Apple’s devices have earned praise from developers for consistently supporting multiple fingers in predictable ways. But to go further with expression, one developer made use of the size of contact area on the screen.

Any time a developer goes beyond “public” or official APIs, there’s a chance Apple will eventually balk. We knew this was a risk to the excellent music app Orphion when we covered it, but hoped, in fact, that if the app were successful, Apple might reconsider.

Unfortunately, today we learn from developer Bastus Trump that Apple will remove the app. And that means, at the very least, you will want to take steps if you want to get this app on your device – or keep it there. Bastus tells CDM:

I’m writing you because Orphion is in serious trouble:

Apple just called me to nicely tell me I use a private API function to sense the area of the screen which is covered by the finger for its articulation gesture ([CDM] wrote about it). This is crazy – thousands of users love it for this and it makes Orphion so expressive.

The app will be removed from the App Store in two weeks if I don’t submit a new version without it – and I currently can’t think of Orphion without this gesture.

So what I can recommend is

1. Everyone who wants to have the “original” Orphion get it NOW from the app store (, it will be only be there for a few more days
2. Backup the current version to keep it. (Michael Tyson from Audiobus made this great tutorial)
3. Tell Apple to make this great function officially usable in apps (Any ideas how to do that?)

So far… let’s see if this is really the end of Orphion.

I find it a little extreme to discontinue the app without this gesture. But as for the API, Bastus tells us he thinks there is a case to make it public and official. And musicians would be the best people to give that feedback, as they use touch in more expressive ways than most users. Bastus adds:

“For the way I use it it’s absolutely reliable. It’s been in there for more than a year and thousands of users love it…”

I’m curious to hear from users and developers. Can you suggest a workaround? Can you make a case for why Apple would want to keep this app? Is this something you use?

Touch iOS Music in a New Way: Hands-on with Cantor for Users, Inside Details for Developers [some information on the original development concept and specifically this API]

Freehand Playable Circles, in Any Tuning, on iPad: New Orphion Editor [complete look at the newest version]

  • Alessandro Saccoia

    I guess that keeping even a simple around that makes use of a private API would justify everybody who wants to use it, creating a special case.. then what if in the next iOs the api disappears when its use got widespread and many users are counting on multiple apps that use it for their daily iPhon’ing… and suddenly upgrading iOs or device nothing works anymore? They would piss off million of users. apple is already unreliable on public APIs, I’d never use a private one

  • Softcore

    Im not a developer but I know for sure that many, many, MAAAAAAAAANY end users – iOS musicians would benefit from this API being public. The reason? SImply put, because the area a finger covers on a touch surface (amongst other things) is also proprtional to the “pressure” applied.
    Are you getting where Im going with this? YES, true aftertouch WOULD be to some extend possible if this API was public – this topic has also been extensively discussed over at Liine (Lemur) forums. A vast userbase would totally benefit from this API.

  • Guest

    I love this app, and I find this news very disappointing.

  • davidlublin

    File the fact that it currently isn’t part of the public APIs as a bug report with Apple:
    (could be an honest oversight on their part not to include it)

  • dan

    Kudos to Bastus Trump. I would *love* to see him discontinue the app over this, especially if I thought it might make a bigger difference.

    The iPad is a nice platform for music only because there are so many developers willing to put up with Apple’s draconian restrictions. I wish there were a good open alternative to the iPad, because then I’d love to see developers boycott Apple. (As a developer myself, I simply have no interest in working within all of Apple’s ever-changing and arbitrary-feeling restrictions.) But there isn’t an alternative that I know of at the moment, so it seems that we’re stuck; there’s too much money on the table for developers to start pulling their products in protest.

    • Andre Brown

      Could this app be recreated on a Windows Surface Pro or an Android Nexus 10.
      I just shared this article with the Android Developer Community, perhaps the api’s needed to create this feature exist on that platform.

    • Peter Kirn

      I think a crucial difference is that Bastus is reporting consistent results with the API. That was not my experience using different Android hardware. So it may be, sadly, that the only place you’d want to do this is the place you’re not allowed.

      But does it exist? Yes.

    • Peter Kirn

      I don’t know on Windows. Note that this is another difference in the Android community. That’s an official public API that might not give consistent results. Sometimes Apple’s private APIs work better than Google’s public ones. 😉 But to be fair, I haven’t tried this on recent hardware, so I am very curious.

