Apple recently introduced the iPad Air 2. While initial reviews call it ‘the best iPad ever’, many also note that the improvements are ones that most people won’t notice.
“The problem was this.” writes Walt Mossberg, “The new model didn’t seem faster or smoother while running all my apps, perhaps because — like most people — I don’t use my iPad for the most demanding video-editing apps or high-end games.”
For people that do run demanding apps, though – like mobile musicians – the latest iPad offers impressive performance gains. It blows away earlier iPads and other tablets.
Initial benchmarks show the iPad Air 2 to be 16 times faster than the original iPad, which was released about 4 years ago:
And Apple’s claims of ‘desktop-class’ performance for the latest iPad actually hold up.
The challenge for Apple has not been making the iPad more powerful, but making it more powerful, while maintaining battery life. And the company has made impressive progress with this in the last four years.
But Where Are The ‘Desktop-Class’ Music Apps?
These impressive performance gains beg the question: where are the “desktop-class” music apps?
The latest iPads have as much power as the computers a lot musicians were running apps like Ableton Live or Propellerhead Reason on a few years back. And for apps like Live and Reason, a multi-touch user interface might offer a great user experience.
So why no multi-touch Live or Reason?
Six Challenges For Mobile Music Apps
There are six challenges that we think will hold back the next generation of mobile music apps:
- While the latest iPads may have desktop-class performance, there are over 200 million iPads out there that are much less powerful, and many developers will target the broadest audience possible.
- The App Store does not provide a way for developers to keep owners of older machines from buying more demanding apps. That keeps developers from pushing the envelope, because they don’t want all the owners of older iPads giving their app a 1-star rating.
- CPU power is just one aspect of computing that is important to musicians. RAM and storage space on mobile devices continues to lag behind laptops, because they reduce battery live.
- The current iPad screen size and resolution is great for general use, but for more intensive music making, a larger screen size would offer usability benefits. There have been rumors of an ‘iPad Pro’, which might address this.
- For many musicians, mobile music workflows still lag behind desktop ones. Mobile apps are probably ahead of desktop apps in ‘social connectivity’ – doing things like sharing songs to SoundCloud. But in a lot of other areas, most musicians still do a lot of work that’s easier with desktop apps.
- The model for music making on iOS is still developing. On the desktop, the DAW model, where you run plugins within a master app, is well-established. On iOS, music making seems to be developing towards an ‘open virtual studio’ model – sort of like Propellerhead Reason, except that you connect virtual devices from many companies, instead of one. There are pros and cons to this model – but the biggest downside is that it’s still developing.
What do you think of the state of current mobile music apps? And what do you think it will take for to take mobile music making to the next level?