap. Bought into the dog and pony show and now they are stuck developing cat shirts and costumes.

    So they can develop reason for windows and IOS but they cannot develop for apple and android. Just shows that they aren’t as big of a company as they once thought. I mean they have basically given apple users the ability to take song ideas android users would of had. Not to mention it’s just a black eye to android users.

    So by this logic should I only develop websites on chrome only? Of course not, I’d get 1/5th of the traffic, so I’m not sure how their CEOs and board members aren’t sharding themselves over the potential lost revenue from having android apps?

    1. “You COULD design it for plain vanilla android and make money from non Apple folks if you WANTED to.”

      I call BS.

      Do you really think that thousands of music app developers are making a choice not to make money on Android?

      No – they are smart enough to know that the Android platform is a fragmented mess, with huge numbers of people buying crap devices and very few buying devices that are capable of the performance necessary for music apps to run well.

      It’s been well documented here and elsewhere that most Android devices suffer from several types of latency that make them useless for many music apps. This includes latency between when you touch the screen and when that touch registers in applications, latency between in A to D conversion and vice versa, and processing latency. And if you say ‘But Caustic works”, you don’t understand latency.

      Companies like Propellerhead have chosen to develop for a iOS because it’s a platform that’s easy to develop for (low fragmentation), it offers good performance (low latency) and it is a platform that they can make money on (people that pay for quality hardware will pay for quality software, too).

      Don’t live in a fantasy world full of conspiracies when reality makes a hell of a lot more sense.

      1. Wow! Can’t believe this post was made in 2015. Obviously most of the others where made when the iDevices ruled the portable world. That’s not even close to true anymore. Get out from under your rock much?

      2. “People who pay for quality hardware will pay for quality software” You call iphones “quality”? I have an android phone from 2011 and it has just about the same specs as the iphone 6 i also have an Android phone manufactured in 2013 that has much better specs and better quality hardware. Also, i bought my phone manufactured in 2011 for $50 and the other one for $100 compared to $600 for the iphone 6, so i’d say Android phones are much better prices for much higher quality hardware.

  14. I don’t think fragmentation is the real problem here, considering the success of Caustic. Although I do question what that success really entails, it seems to work really well, why aren’t more devs creating quality audio apps on android?

    I did come across Beatonal, which is more of a groovebox/live playing app:

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