    • Andre Brown

      Focus on Nexus or Galaxy hardware, its the most pervasive hardware internationally and year after year they’re consistently iterating much like the iPhone and iPad.

    • Peter Kirn

      @disqus_xkQaJSRFDF:disqus – actually, have you seen numbers on Nexus? Galaxy is putting up big numbers.

      I don’t know that I see that as a solution here, though. Low-latency audio plus good touch response *plus* a working size API for touch almost rules out everything. The Windows stuff I’ve seen is now more responsive than Android, more on the lines of what you get from iOS (or even better), but I’d need to look into the specifics here.

      I am definitely, definitely curious about whether people can get this kind of sensor data from another platform.

      At the same time, I don’t see porting to another platform to be an option for this developer.

    • dyscode

      Apple – draconian restriction, you make me laugh out hard. Compared to other closed console-style platforms, namely Microsoft Studios/Xbox, Nintendo and Sony Playstation, where you have to fork over $$$$$ in advance for the devkits, Apple is haven. Though Sony did a lot for the indie game devs, in recent times.

      If Apple was so draconian the app market would never consist of 99.99% indie developers and SOHO companies while outrunning the google market ten miles ahead. Apple isn’t perfect for sure. But you have to put things into perspective.

    • Jeff

      I think the point is that we more want to move to a PC-style open platform than a console-style restricted platform, so I don’t see a lot of value in that comparison.

    • foljs

      Who is “we”? Because most people want to move to a Post-PC style platform than return to a PC style platform.

      People are buying more (more closed and less serviceable) laptops over PCs for years. And people are also starting to buy more tablets (iPad etc) than PCs. Actually, the PC market has been stagnating and getting worse year over year for half a decade.

    • dyscode

      Yes, I totally see the advantages of open platform for sure. But I do think their QA saved us from a lot of the BS we have to endure running e.g. Windows with far too many destructive programmers.
      That with any market regulation always some one is getting the short stick is inevitable. That Apple is not perfect is out of the question.
      Still, the best thing to do now is head over to Apple feedback and tell them.

    • aaron

      You don’t have to pay squat to develop indie games for MS. The code is based on .Net is openly available for free. Devkits are not necessary. You only need a devkit for fully licensed games and arcade releases… and in which case, it is widely known the kits are _given out_ if a publishing agreement has been made. The kits aren’t required for initial development but for testing and Q/A. In that last regard, Nintendo and Sony are the same.

      Lastly, there are no hidden APIs on the Xbox.

      You’re nothing but an Apple apologist that has no clue of the development world except for random convenient half truths you’ve picked up from the uninformed, forums, and haters.

    • dyscode

      same to you.

    • dyscode

      Obviously you are the hater here.
      maybe my knowledge is abit outdated. things have changed a lot, esp. with the approach of iOS and I have other things to do, as I said. I even remember the time when you have to pay to develop for RTAS.

  • Daniel Ottini Music

    This is truly disgusting and leaves me questioning how interested Apple really is in providing a “playground” for music apps that do things differently…I use Orphion and have even contributed a template to the user database (“Konkrete 3 Taster”). It will be sad to see it (and it’s user’s efforts) dissolve. Who do I e-mail?

    • Radiophobic

      They don’t want a playground, they want a closed garden.

    • antfactor

      Be specific, state logical, artistic and creative reasons, and be POLITE. If thousands do this they will consider it well – Apple ignores nothing.

    • foljs

      “””This is truly disgusting”””

      No, actually is quite standard practice. Private APIs are private for a reason.You don’t want apps start breaking when a new iOS update comes out.

      “””and leaves me questioning how interested Apple really is in providing a “playground” for music apps that do things differently…”””

      Not at all? WTF has Apple to do with “providing a “playground” for music apps that do things differently”? Apple is not there to assist hipsters in bad laptop jams with “apps that do things differently”.

      They however do a lot to enable audio/MIDI apps on iOS, from providing a full and low latency framework, to enabling inter-app audio and MIDI exchange in iOS7 and lots of other stuff besides (some announced in the WWDC developer’s presentations).

