Never miss a beat

The overwhelming majority of Android devices suffer from too high audio latency, preventing developers from building apps that would satisfy consumer demand on Android.

As such, Google and Android app developers are leaving billions of dollars on the table for Apple and iOS developers because of Android’s 10 Millisecond Problem.

For the purposes of this explainer, roundtrip audio latency is simply the difference in time between when an audio input is introduced into a mobile device, undergo some sort of needed processing, and exits the same device. As any musician will tell you, we as humans are most comfortable with latencies of ~10 milliseconds. Anything significantly higher tends to disturb us.

Most Android apps have more than 100 ms of audio output latency, and more than 200 ms of round-trip (audio input to audio output) latency. To give you a quick example from the Oscar winning film Whiplash, it’s like the drummer is dragging by a half beat behind the band!

Some specific examples on how audio related applications suffer from roundtrip audio latency greater than ~10 ms:

  • Music instruments apps, audio effect apps: musicians cannot play together on stage, as the performer using an Android device will be half beat behind the others. It’s not even usable for practicing.

  • DJs can not perform beat-matching, as their pre-listening signal in their headphones is far behind the master signal playing for the audience. Applying effects like a loop roll or echo is very hard too.

  • Games: sound effects, such as explosions or gun sounds lag behind by a few frames. Game audio is then “detached” from visuals, making for poor user-experience, preventing immersive gaming experiences.

  • VOIP apps, such as Skype: if both users are using a high latency Android phone, the overall audio latency is higher than the network latency. In other words, it takes more time for audio to “flow” through Android, than data packets to be transferred between continents.

  • Virtual reality (VR): when the viewer turns his head, the audio “follows” too late, destroying the 3D audio experience. Check the Paul McCartney Google Cardboard app for an example. Google is on the verge of leaving billions in revenue in VR opportunities for Apple.

Android’s 10 Millisecond Problem: The Android Audio Path Latency Explainer

Tecnico, almeno per una lettura “media”, ma molto interessante.
Educativo, persino, direi, non fosse altro che per provare a comprendere come dettagli apparentemente insignificanti e su una scala piccolissima possano avere conseguenze enormi ed economicamente devastanti.

Stay Tuned,

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