Music app maker Smule has been one of the longest Android hold-outs, often citing the way Android devices handle audio as a reason it hasn’t embraced the mobile platform. But the company, with more than 45 million downloads on iOS to date, is finally showing Android some love with the release of Songify, a former No. 1 music app that takes people’s spoken words and turns it into catchy songs.
The free app, which is now available on Google Play, recreates the Songify experience and should be a welcome addition to fans, who have been clamoring for an Android edition. The Songify app, with 9 million downloads to date, came to Smule through the acquisition of Khush in December, but Smule’s new Android interest won’t just be limited former Khush apps. The next app to get the Android treatment is Magic Piano, an original Smule title that will launch on Android next month. It’s unclear when and if Smule’s other big hits like I Am T-Pain, Glee Karaoke, and Ocarina migrate over to Android.
Smule’s executives have repeatedly tamped down expectations about Android apps. Smule’s co-founder Ge Wang said late last year that the audio latency in many Android devices made it very difficult to bring their apps to the platform. Prerna Gupta, a co-founder of Khush, told me in an email that Smule started with Songify because the app doesn’t have the realtime audio needs that other Smule apps do. But she said that Smule has come up with a work-around for Android’s latency problem that will be deployed in Magic Piano.
Gupta said that iOS is still the leading platform for Smule because it offers great hardware, a good SDK, critical mass, and distribution. But she said Android has grown to the point, it can’t be ignored any longer.
“The critical mass on Android has become very interesting to us. Ultimately, our goal is to make musical self-expression as ubiquitous as social expression is today. Having a presence on Android will be an important step toward reaching that goal,” Gupta said.
Ge Wang, the co-founder of Smule said even with the work the company is doing to address Android’s latency issues on its end, it still needs more improvement from Google and the device makers.
“At the end of the day, we want to delight users by making the best use of the underlying platform. We hope to work backwards from the users and the platform, embracing both its strengths and limitations, to design our experiences to also make full use of devices on Android,” Wang said in an email.
Smule’s decision to develop for Android signals how even some of the biggest iOS-only apps are finding a way to make it to Android. Instagram made a big splash with its long-awaited appearance on Android, though it also prompted complaints from some iOS loyalists who complained about the influx of ugly pictures from Android users.
Gupta said Android is still a challenge to develop for because there are so many devices that need to be tested. And even with a lot of development work, there are going to be devices that have not been tested, which she said is “unnerving.” But she said Android is improving as an OS, which has been an encouraging sign for app developers.