Wanting something is different from needing something. And bending something to musical activities is different from requiring something for musical activities.

Apple introduced a promising-looking update Monday to the iPhone. I didn’t really see much reason to talk about it, because there’s nothing specific in the update to music, even if it is a worthy upgrade. On CDMotion, the new onboard camera and video publishing features led to a larger discussion about what to use for capturing video for live visual sets, from comments including mention of the older 3GS and even a phone from Nokia to cheap stabilization solutions. But apart from a gyro sensor likely to be used in a new Smule app and a faster processor, there’s nothing essential to music apps — good news if you already own an iPhone, in fact.

So, if you want an iPhone, go get one. What I find surprising is that this device is inspiring some of my music tech blog colleagues to say things that I don’t think are true.

Now, regular readers know, I haven’t shied away from covering mobile music tech. If it’s a platform, and you can make sounds with it, I think it’s worth noticing, be it an iPhone, Game Boy, Arduino, teletype machine, steam organ, whatever.

But even with all the development activity around these devices, it is possible to lose perspective, or overstate what these gadgets are. And as a result, I feel a bit obligated to point out some observations I thought were self-evident, but evidently aren’t.

The iPhone isn’t cheap, because of the whole phone part. Here’s the thing: smart phones tied to contracts are expensive. The iPhone’s sibling, the iPod touch, is a pretty great deal, especially if you grab a refurb. But the iPhone is pricey given a lot of the world’s currency translations and actual buying power, and the device typically adds costly phone service contracts and potential cancellation fees if you’re on the wrong carrier. In fact, switch to a cheap prepaid SIM and stay off the phone, and you can probably afford a Kyma instead in the time the contract lasts. (Tell people you’re synthesizing and can’t talk to them anyway.) That’s not to slam the iPhone – it’s a problem with the cost of smartphones and the accompanying data service in general. But it means the claim the iPhone costs “a couple hundred dollars” just isn’t true.

If you’re spending a lot on mobile plans anyway, then you can justify the price. But it’s very unlikely anything with a contract is ever going to make sense from a purely musical point of view – not unless Ableton starts having you sign a two-year contract in order to upgrade your copy of Live. (Uh, don’t get any ideas, please.) The music apps are nice because they give more value to a purchase you may be buying anyway. That’s the whole point.

The iPhone isn’t the top mobile music OS. That’d be … Windows. Seriously. Top handheld, yes. Top mobile, no, because the remaining popular “mobile” solution for music is a laptop. On Monday, as Steve Jobs took the stage in California, I was on various modes of transport between Portugal and New York. I wound up finishing a couple of tracks on trains, airport waiting areas, and planes, from 0 to 40,000 feet. My tool of choice: an inexpensive Asus laptop, leaving smaller but less-powerful gadgets (including an iPod touch) in my backpack. And I’m not alone. Windows is still popular, for instance. Digital Music Doctor’s Internet popularity numbers for music software show that PC-only tools FL Studio and SONAR still rank high. On CDM, the iPhone, iPad, and iPod rule mobile readership rankings by a lion’s share …but not as a share of overall readership. There, even Linux-based readership of CDM manages to outpace the iPhone by a wide margin, to say nothing of Mac and Windows.

iOS and tablets may be the future. But laptops remain the present, at least for most people not running a gadget blog. And that means it is absolutely possible for the music tech industry to get so excited about this new platform that they miss opportunities on the older ones.

You don’t need one. Want one. Get one, even. But you don’t need one. In 5 Reasons Musicians Should Get An iPhone 4, James at Synthopia lists a number of reasons to buy one that to me just aren’t quite right:

“spending a couple of hundred bucks on an iPhone” – well, see above. It could be a couple of thousand bucks by the time you’re done; it depends on your situation.

“The iPhone lets you connect with friends and fans from almost any location.” Actually, there’s a technology for that, called the Internet. When there’s not “an app for that,” there’s something called the Browser. Both of these technologies work everywhere. And while apps are cool, before any website makes an app, they should make an awesome mobile version of their website. If they have that nailed, then they should be allowed to make an app. (Maybe Apple can add that rule to their developer agreement.)

