Apple’s GarageBand Gets a Gig on the iPhone

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You’re walking out of the grocery store when the idea hits you: The Greatest Song of All Time. All the elements are in your head–drums, bass, guitar, vocals–and ready to be recorded into reality. But alas, you don’t have your iPad, so you don’t have GarageBand! And by the time you get home, the idea is gone.

That’ll never happen again, now that Apple has launched GarageBand for the iPhone. The app is just as capable as its iPad counterpart, letting you record tracks using virtual instruments, sound samples, your own voice or a guitar. And if you already have the iPad app, GarageBand is a free download on the iPhone 3GS or above, or the iPod Touch 3rd generation or higher.

(LIST: 50 Best iPhone Apps of 2011)

I gave GarageBand a whirl on my old iPhone 3GS. Although certain actions took a few moments to load on this outdated hardware, the instruments were responsive enough, and everything is laid out pretty much like it is on the iPad. Some options are stowed away on separate screens instead of drop-down boxes, as they should be, and there’s no dedicated Undo button (you’ve got to shake the device, like you would to undo text), but otherwise I had no trouble creating songs or getting around the interface.

This may just be a personal preference, but for some instruments I was actually more comfortable on the iPhone than on the larger iPad. With drums, for example, it found it easier to tap out beats with my thumbs on the smaller, handheld device, instead of laying the iPad down and using my forefingers. I’m chalking it up to years of playing video games.

With that in mind, my only nitpick is that you can’t wirelessly transfer song files from one iOS device to another. You have to go through iTunes, which is a cumbersome process. Otherwise, this app is good enough to make me regret, ever so slightly, going with Android for my current phone, because you never know when the muse will strike.

If you don’t have an iPhone or iPod Touch, the latest GarageBand update is still worth getting, because it adds 3/4 and 6/8 time signatures (for waltzes and the like), more quantization options, uncompressed audio exporting and some other minor enhancements.

MORE: App Review: GarageBand for iPad