Okay, so you got the message not to rush into macOS Catalina. But we didn’t talk about the new iOS and what it means for musicians using iPads and iPhones in their work. Let’s explain.
What’s the hurry?
With iOS, just as with macOS, the main message is – don’t rush. Moving to grab a new OS the day it’s out is crazy. There’s virtually no case where you need to stay that current for
iOS does pose an additional challenge: it’s practically impossible to roll back after upgrading. So take your time, leave some weeks for the bugs to be ironed out, and make sure you’re not upgrading right before going onstage with your iPad as a live instrument.
Okay, with all of that out of the way – iOS 13 doesn’t appear as though it will cause any long-lasting incompatibilities with music software. iOS 13 brought some major changes, particularly on the iPad, but those are gradually getting smoother out – in particular with the iOS 13.1 release.
Fixes are here or inbound
iOS 13 got off to a somewhat rocky start for music, but Apple
There are two specific areas I’ve been tracking.
Bluetooth MIDI. iOS 13 does in the short term introduce some connectivity issues with working with MIDI over Bluetooth and discoverability. I’ve seen sporadic unconfirmed reports of this, plus an official statement from KORG that their wireless devices that work over Bluetooth MIDI are presently incompatible. (That’s microKEY Air, nanoKEY Studio, and nanoKONTROL Studio.)
Apple did make changes to some Bluetooth security permissions, as the company seems uniquely focused on security and privacy as issues. (See also: macOS Catalina.) I would presume that may be the reason for this.
KORG says they are working on a fix, though. Wired connections are also a workaround. There seems to be no evidence this will be a long-term issue, just something that requires some short-term fixes.
See KORG’s statement on iOS 13 and Catalina.
Inter-App Audio (and Audiobus). This one I think probably impacts more people – but there’s actually good news here.
Starting in iOS 12.4, software like Audiobus might encounter an issue where routing audio between apps ceased working when operating in the background (or interrupted by a call, etc.).
Anyway, it’s not so important now. These issues are fixed, both on iOS 12 (12.4.2+) and iOS 13 (13.1+).
Audiobus remains a great way to route audio between apps. And the migration to AUv3 from the original architecture is – actually okay, as well. I spoke with the developer of Audiobus and Loopy about how that transition will go earlier this year:
Other issues. iOS 13.1 delivered a bunch of fixes to various unexpected behaviors, and developers are following suit. (Bleeding edge, advanced apps like Moog’s Minimoog Model D and Model 15 saw some issues, which have since been resolved, CDM has confirmed.)
There are also some reasons to genuinely look forward to iOS 13, particularly in that it finally adds real file management (with Files), though it’ll take some time for developers to update their tools.
I’m not here to bash Apple releases or to be a cheerleader. The question is what will allow you to focus on making music. Right now, from Apple, that’s looking like macOS Mojave for the rest of 2019, and iOS 12.4.2+ or 13.1.
iOS 13 is a reasonable update at the moment if you’ve got some time to make adjustments. You don’t need to grab it right this instant, but you certainly could if you’re not sitting backstage about to play live on Bluetooth MIDI controllers.
For users of capable iPads, if you want an insanely exhaustive review of the iPad-specific iPadOS, Ars has you covered:
Love it or hate iOS, I think it is plainly inaccurate to claim that Apple isn’t looking at these issues. We can say objectively they are attempting to fix issues identified by third-party music developers – as they should, as any OS vendor should. You don’t have to love the results, but you can’t say the process isn’t happening.
And on another level, I think it’s equally fair to say that Apple’s iPad is unmatched if what you’re looking to buy is a dedicated touch tablet. Sure, Windows is a player with its Surface line for running Windows software with some touch capabilities, and you will definitely even prefer a Surface if you want to run desktop-only software like Ableton Live or Reaktor.
But there’s no reason to change the evaluation of the iPad as a platform. Their low-end models are already powerful enough to run a host of live music and audio apps, with a growing range of pro-quality tools from the likes of Eventide. (That in itself is a big enough story to talk about separately, since it makes Eventide’s effects accessible and affordable like never before. There are other examples, too – but this one is particularly plain.)
If we missed something, do sound off in comments – developers or users – as we’d love to hear your experience and pass it along.