When the iPad first came out, apps were limited to simple beatboxes and quasi-novelty tools. But as the platform has matured and devices have become more powerful, some excellent mobile DAWs have been developed that rival desktop applications in many ways. Apple has the resources to make GarageBand for iOS free, but if you spend a few Dollars you can get something else really quite advanced. Among the front runners are Cubasis, with advanced MIDI and audio editing tools, unlimited tracks and full plug-in capability, Auria with its emulation of a high-end studio setup, and slightly left field alternatives like Korg’s Gadget, which now allows audio recording and slicing on top of its powerful MIDI and instrument sequencing.
The cloud is becoming an ever more integral part of music-making. Apple makes it possible to seamlessly transfer raw projects between GarageBand and Logic via iCloud, Macs and iOS devices, as do some third party developers for their apps. Even when that isn’t provided for, you can very often now import and export audio to and from the cloud and save data remotely, meaning no more fiddling with USB sticks or the dreaded iTunes File Sharing tab. The barriers to moving between devices have never been lower.
Ableton, in making their Ableton Link technology open to all developers, has really opened up the iOS platform in the way it always needed - without wires. Let’s be honest, connecting USB cables is a pain. While WIST over Bluetooth was good it never took off in the way that Link has. And since it’s provided across both mobile and desktop apps, you no longer have to think of the two worlds as separate. Seamlessly sync up all kinds of apps on all your devices to jam live or record multiple performers at the same time.
Camera Connection Kit? Pah! Developers - most notably IK Multimedia - have been building devices that get around Apple’s “one Lightning port” provision by grouping a bunch of input and output protocols into devices that connect to your iPad or iPhone using just one port, often handling power, audio and MIDI where necessary. As well as pro-level mics with built-in monitoring like the iRig Mic series and iRig interfaces, they recently released the iRig Keys I/O - an all-in-one device for MIDI control and audio recording down a single cable to your iPad, phone, Mac or PC. No more carrying 4 devices and loads of wires - just plug and play.
Somewhat quietly, Apple has been adding software features to iOS that really benefit musicians. As well as Inter-App Audio that lets you route audio between apps invisibly and CoreMIDI to connect all your apps together virtually, it also developed Audio Units for iOS so now your favourite developer can make their instruments and effects available as plugins inside iOS that can be loaded into your mobile DAWs - just like you do on the desktop.