Should you choose Android or iOS (Apple) for music making on the go?
The advent of smartphones and tablets have revolutionised the music making process, putting in the palm of your hand many of the tools that used to require a dedicated PC. But just as with PCs where musicians need to choose between Apple Macs and Windows PCs, on mobile the choice is between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android – so which option is better for you?
Apple has long led the market in making beautiful phones and tablets that “just work”, but since the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs the company has struggled to stay ahead of the curve. The iPhone is still a great phone, but in many ways it no-longer leads the pack, with firms like Samsung, Sony, HTC, LG, and Google itself all offering similar functionality and form at cheaper price points.
Fast multi-cored processors and 2GB+ of RAM are standard on the iPhone 7 and flagship Android devices, and the quality of the digital/audio converters (DAC) have improved across the board in recent years, so there is little to choose between them.
Up until the release of version 6.0 (Marshmallow), Android had a major audio latency issue, that meant music making on Android devices problematic. Humans start to notice latency at around 20ms, but prior to Marshmallow even the best Android devices struggled to get latency under 50ms. Apple had sorted this issue a number of generations previously, but in the 6.0 API, Android introduced and new FEATURE_AUDIO_PRO flag, that developers can use and get latency down to 10ms or so – which made the Android platform ripe for musicians.
Since the latency improvements in Android, there has been little to choose between Android and iPhone in terms of operating system functions.
Connectivity & Peripherals
Apple had a head start on Android in the music-making game, and as such has a wider range of devices designed specifically to work with its iPhones and iPads through their lightning connectors. From IK Multimedia’s iRig Controller pads and keyboards to Focusrite’s iTrack – there are a wide number of dedicated devices on the market.
While iPhones and iPads may have dedicated devices, Android devices are easier to hook up to peripherals designed for laptops due to their use of the standard Micro-USB or increasingly common USB-C connectors. Android smartphones and tablets that offer USB host modes, which is many of them today, can be used with a huge array of peripherals designed for the PC market either with official support or often unofficially.
On the data connectivity front, both iOS and Android support 4G and a plan with fast internet connection with a generous data cap is worth considering if you decide to use your phone for music making. If you want to jam with people over the internet, or just download samples and upload your tracks to SoundCloud then 4G is a must.
Lastly, we can’t go through the connectivity section without discussing Apple’s decision to drop the headphone slot. Bluetooth headphones may be cooler and you get rid of some fiddly wires, but from the music making perspective wired headphones are the better choice.
Apple’s long head-start with musicians on its devices is best shown in the greater variety of apps for musicians available in Apple’s App Store in comparison to Google’s own Play Store. The likes of Steinberg have had a Cubasis sequencer app available for iOS for years, but it is still yet to make its way to Android, as is the case with Propellerhead’s ReBirth synthesizer.
That said, the likes of FL Studio have made it to both platforms and Steinberg have said they are looking into releasing Android versions of their apps, so it seems Android is catching up quickly after a slow start.
So there you have it – each platform has its pros and cons, but one thing is clear and that is that music making while on the go has never been easier and is only set to improve in the coming years.
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