“The iPhone 4 gives you access to the de facto industry standard for digital music.” Well, wait a minute, that’s called the Internet again, and formats like MP3 and OGG. You certainly don’t need an iPhone to download podcasts, which are an open, XML-based format that shouldn’t discriminate by player.

In fact, not needing a device or a platform is part of the beauty of this being the year 2010 and not 1984. In 1984, a sea of incompatible computers with proprietary standards for everything from simple serial connectors to displays cost more money, were harder to operate, and eventually wasted your time. (One plus: they hooked up to your TV set, no DRM-locked HDMI cables required …but I digress.)

Now, we live in the future. We can choose from platforms that use standards, that communicate via standards, that talk via The Internet and Internet Standards and Browsers so it doesn’t matter what gadgets your friends might have. We have obscenely cheap electronics, so you can make electronic music with $30 in parts and a speaker, not a six-month residency at a prestigious Research Institution in Paris.

It wasn’t always this way. When Max was first extended to add audio features, it needed a NeXT audio box. When MIDI was invented, it required specific interfaces running specific sequencers on specific computers just to make a sequence. When digital synthesis was invented, Max Mathews had to take a train across the Hudson to get timeshare access to a mainframe. Platforms can be wonderful things, but they’re even more wonderful when they disappear.

The iPhone is a beautiful gadget, and that’s great. But what’s even better – what’s even more a sign that you live in the future – is that you don’t have to buy one. So if you do, relish the thought that it’s an indulgence. It’ll probably make unpacking it more fun anyway.

Or, as Lady Gaga would say

  • Peter

    Brilliant, glad to see someone's got their head screwed on.

  • http://www.skyron.org SkyRon™

    Isn't Lady Gaga just a re-packaging of Brittany Spears re-packaging Madonna?

    – - – -

    (and my gift to you for the ages: create digital music + create digital motion = create digital media. Boom. Less work–maybe less advertising, tho–. Anyway, it would be a work-around for that pesky issue of what is 'specific to music'. Because, then you hafta define music to some degree — is it anything commercially viable, in 4/4, recognizable as melody/harmony, or can it be 'organized sound/silence', something more conceptual (i.e., Cage) or something more nuanced temporally, and therefore non-commercial, like Carter, Nancarrow, and (for lack of a better example) me?) (and you can ignore this comment, too, if it's too troublesome. It's just that 'future' somehow embraces 'pop culture', 'modernism', and 'post-modernism' in my mind, and I'd really like to know if I'm currently totally mad or not).

    - – - –

  • Random Chance

    Hooray for common sense!

  • Sam_K

    Thank you! Finally, a voice of reason in this iCrazy world.

    It's actually quite fascinating/disturbing/annoying to see how blind some people can be to their own biases.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, I will say, developing for these devices is fantastic, even as a novice developer (and I hear the same from other, more experienced programmers). But it's partly because they're different, they're a little weird – yes, even the iPhone. I suspect that's what the people who were writing apps for hacked Nintendo and Sony game systems had discovered long ago. Just so long as everyone realizes that it's that ability to take the ability to make software and apply it to anything with an electrical input and audio output.

  • BirdFLU

    Yeah, but you could use the wifi-only video calling to talk to your drummer on stage without turning around to look at him. Isn't that important?

  • KimH

    News flash: Smart phone contracts are pricey. We're shocked- shocked!

    As usual, Mr. Kirn finds a way to rain on the iPhone platform.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @KimH: Well, it's phones, not iPhones. Like I said, I thought it was self-evident, but then I saw the Synthopia story (and many CDM commenters) describe the device as costing a "couple hundred dollars." It's not an iPhone thing. I can't make the same claim about the (largely locked) Android devices, either.

    But yes, if mentioning *reality* is raining on the iPhone platform, then I'm raining on the iPhone platform. ;)

  • Art

    nice post and so true

  • Art

    and Synthopia post was ridiculous

  • aftermath

    Allow me to pile on here: Hooray! It's growing ever rarer to find people who haven't lost their minds in the modern world of consumer technology and even rarer still to find someone who can articulate his level-headedness in an articulate and non-inflammatory manner.

    Pro tip: Whenever a fellow music-type tells me that I should buy an iphone, I just tell them that they should learn Csound (thus far, no takers on either side).

