It has been a little while since we last looked at the long running, unresolved issue of audio latency and Android. I wish I could tell you that things were all fixed up with the roll-out of Android Lollipop, but sadly there doesn’t appear to have been enough of an improvement.
Results compiled by Nervous Systems using data collected by the SuperPowered measurement application, which we talked about before, show that the most popular Android handsets are still far too slow at providing a round-trip from jack/mic to speaker for real-time audio processing. The results from the 20 most popular phones can be seen below.
For reference, the threshold of latency detection for audio, among other senses, is around 20ms before the brain will perceive the delay as two separate sounds. Keep in mind that this test is a simple round trip with no time spared for any processing! Even the best Android phones still fall well short of the 5-20ms target, with most modern handsets putting in a best score of 60-70ms.
On the plus side, there has been an improvement since Android 5.0 Lollipop, with many phones showing around a 40ms reduction in latency. But the final results are still far too high for real-time processing. It is especially disappointing that Apple devices score less than 10ms in the same test. Despite showing the biggest improvements, even the Nexus 5 doesn’t come close.
Samsung has its own Professional Audio SDK which exposes jack audio data directly to Android applications for reduced latency somewhere in the much more acceptable 10-15ms range. However, this has to be implemented on a per-app basis and likely isn’t used very widely and was disable for the test.
This issue is a problem not because it affects day-to-day audio playback, but because it is still locking Android out as a creative platform for real-time audio. Real-time apps that require jack or mic data just aren’t feasible with Android, years after the issue was originally raised.
Sadly, there’s not much we can do about it, other than keep complaining and hoping that Google comes up with a solution.