  • Rhism

    As a developer of iOS music apps I’d of course love to have access to this kind of API. But I’m guessing Apple doesn’t want it being used because different people have different finger sizes, and Apple doesn’t want apps to work inconsistently across different people. I suspect any appeal to publicize this API needs to be accompanied by a good solution for this issue. The developers of Orphion and Cantor are creative people so it’s possible they had already figured something out.

    • Peter Kirn

      Yes, agreed. A quick search yields lots of other people trying to do this. That may mean complaints from other developers, too – I wonder if this API gets the axe in iOS 7, or will. I would imagine the concern is inconsistent data quality from touch sensors, human finger size variation, or both.

    • Bit Shape

      The inconsistency of the property in question (pathMajorRadius) may be part of the issue, but the engineers could spend some time working on a different, more consistent API to expose for development. This is the right thing to ask for, by the way, if you file a bug report feature request.

      I’ve heard people mention GarageBand’s pressure sensitivity, which uses the Accelerometer. Quote from Georg Essl: “…the use of built-in accelerometers shows poor consistency and hence is not attractive to use for this purpose”

    • Rhism

      Apple engineers could definitely try to offer a more consistent API. But that is something they would have to decide based on cost/benefit, and doesn’t change the fact that they do need to keep the existing API private.

      iOS developers and app users can make a case for the “benefit” by filing bug reports, feature requests, online petitions etc. Agreed that this is the right thing to ask for.

      The “cost” side is less obvious. I’m not sure it’s even possible without hardware changes, which would imply significantly high cost. Perhaps us music app developers (who stand to benefit a ton from this) can discuss and formulate a proposal for Apple to consider.

    • Rhism

      I had a long-ish Twitter conversation with Rob Fielding about this. Turns out Cantor is using this private API in a relatively user-consistent way – the finger area is used as a continuous value to determine volume. So a kid playing Cantor will experience a different volume range than an XXL-sized adult, but they will both have equal opportunity to be expressive.

      I haven’t spoken with Bastus about Orphion (nor have I used Orphion), but it appears from the “Articulation” image up top that Orphion makes explicit behavior decisions based on that finger area value, using specific thresholds to determine whether to trigger a soft, plucked or slapped sound. This is potentially problematic since a kid may never be able to play a slapped sound, and an XXL-sized adult may never be able to play a soft sound. I sense that Apple wouldn’t like this kind of user-inconsistency which locks people out of certain aspects of the app based on their physical size. It’s surprising they approved Orphion at all, and I agree the recent turnaround is likely related to potential changes in iOS 7.

  • jackjass

    i’m no developer – why does apple care if it’s a public or private api? what does that even mean?

    • foljs

      It means it uses functionality developers are not supposed to use.

      There are two cases for why private APIs exist:

      1) they are not finalised and it might change at any point as they refine the SDK. Apple uses them internally in some apps, but doesn’t feel they are of enough quality to be made public just yet. Think of it as a prototype car. Ford might test it in the premises, but it won’t give access to it to consumers. If developers are using a private API then when Apple changes it (e.g to improve it or do it differently) all apps that rely on it break.

      The “public” part means “this stuff will not change, you can use them and be assured your app will work with iOS updates”.

      2) the company wants to only itself use those APIs.

      Reason 1 is far more prevalent. Every platform or library has tons of internal (private) APIs. The distinction between private and public APIs is also important for several styles of programming, because it’s believed to make programs more robust and easier to change in the future.

      Reason (2) can also happen, but that’s not in play here, or the case usually.

  • Austin


  • OSer

    Sell API to apple or just give it to apple for free, or public the API to see if everybody use it will apple pull all of them out of the store?

  • lala

    apple seams to know what they are doing
    its not like no one thought of looking @ how many pixels are covered by dynamic fingering before any of these apps came out

    and if i can think of that apple sure has looked into that?

    so why isn’t that in the public APIs? is the interesting question …

    sorry for the developer, must have been quite a surprise after all this time
    but it’s not like he wasn´t pressing thumbs during the 1st review?

  • Yanakyl

    This is bad!!!!
    Orphion is not the only one using that, how should we give dynamic to touch?

    Accelerometer is too slow and not precise enough, using spacing on the screen means loosing a lot of space for other parameters, and plus dynamic has to be vertical to be really playable.