  • http://www.cooloutmusic.com coolout

    Peter, you are a gentleman and a scholar. I appreciate you being objective and not just jumping on the bandwagon.

  • http://www.lazytrap.com Aaron

    Best platforming handhelds for musicbrew will continue to be pmp/gaming platforms like the DS/DSi, iPod Touch, and PSP simply due to the fact that theres no contract. Still waiting for an Andriod based device similar to the Touch. My favorite DS/DSi brew: http://www.lazytrap.com/?p=11

    BTW.. homebrew/music software on the DS and PSP are still very much alive, but havent seen much mention of them here. Alot of that brew even finds its way to helping the Touch/iPhone apps, like DSMI.. wireless midi software, that many apps use for MIDI. http://code.google.com/p/dsmi/

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Aaron, I definitely am up for mentioning more of what's on the game platforms. Send them my way if there are homebrew apps you're using. I even heard we may get some new stuff for PSPSeq… and yes, these game systems cost less than a mobile phone carrier cancellation fee alone. There's also something nice about running Nanoloop on an iPod touch, with the touch interface and no need to hack your game system. I'm glad we have all these choices, personally.

  • Josh

    Don't get me wrong, I don't think anyone NEEDS an iPhone/iPad to make digital music. I'm just sick of ridiculous claims that anything on an iPad is a toy and can't be a useful tool in creating music.

    Also, the synthtopia article was pretty ridiculous.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Josh — I hear you. I, for one, like toys. But then, isn't that the whole point? People are confusing the platform and the music. People said the computers were toys, too. People seem to call anything a toy and not "serious" if they don't like it, which is absurd. Music has its roots in plucking strings and banging things. It can get sophisticated, sure, but organized sound is nothing if not democratic. On the other hand, we start to fetishize certain tools as being Pro (ahem), or certain gadgets as being must-have… it's just too easy to lose the plot.

    Oh, I also like Synthtopia. We have to have a little inter-blog disagreement; that is supposed to be our bloggy job.

  • Josh

    I do enjoy synthtopia, the iphone article just read like an ad. This coming from someone who does all his work on his macbook and already bought an iPad.

  • Roy Bourcier

    Peter, Peter, Peter …

    Go on living in you little Linux/Windows world. Just quit trying to rationalize it with all your bizarre attacks on Apple. There are enough digital music tools out there for everyone – no need to defend which ones you choose to use. How about just taking the blinders off and covering them in an unbiased fashion? You know – like Synthtopia?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Roy: Anyway, James gets beaten up unfairly I think on Synthtopia for blogging iPhone apps, so while I'm taking issue with his points in this story, I think he and I will both agree… *you can't win.*

  • Josh

    So true peter. I do appreciate his looks at iPad apps almost immediately after they come out, but generally speaking, i download anything you feature just because you usually only feature the really compelling apps.

  • Tom

    Just thought I'd nerd it up a bit.

    Technically you can't hook up a monitor via hdmi to a windows computer if it doesn't support hdcp. :P

    But i saw a talk by dave patterson today, the dude who created raid and RISC architecture, about parallel computing. He was saying that one of the music profs at berkley was able gain benefits of parallel computing as it better take advantage of multiple cores. I know nothing to do with this post but figured it was an interesting advancement in computing.

  • Luca

    I think that the iPohne is a fantastic mini platform that allow you to do Many things on the go.

    As a musician I can have a musical notepad and mini synths to sketch my

    ideas and in the meantime organize my day and check my mails (and music blogs). So yes I think is a worthy device.

    You don't need it to make music?

    well for that matter you don't need a computer at all ether!

    In a blog like this where circuit bending and open-source are king, I did not aspect your comment because you've already seen how many revolutionary uses the iPhone has led to: multi-touch and wireless control just to name a few.

    So every upgrade of such devices are welcome and open new possibilities (gyroscope!) for experimenting and exploring.

  • aje

    Great post Peter. Nice to see some common sense.

    For real world musicians computers are just coming of age. Top-end resource-hungry plugins are finally being recognised as viable alternatives to hardware. I guess that is all because of those who had a vision for it ten years ago, and maybe the whole deal with portables will eventually be the same… but i think that is a VERY LONG way away.

