BeatPhone, drum machine for iPhoneWay back at the Apple iPhone introduction, I said I thought people would want to use the phone as a musical instrument. Well, here you go: meet BeatPhone, a clever code hack from a chilled-out Spanish mobile musician. Feature set:

  • 9 one-shot pads
  • 6 loop-pads
  • Samples in “any” format : WAV, AIFF, …
  • Output at 44.1kHz, 16-bits
  • Up to 256 samples polyphony

BeatPhone Project Page [I-lusio]
Via: BeatPhone []

The project will be open, and more cool features are planned:

  • Strudder pads (stop previous playback and start again)
  • Metronome, BPM detection on “tap”
  • Loop stretching
  • Record samples and live mixes
  • Landscape sequencer
  • Tactile effect box

Updated: There appears to be unrelated project called MPC500, which at least has a pretty, iPhone-style interface. Of course, it function as an MPC about as much as those cardboard cutouts of the iPhone do a real phone. But more music apps are promised. (Thanks, Steve! Now, when will people start doing more multi-touch?)

Interesting, though of course none of this is new on mobile devices; Palm and Windows Mobile phones have a broad variety of music applications, with mobile Linux and Java I expect on their way — and those makers actually let you install applications. That’s not to take away from BeatPhone’s general coolness.

There’s just one problem. If anything should go wrong with your iPhone, under Apple’s warranty terms if you’re running third-party apps, you’ve got no warranty, meaning you could have a:

Apple Brick

Sorry, couldn’t resist. In fairness, Apple wanted to block people from unlocking iPhones and using them on TMobile. In my ideal world, phones would come unlocked, but that is their prerogative. But is killing all app development really necessary? Don’t we have Sony when we need mobile devices with updates that break homebrew software? Do we need Apple, too, the company that gave us Apple II and Mac, two developer-friendly platforms?

Even given those setbacks — maybe even more impressive because of them — it’s clear coding custom tools for your own gear, after a long hiatus, is back for good. If manufacturers get hip to the DIY developer, they could build terrific new devices.

iPhone owners, do let us know if you try this out. I’m sure you can shoot better video (see after the jump). But me, I’ll keep ogling that Palm Centro and waiting for it to ship.

Check out this glitchy video:

  • Argh – "brick" is a verb now? It's hard to keep up with the fast paced (d)evolution of language these days.

  • That actually looks cool I might try that out.

    As to the so-called brick-

    Incompetent Hacks Blamed For iBricks

    By Rob Beschizza October 10, 2007 | 7:02:30 AMCategories: iPhone Hacks

    Amid a war of words between iPhone hackers, one has been removed from the development channel and a new group has formed independently of the core team. The new group, calling itself the iPhone "Elite" Team, claims that iUnlock and AnySIM contained critical flaws which resulted in users' handsets being bricked when updated.

    "No, it wasn't Apple's fault. Rather than figure out how to fix this themselves, the iPhone Dev Team would rather work on jailbreaking the new 1.1.1 and keep accepting your donations. We want this fixed — we want them to take responsibility for their bunk code.

    Introducing itself as the bearers of the 1.1.1 jailbreak, the Elite team makes a point of not asking for donations and not micromanaging its community. The split appears to be the result of strategic and personal differences: Hacker Zibri's unceremonious removal from the iPhone Develop Group's IRC channel combined with the technical claims regarding the poor code found in outstanding hacks.

    Growth and success in the face of a powerful foe has its downside. This is, perhaps, a standard volunteer-development tempest in a teacup. If it's more a substantial schism, it could make life harder for the everyday user who just wants his or her hacks ready before bedtime. Wither thou goest, haxxors?

    Things are very interesting when you really look into them.

  • I have looked into them; I'm still not sold on Apple's anti-developer policies on the iPhone.

    I'm going to remove the verb "brick" though as, Cloud and Keith are *both* right, it doesn't mean anything. I don't want to become a snarky tech blogger, really! 😉

    The problem is, Apple has claimed running *any* software voids your warranty:

    I agree that full-blown hacks have the potential to cause real reliability problems, without Apple's help. Apps like BeatPhone, by contrast, do not have that same potential. (Worst case scenario: reboot.) In fact, these apps could be even safer if, say, Apple provided a Java runtime, as virtually every competing phone does.

    But that comes back to the fundamental problem: why hack the iPhone when you can develop for a cheaper alternative? I can't think of a single handset I've seen aside from the iPhone that lacks an SDK. And, of course, outside the US the whole idea of being locked into a carrier with a phone is foreign in many parts of the world.

    So, yeah, I see the hacks as unstable. I don't think you should have to do this much hacking on a device just to get basic functionality and developer support.

    I admire the mentality of the hackers, I do. But I'm beginning to wonder why hacking a closed device gets the hype, while doing actual development on an open device gets virtually ignored.

    This app, meanwhile, is really cool, and I get it … it's possible because iPhone does have hardware features that support it, and there is an SDK, even if you can't get at it. But I do hope that our excitement over iPhone won't cause us to forget to advocate real open devices.

  • busoni

    As an independent developer of mobile audio soft I'm tempted to code for the iPhone too. On the other hand I think I rather should not support Apple's politics of closing down everything and code for other smartphones instead. If I'm not welcome why should I transport the iPhone hype further or even encourage people to buy such a crippled device? Apple's not nice to me at all and they just don't deserve my work.