  • dyscode

    As much as some people like to get out the lynch mob, what Apple did was the right thing. Private APIs are not there for using them publicly or bettter: at all. This is nothing more than a quick hack. And if the next arbitrary iOS update make the app unstable or even break it the app the uproar from users is still the same. A no win situation for everybody, until Apple enforces clean coding. For sure Apple needs to enter conversion on what useres and Programmers want. But a stable low-level API is nothing that can be developed in a day, also.

  • Phill MyOneManBand

    I’ve just set up a petition to try and get the word to Apple that Orphion is a very innovative and viable use of the technology in the iPad and that its creator should be supported and allowed to continue to sell his wares, not limited and restricted by apple, please consider signing to help keep Orphion as it is.

    • Bit Shape

      While this is a noble effort, it comes off as aggressive (“Apple owes us!”). The biggest impact will come from developers filing feature requests in Apple’s Bug Reporter, staying positive, and providing use cases that support exposing a public API for touch size.

    • Yanakyl

      Thank you for your info

    • Phill MyOneManBand

      I think that, to an extent , Apple DOES owe us!!

      I have spent a lot of good money on my iPads and I did so because of the innovative musical instrument work that is being done by developers such as Bastus Trump.

      On a more literal level , I BOUGHT Orphion on the basis of its unique features , features that were at some stage approved by apple….for them now to suggest that the app should be retrospectivly crippled IS something I have money (all be it a tiny amount) invested in, Apple has taken a share of this so they DO owe me, at least an explaination.

      If developers want to fill in requests, more power to the wheel, I am not a developer, just a customer, so this is my response.

    • Bit Shape

      I totally understand that, but from Apple’s review guidelines: “If your App is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps.”

      I think a clear customer response is a good thing, and I’m glad you put together a petition. But as they say, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

    • Phill MyOneManBand

      I have added a Please to the start of my petition, you were correct to point out that it did sound a little harsh without it, it is the way that the form you use to make the petition is worded, vs how it combines what you enter.

      I don’t belive this app was rejected, it has been on sale for a long time, this is why I find this U turn strange, moving the goal posts once customers have parted with cash through their own iStore
      No one is saying that the Apps developer is running to the press, I am in no way affiliated with the developer. This is just my reaction as a customer and musician trying to protect the future development of one of my tools.

  • Ted Barrett

    Cantor is the most musical interface yet on the iPad. How do we change Apples mind?

  • James Power

    Just curious, is there an Android version of this app?

    edit: nevermind I see comments below on this very issue. I will say if you haven’t looked at Android in awhile they’ve recently updated their audio system pretty drastically and latency should be reduced quite a bit. Check out this video from IO:

  • nesnduma

    This is a plus of Android, where this touch feature is officially supported and exposed to the developers. Duh, Apple.

  • lala

    hm, maybe what happened is there are so many display sizes and resolutions now that the api reacts very different across devices?

  • sanbaba

    Just wanted to say, one good thing came of all this — thanks to you and Apple, I discovered Orphion. What a great tool! The extra 99 cents to make it useful is maybe a bad idea imho, but hey, this is a phenomenal little app for $5. I will be keeping and backing up Orphion, and if you’re listening Apple, fuck ya if you think I’m going to install your crap iOS 7 so I can be inconvenienced by autoupdates. Your apps are awesome — in spite of you at every turn! >:PPP

    • anthony antfactor

      I second the notion that this inspired me to re-examine, download and start using this phenomenal app(!). I’ve exposed others to it as well – but as I’ve said before: we’ll all get a LOT more mileage out of expressing our views through their feedback system than by complaining and arguing HERE.

  • Aaron

    Microsoft gets sued over having private APIs… Apple openly enforces private APIs and it goes on unabated.

    Funny how that works.

  • anthony antfactor

    To those people trashing Apple’s iOS development concerns, I ask: Would you rather a COMPLETELY open platform where things MAY work nicely together? Or a more “closed” platform where things WILL work as expected, and are not nearly as likely to crash in the middle of your concert/performance?

    Personally, I’ll take the latter – any day – over the former.

    Instead of arguing and trashing, why don’t you write directly to Apple and tell them your loves, desires, and concerns… And be sure to tell them the REASON you use an iPad is due to the incredible wealth of musically useful and expressive APPS.