    As for the whole Ejay crowd… so what if it's becoming feasible to do something similar on a phone? That's not a credible end of music production that professionals are interested in anyway.

    The only areas where I currently see phones being of any interest is in terms of a portable metronome/tuner and remote control for a proper DAW system. Sure, more will probably follow. Key word…. "follow".

  • http://www.jorgebarrientos.com Jorge from Madrid

    A couple of months ago some guitarrist friend of mine gave me a revolutionary App… it was called "Principles of Harmony and Rhythm in Modern Music" and it shocked me that it was basically a stack of paper with hard cardboard covers (I think you could google it by typing "Book"). Wonderful battery life (paper pages could be turned on full-bright 24/7). Not very interactive thought. Perfect form factor… Is fully compatible with all my software and hardware and has helped me inprove my music creation a lot.

    Seriously. iThings are neat. Go use them if you have them already. But what I had was a PSP for almost 3 years and that's what I use to run LSDJ (under Gameboy emulation) and NTRQ (superb original NES tracker). I had some little "I need TouchOSC on an iTouch" phase but then I realise I should be mastering my Korg NanoKontrol performance instead of going for another virtual control method I've never needed before.

    @ Peter Kirn:

    Thanks for not believing the hype!

  • http://www.jorgebarrientos.com Jorge from Madrid

    @ Aje:

    Totally agree. People expect to have a full DAW setup in a pocket, then get dissapointed of the (sometimes) poor performance and go shopping for another platform/app, instead of mastering what they already have. Nobody seems to remember that sometimes we can't use such a small device because of the screen (i.e. Palm Sunvox it's a great piece of software, but It gives me headaches using Palm's tiny interfaces for a long time). People mocked the MicroKorg with its "CASIOesque" keyboard… and now they NEED a crappier keyboard for an iPad app?… WT*?.

    @ Luca:

    Some iApps are great, ok, but were you interested in Pd before RjDj? Did your music featured any ocarina solos before Smule? Complain at your local MusicStore about the lack of gyroscope in the Akai MPC 1000?. Don't get me wrong. Maybe you do something amazing with it. You have all the right in the world to mess around with your iPhone, but think… do you really need any Apple upgrade to complete your best piece of music?. Do you want it? then go for it, enjoy it, be my guest.

    Peter's post was about the difference between WANTING something and NEEDING something. It wasn't about bashing against Apple products. It about losing perspective when fronted with those stories of (ahem) "iPad djs" and "really cheap apps for controlling wireless" on a device that is around 600 € (I could buy a very good Novation midi keyboard for that price, for example).

    Sorry for the long rant and my english mistakes. I thought I was the last guy on earth running software on a desktop computer.

  • dyscode

    @Jorge:

    I am with you

    @Peter:

    Sorry but first half of this article is redundant!

    If you want to make music with an iApple you don´t need and iPhone. Get an iPod 2nd+ or cheapest iPad and be done with it.

    And don´t come crying that one cannot afford an iPhone. Such '1st World problems' really make my head ache.

    Sorry I totally don´t get this.

  • Random Chance

    I wonder if in 10-20 years the iPhone or iPad or iPod Touch of today will fetch prices beyond what they currently go for new. Just like cult instruments that are old today. Or maybe they will start selling NOS battery replacements for the crazy prices that SSM or CEM chips go for. I suspect most Apple products will go the way of my old PowerBooks: Be kept as beautiful examples of industrial design that have in some cases failed to work properly.

    I'm just saying that to reiterate the point that it's about the software and not the hardware. Today people use old software in emulators. Platforms are just an abstraction that can be realised by means of software and/or hardware. And if some really fantastic application comes out that musicians will want to use in 10-20 years (maybe like they build old instruments for Bach music today) then there will certainly be a wider range of platform realisations to choose from. Let history be the judge.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @dyscode: Nope, exactly, my recommendation is still the low-end iPod touch.

    But that wasn't entirely the point, the "you don't need a computer" comment also happens to be spot on. (actually, I believe I said that at one point…)

  • oid

    Too often, but not always, of course, the angle of this blog is "look, you don't need to buy Apple, there are alternatives. Cheap alternatives. Linux alternatives. Free alternatives."

    It's been repeated many, many times lately, and it's getting a bit boring, to be honest.