    OK, my applications probably aren't so attractive anyway that they could actually influence soemone's phone choice. But still I think that's the only chance to change things: Make better applications for Symbian and Windows Mobile so that openness to 3rd party apps becomes a more important factor than it already is (see Nokia's recent campaign).

    If the Nokias and HTCs just weren't so ugly..

  • Does it have any relation to this?

  • Fintain

    I can understand why apple want to block development though. For me if I bought an iPhone, it would be that a phone. Open it open to all kinds of buggy software that is not all that useful would be counter productive. If you want a drum machine buy a drum machine, if you want a phone buy a phone, but mixing the two is never going to be a great idea.

  • Im glad someone else is excited about the centro. Besides running bhajis, I can use its rad evdo speed to grab samples off the interwebs, and do sample editing for littlepiggytracker. Then upload my track to my website.

    Palm may be old, but it has software that I can use TODAY, and thats a big plus.

    So expect a centro review next week from me 🙂

  • bliss

    Maybe iPhone 2.0 will be more open to developers. A lot of the other phones, whether running Symbian or Windows, have been around for quite awhile and their OSes are not version 1.0 or 1.1.1. They're rather mature platforms for mobile phone use and computing. The iPhone runs Mac OS X which from the beginning is capable of running just about anything. Though, in the context of a mobile phone it may be unstable to just about anything without out some of the hardware/software (ROMs and memory controllers) dependencies found on Macintosh motherboards. Just a thought.

  • Well, when I've seen instability, it's generally come from the OS/hardware, not third-party apps. These are oddities, it's true, but there are countless other apps that are actually important to people. My counter is always, it only takes one app to make a difference.

    And, anyway, assuming we do agree with Apple's decision, if you are *developing apps*, it does raise the question of how much effort you want to put into the iPhone.

  • @Peter — have you figured out how to track down a Centro? Looks like pre-orders available directly from Palm, but weirdly not Sprint?

  • busoni


    the iPhone is not just a phone (actually, the phone functions are rather average or even below that, the cheapest Nokia will do the same or even better) but a little computer – and also marketed as such – with a powerful processor and an interesting multitouch interface that could very well work as music production device. It's that promise of a little computer with "OS X" on it which makes people wonder why there is no software for it.

    I see the system is new and it's a little risky to open it up for 3rd party software. However, Symbian and Microsoft have shown that it is possible. Most people just enjoy the standard OS functions, but it's great to be able to extend functionality with all kinds of handy apps.

    I'm afraid Apple has not closed the system for user securety but to secure revenue streams. If it was open, they couldn't sell ringtones anymore and they'd lose control on which audio player you use. And I guess they plan to sell apps via iTunes which will of course do better without competition from outside.

    Anyway, as I said before: I agree the iPhone should remain a phone and nothing else and people who want apps should get a real smartphone instead.

  • Yea i ordered mine off the palm site. Oddly enough a sprint rep told me that even though i was an existing customer, I could still get the $99 price.

    They are offering free 2nd day shipping, so the palm route didn't seem half bad for once.

  • Fintain

    I'm suffering from tech burn out. For me, I think the mark of a good device is that it should do a few things very well. Features for the sake of it are just getting stuffed into everything with more and more options, drum machines on phones, phones on drum machines etc. You have to draw the line somewhere or you'll perpetually go around in an extra feature and option round about. This applies to both everyday consumer devices and music instruments. I think apple realize this and want to restrict the platform to useful, well designed applications that it can control the quality of.

  • Fintain: I agree, and even though I'm a tech blogger I suffer from tech burnout, too. No, really. 😉 But if you have the ability to control what apps you have on a device, you can pick out what you need. You have no obligation to use stuff you don't want. By contrast, if a device doesn't do something you need, you have the *workaround* — which make be more inconvenient.


    Apple makes these great, general-purpose devices that are easy to type on, called computers. With my cheap Sprint phone, I can use 3G speeds by connecting to my phone via Bluetooth with my MacBook. It's perfectly well-designed. Works great. Apple apparently didn't care enough to implement this. And that's essentially what a phone is — a modem. So I'd say the iPhone *doesn't* do some fundamental things well.

    And the music app … I think the point is, these Palm apps do an excellent job of being mobile music machines. (Probably not the drum pad so much above, but I think it was just intended as proof-of-concept / experiment.) So, if you can use a $99 phone to have a little portable idea pad, if you use that just once or twice but it keeps you creative on the go, what's the harm?

    I agree that cramming unnecessary functionality is another matter … for instance, yeah, it's extra work to carry an actual camera but well worth it. But then, why not let users choose? If you don't want apps, don't install them. But electronics are valuable; shouldn't the user determine their functionality?

  • busoni

    Yes, why not leave that decision to the users then, why prevent them from installing 3rd party apps?

    OK, I had the choice to get a smartphone instead and I did. But I'm still a little frustrated because iPhone / iPod touch would be such perfectly suited platforms for music programs.

    Enough complaints, I'll just continue to program my apps for symbian / windows mobile and hope future smartphones will be a little more stylish. iPhone users certainly can live without my programs and enjoy the premium software selection provided by apple.

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  • juan

    Hey i found a new app called RockDrum it works using the accelerometer allowing you to perfom play like with real drumsticks

    take a look at

  • Sorry to be commenting on such an old post. I hadn't seen this drumming app before.. Looks pretty straight forward. BeatPhone is nice and I wish MooCowMusic would have released their "drummer" app, but gotta make do with what's out there. I'm gonna go check this one out now.