Apple has introduced an update for the iOS version of GarageBand that makes it compatible with iPhones and iPod touches, too. The now universal app is available as a free update for owners of the iPad version, or it’s $4.99 if you’re buying it for the first time.
The iPhone version is pretty much the same as its iPad cousin, with the same multitouch and smart instruments, eight tracks of editing layers and audio export capabilities. But Apple has taken the opportunity to refine the product with some new tools and features, too.
Smart instruments gain custom chord support, so that you can make your own to strum. This allows seasoned musical pros to get off the beaten path and produce some pleasant and more unique sounds, and amateurs like me to do terrible things that no one should be forced to listen to. You can also change time signatures to 3/4 and 6/8, change the key of your currently active song and export to iTunes as AAC or AIFF format. There’s also an Arpeggiator (tones in a chord played in rapid succession, not all at once) option for the Smart Keyboard.
All the new tools seem designed to provide more fun for the experienced set, while maintaining the low barrier for entry that makes GarageBand such a generally appealing app to begin with.
My initial unskilled hands-on reveals a product that doesn’t lose much appeal compared to the iPad version, though the smaller screen might feel a little more cramped to some. Apple does a good job of simplifying control interfaces, however, to avoid making the on-screen space feel claustrophobic.
If you’ve been left out of the iOS GarageBand party before now because you didn’t own an iPad, now’s the time to add your voice to the chorus, even if you can’t carry a tune or even keep time to save your life. Note that you’ll need a device at least capable of running iOS 5 to use the app, even though the software requirements actually only need iOS 4.3 or higher.