  • Random Chance

    @oid:

    Everything gets boring after a while when it is repeated just often enough. Be it "buy a iPhone", or "iPads are going to revolutionize music making", or "free software is morally superior to proprietary software with a steep price tag backed by single vendor", or "a Windows PC is better (cheaper) than a Macintosh", or "Fruity Loops has a great upgrade policy", or "Fruity Loops is bad because it is written in 32Bit Delphi for Windows only", or "Ableton Live sucks because it is buggy", or "Buy a monome and finally make great music", or "my feelings are hurt because somebody does not buy all products made by apple", and so an ad nauseam.

    I for one am quite content with my iMac as a desktop computer and for making music. I like my Palm Treo mobile phone. I like my hardware synthesizers. I like patchcords, and I like compilers and interpreters. I like running my server with GNU/Linux and watching demos and programming in C# on Windows. I like OpenVMS and I like Unix. I like a piano and I like guitars, drums, and basses. I like software instruments and effects. Ultimately I like the freedom to choose above all else and if someone points out alternatives instead of just hyping one thing while putting down or even ignoring others I am glad. What I don't like though is narrow-mindedness and reality distortion fields.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @oid: It might be more exciting if you read what I actually wrote.

    There's one – precisely one – mention of Linux and free software in the story above. And it's to mention that Linux readership of CDM is higher (about 2.8%) than iPhone (1.6%), iPad (exploded from 0 to 1.4%) or iPod (1%). I'm not mentioning that to advocate Linux – I'm mentioning it because I'm, frankly, surprised. I would expect the iPhone to outpace Linux, given popular conception. That means that there's a disproportionate amount of coverage to mobile platforms that's out of sync with, at the very least, actual browsing usage. It has nothing to do with Apple. And don't get me wrong – I love mobile devices. I'm writing a couple of Android apps. It's not about that. It says that all of us – myself included – may be ignoring the ongoing, massive use of traditional computing platforms. It's still possible Jobs is right and the iPad and similar devices are the future and traditional PCs are "trucks." But it would be wildly irresponsible to, simultaneously, ignore the elephant in the room on the installed PC base.

    I'm sorry, but I can't be responsible for people projecting things onto my writing that aren't there. And if I can say a variety of things, but all that comes out is people seeing me as having an Apple bias, it's not my fault that things seem boring.

    In short, I expect what a lot of people, even on CDM, are doing with their phones is using them as phones.

  • Skippy

    @Jorge from Madrid:

    "Complain at your local MusicStore about the lack of gyroscope in the Akai MPC 1000?"

    This comment made my day. Thank you.

    @Peter: thanks for trying to shed light on this rather unsettling hype. Hopefully more people in the CDM community can realize that there are far more and diverse things involved in music making than just the "latest and greatest" gadgets du jour.

  • http://www.thecovertoperators.org Bjorn Vayner

    @Random Chance

    You almost had me singing along with your second paragraph.. :)

    "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

    Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens

    Brown paper packages tied up with strings

    These are a few of my favorite things"

  • lalaland

    @Random Chance: AMEN! Well said..

  • Pingback: Create Digital Music » Reality Check: You Don't Need Any Phone for … | Blowelt | Crea tu Blog

  • http://www.virb.com/rumpelfilter rumpelfiler

    Well I stopped reading ipadtopia anyway…

    it was getting a tad boring lately.

    great article btw! As usual I fully agree on everything.

  • dyscode

    @Peter:

    Thanks for explaining to stupid me:)

    your comments were more understandable to me.

    d.

  • oid

    Come on, Peter, you DO have an anti-Apple-bias. Your opinions on "Apple politics" are very well known through your tweets, and while you may claim that Apple coverage is completely neutral, it's very apparent from your tweeting that they are in no way your favorite company. Which is fine, you don't have to like them – not at all. Whether or not this affects the Apple coverage on these pages, I can't say for sure. I just find, as a general tendency, that Apple is too often the lead in during the first couple of paragraphs, then comes the "but you don't have to so and so with Apple, you can instead …" etc. In this case it was your cheap Windows laptop. Linux was just an example related to the tendency, not this particular article.

    The focus in this article, though, is squarely on the iPhone. The Android platform, for some reason, is not that interesting as an example, it seems. This I find a bit strange.

    The last paragraph says "The iPhone is a beautiful gadget, and that’s great. But what’s even better – what’s even more a sign that you live in the future – is that you don’t have to buy one." Why didn't it say "The HTC Desire is a …"? "The BlackBerry is a .."?

    Btw, IRCAM has annual contracts/subscriptions for most (all?) of their software. Guess they took the bait.

    Also, if you are going to use the stats from Digital Music Doctor as a basis for attention, why isn't CDM choke full of Pro Tools related articles, since it is, without a doubt, the most popular music software? And where are all the Cubase articles?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @oid: The focus is on the iPhone because it was written two days after a major update, and in response to two articles that focused on the iPhone:
    http://www.musicradar.com/news/guitars/iphone-4-a

    http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2010/06/07/5-re

    Android hasn't yet become entirely viable for the same sorts of music apps for the reason that I detailed separately:
    http://createdigitalmusic.com/2010/05/20/android-

    So, I just don't see your point. It's not that absurd that I chose to use the iPhone as an example. My point was, many of these iPhone-related issues are related to the nature of the device being a phone, as much as an iPhone.

    And I never claimed to be neutral; you're the one evidently concerned about that, not me. I assume that having opinions about highly subjective technologies and their use in personal creativity is a good thing.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Side story: I remember how excited I was when the first issue of MacAddict came out. They had an opinion, they didn't apologize about it, and it was at a time when that opinion ran contrary to the conventional wisdom of large institutions, developers, tech pundits, and the like, all of whom were advocating dumping in the Mac. MacAddict was a voice for the users of the platform at a time when they needed that voice. (And yes, I was a subscriber for several years.)

    Yes, platform advocacy can devolve into simplistic arguments where people don't back up their opinions, or where they don't listen to each other. If you think I'm guilty of that, let me know.

    But I'm not convinced "neutrality" should always be our aim. I was delighted that MacAddict wasn't neutral when I switched to the Mac platform in the 90s. The people who are passionate about platforms aren't vocal about their advocacy for what's good, or their criticism of what's bad (which with Apple in the 90s wasn't a short list). I'm equally delighted now to read people with bold opinions about what new platforms might do, including advocates of open Web standards (sometimes including Apple), free software (again, sometimes including Apple, if slightly less often), or Linux (now, surprisingly, partially including Google, if as competitor and advocate simultaneously). Usually, I most enjoy those people who are independent thinkers, which means I don't always agree with them. But I have a limited amount of time in the day, so I expect to learn something from their opinion.

    We should be relevant, of course… but obviously, this issue is relevant; see the stories that brought this on and the comments above. These are questions worth asking.

  • aje

    I didn't pick up anything anti-Apple in the story… surely the main point is that hand-help phone-type devices (generic, including android, palm, etc) are not about to replace recording studios, laptops, etc just yet…?

    Seems to be a simple point, very well made by Peter, and necessary because of the absurd hype about the whole issue elsewhere.

  • http://www.edisonsdemo.tumblr.com edison

    yea… i gotta agree….

    oid, if haven't already… read this:

    http://m.gizmodo.com/5555953/fanboyism-and-brand-

    and then just make music for music's sake…

    jorge and random rule thread…

    bing!

  • HEXnibble

    Sorry but I have to agree with KimH and oid. The anti-Apple bias on here is getting really annoying.

    But on the other hand, Apple is obviously doing something right to be receiving so much envy disguised as hate.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @HEXnibble: Well, look. You're not reading what I'm saying. So, I imagine in the alternate reality where I'm saying something different than what I'm saying, yes, that might be annoying.

    Also, "criticism" does not amount to "bias." In fact, it would take a pretty heaping dose of bias for any one platform to be above criticism or analysis, which is all I can assume you would mean here.

    I'm suggesting that some of the hype is out of line with the facts, not only for iPhone, but for PHONE. So maybe I have an anti-PHONE bias.

    PHONE development has a different set of challenges. There are things that phones do that are different than desktops, and not all of them are superior to desktop development. And they're expensive little gadgets with contracts attached to them.

    Mobile operating systems are fun to develop for partly because they're challenging. But let's be clear about what those challenges are. In audio specifically, the kinds of techniques you use to get high-accuracy timing (not only latency, but in scheduling events) tend not to work.

    That doesn't mean you shouldn't develop mobile apps. The handheld form factor is a wonderful thing, and a great challenge. But it doesn't mean that it's somehow inherently superior to desktop development, because *that would be insane*.

    In fact, the reason Android didn't come up in this story isn't because of my alleged anti-Apple bias, but because Android is far *worse* than the iPhone when it comes to audio applications. Inconsistent audio hardware and device drivers cause wildly variant latency. Getting accurate timing is also more challenging (not impossible, but less fun).

    Also, the reason it's worth having these discussions is that there's a growing attitude that somehow we have to dump everything about the current computing platforms. Re-evaluating the way OSes work *could* be fantastic for music and creativity. But for that to happen, we have to separate hype from reality and get to the heart of what actually matters.

  • http://antisound.net stk

    Reality Check: You Don’t Need Any Phone.

    Fixed that for you :)

    Still phoneless after all these years, I'm planning on being the last in the Western World :D

  • Thomas Paulsen

    Thank you Peter for this great article and not following the brainless hype machinery.

    To pour oil in the fire…80% of all websites nowadays use Flash. Does iPhone/iPad can do Flash?

    ;-P

  • http://superobscure.com Jake

    @SkyRon: Lady Gaga is considerably different from Spears/Madonna in that everything she performs is primarily written and composed by… *gasp* Lady Gaga.

    I'm no fanboi, but I have serious respect for her. Especially after seeing her in this *pre-commercialization* performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NM51qOpwcIM

    (I *am* an Apple fanboi, and love my iPhone, so I'm staying out of THAT debate. ;) )

  • Jonah

    A big thing for me is that many of the features mentioned in the synthtopia articles are great if you want to make money with your music. Things like fan interaction, checking quality of downloads and making music videos. But they are terrible time killers if you want to actually make music.

    That said, I love the synth apps on my ipod. Remember to turn of the phone in the studio it can cause terrible interference!

  • Random Chance

    Yesterday because of all the hype and hate and people wetting themselves over the release of a new iPhone (while probably the new iPhone SDK is the more interesting thing, but I digress) I went out and tested an iPad:

    First of all it suffers from the same problem as any touchscreen device: Sliding your fingers on the surface of the display does only work really well when it's squeaky clean. I wonder if there's some protective foil available that also remedies this.

    What I liked was the book reading application, a little to whimsical for my taste (remember the literal desktop Microsoft wanted to sell complete with a desk, shelves, and a waste basket?), but apparently great for reading (except that the iPad is still a tad to heavy as a book or stack of papers substitue for my liking, but that will change without doubt).

    When I saw the app store I realised why people who have i-Devices really want their favourite news sites to report on worthwile applications: No way to sort by user ratings in any given category. Also: The categories are really broad and the music category combines stuff like instructional applications with applications by radio stations, sequencers without virtual piano keyboards, and synth with virtual piano keyboards; not to mention all the rest. Most stressful shopping experience I had in the last 6 months ore longer.

    Sadly only one music application was installed: A piano keyboard with some sounds and a builtin step sequencer. The keyboard did not register touches shorter in duration than a specific minimum (unlike an electronic or accustic keyboard instrument) and also exhibited a noticeable latency (I suspect this is due to the application waiting for the specified time until it registers a key press). For Lemur style interfaces however I think the iPad is superb (albeit a little on the small side) and certainly cheaper than a Lemur.

    What really disappointed me: Obviously you cannot save any document you have openend in the web browser, but have to sync the file from another iTunes equipped computer. So, no downloading papers and stuff while you have WLAN access and then reading them when you don't. I suspect that there are applications that support downloading however. It just seems the two clerks in the shop did no really know the hard facts and were much more interested in playing games themselves or showing other customers some of the games they installed on the demonstration iPads.

    To summarize: The potential I thought was there I could confirm with my hands-on experience. The negative points I did not suspect (except for point 1). Tablets like this are certainly part of the future for specific tasks and I finally understand the deep wisdom that the creators of Star Trek had in showing people with multiple PADDs of different sizes and shapes lying on their desk just like books and sheets of paper. I could imagine something more terrible than having a stack of different tablets on my desk.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Random Chance: yeah, the potential is definitely there. And I'd love to see simplified interfaces even when working with the mouse and screen, too; there's no reason that these design patterns can't inform other things, too. At best, these new devices should provide new, broader perspectives, not narrower ones.

  • http://www.patternmusic.com RichardL@PatternMusic.com

    Another point that’s worth considering about iPhone cost is that iPhones and other similar smartphones are very fragile and very valuable. It is not unusual for an iPhone to not to survive the 2 year commitment of its indenture contract. (I bought 3 iPhone 3GSs for my family almost a year ago. They are all gone less than 1 year into the contract: 1 dropped, 1 drowned, 1 stolen.)

    Early termination fees have recently doubled, but the phones can be replaced at costs of $200 to $700 each.

    But it would be nice if rather than designing more bling or a more retentive display, Apple, HTC, Motorola et al focussed some innovations in the areas of water-resistance, drop-proofing, and theft-proofing. (The latter could be accomplished by making the devices remote brickable thus removing the thriving black market for stolen devices, and the thriving “legitimate” market their replacements.)

    The point is that smartphone like the iPhone are actually very often even more expensive than the simple arithmetic of subsidized cost + (24 months * $70-$100/month).

  • http://murderlazer.blogspot.com/ Bridgealantee

    The amazing thing is that all you need is a phone to make music not the other way around.

  • http://www.gunboatdiplomacy.com justin

    oh peter. lets close comments on this article and be done with it. you are spot-on in your post and ive been reading this blog for a couple years now and i dont see any bias except for a bias for new and exciting things. this is actually my only regular stop for music-blog-reading and it pains me to think you might tire yourself out responding to those that are taking offense.

    keep up the good work!

  • Seba

    I'm 26 and sometimes feel like the only under-30 individual in the developed world who just has a basic phone; I don't even think the thing can take pictures. No net access, no "apps", no nothing – it's a PHONE, for CALLING PEOPLE.

    I just don't care about this other crap. I have a computer for making things and browsing the web, I don't need to be glued to a screen everywhere I go and I don't even like being reachable all the time. I don't own an iPod either, for what its worth, despite having a collection of music in the thousands.

    I'm a poor young person who doesn't have disposable income to waste on things I don't need and I often wonder how so many people my age seem to think of these devices as standard necessities that are expected of everyone – WRONG.

    Of the money I have, I invest it in things that will help my productivity – ram, better sample libraries, better monitors – you know, things that are actually investments. All these gadgets are just distractions, things that take away from being creative and accomplishing what you want.

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  • Pablo Martin

    Bravo Peter !!

    Fially someone come with the perfet and correct words for this Igadgets called Iphone and Ipad…. : )

    Best regards!

  • vdrumpro

    Hey I really chuckled when you said teletype machine.. a teletype (used for RTTY) connected to a TRS-80 MDL 3 was my first drum sequencer!! when I was 5, I loved hearing it print because it made such different sounds than a typewriter.. by 6 and 7.. it was a form of musical expression for me beyond the buckets, pots, and pans I got in trouble for dragging out..

    SO I figured out that if you just typed letters in series and groups… it became QUITE the interesting percussion instrument.. oh.. if there was only youtube back then..

    OK that being said.. just as I was then.. I'm interested now in things that are unique and non-traditional for making music. I think that's why we play synths 'round here and not steinways– am I right?

    And.. that's why I'm one of the worlds biggest fans of the iOS platform.. get an ipod touch if you want a different phone, but honestly.. you are REALLY missing out on some cool and fun stuff by being in denial.. Someone hating on iOS tech on a electronic music blog seems– kind of .. blindly ignorant.

    No one NEEDS anything to make music, but if you are an experimental musician– ios offers a world of fun.

    teh-teh-teh-teh-tap-tap-teh-teh damn I wish I'd recorded some of my teletype grooves. I don't miss the chance to recording anything now that I always have a touch screen, 32GB 4 track recorder in my pocket.. sample much mr. electronic musician??.. meh.. I'll quit now..

    OH PS jordan rudess' ipad app is a lot of fun.. he uses it on stage.. not that he HAS to.. he just likes to..