Music is a critical for situations where emotion is peaking—action movies, a night on the town, romantic encounters and even conversations with co-workers or friends who may be a little overly dramatic sometimes.
Yesterday morning I started replying to a co-worker’s message. In it I found myself being a little overly dramatic myself. (Not unjustly.) “Well, OK,” I said. “Just making sure you haven’t forgotten me. I’m out here all alone, you know. All alone. You could probably use this by now:”
Just after that colon was where I wanted to insert a link to Apple’s App Store for a tiny violin app. It was one of the first apps I ever downloaded on my iPhone and was indeed occasionally useful. In my search of the App Store I found not one but four tiny violin apps, each 99¢. Which to choose?
Today, dear reader, let me help you save up to $4 when evaluating tiny violin apps for your iOS device. It’s the least I can do. I’m pretty sure of that.
Tiny violin history
Tiny violin apps aren’t easy to find, especially if you search in the iOS App Store for “tiny violin”. Search instead for “smallest violin” and you should find all the contenders. The phrase I recall is, “This is the world’s tiniest violin and it’s playing just for you”, however, my online research indicates the correct phrase uses “smallest violin” instead. Apparently, that’s important.
Quotes in popular culture reference this phrase different ways:
Loretta Swit as Maj. Margaret Houlihan in M*A*S*H (1978)
“Charles, do you know what this is? It’s the world’s smallest violin, and it’s playing just for you.”
Interestingly, this episode may have been the origin of rubbing fingers together to demonstrate the “world’s smallest violin”.
Original reference to this term may have been “The world’s Smallest Violin Playing Hearts and Flowers”. “Hearts and Flowers” is a song composed by Theodore Moses in 1899 but the instrumental version accompanied a multitude of silent and melodramatic films.
The tiny violin iOS app market is fortunately (or unfortunately) not saturated. Again, I only found four apps when searching for “tiny violin” and “smallest violin”.
|Tiny Violin||World’s Smallest Violin||SmallestViolin||Worlds Smallest Violin|
|By Brian Gorby||By Demis Bellot||By NoCO Apps, LLC||By AppManic Corp|
|Version: 1.8.3||Version: 1.1||Version: 1.1.0||Version: 1.0|
|Updated: Oct 23, 2013||Updated: Apr 28, 2009||Updated: Jun 10, 2014||Released: Jun 26, 2010|
|Requires iOS 6.0 or later.||Requires iOS 2.2 or later.||Requires iOS 6.1 or later.||Requires iOS 3.0 or later.|
With price leveling the playing field across all the apps, the only question to answer is “which app is best?”
The oldest app World’s Smallest Violin was last updated in 2009 and the newest SmallestViolin was last updated in 2014. We should see some significant differences between these two and the competitive iterations in between, right? Am I right?
When you’re ready to pull out the fiddle you want to tap a pretty button. Developers for Tiny Violin and Worlds Smallest Violin (note the lack of the possessive apostrophe on the last one—that’s not a typo) opted for realistic violins while developers for World’s Smallest Violin and SmallestViolin went for silhouettes.
While the realistic icons are more “classical”, the icon for World’s Smallest Violin has some nice color tones to it and doesn’t have to struggle with rendering the detail of a realistic image. I have to say, though, the market newcomer NoCO Apps, LLC, didn’t put much effort into its black & white icon. It says to me, “I don’t really care to buy you dinner first. Hope you’re OK with that.”
First impressions are important. What’s the first thing we see when launching each app? Below are the start screens for Tiny Violin, World’s Smallest Violin, SmallestViolin and Worlds Smallest Violin.
Clearly the the most mature app World’s Smallest Violin sports more design than the others with its parchment colored background and musical notes trailing across the screen. It does, however, show its age along with Worlds Smallest Violin by displaying a screen designed for the older and shorter 4S and under iPhones.
Tiny Violin goes so far as to present a very uncluttered interface by removing the status bar at the top of the screen to hide carrier information, clock, battery, etc. However, although insignificant on its own, the violin artwork appears washed out and over-saturated compared to the others.
Sometimes we need a bigger violin or our iPhones aren’t available. Do these small violin apps work on iPad too? The answer is a qualified “yes” to all of them.
All iPhone apps will work on the larger iPad devices, but only the newest entrant into the small violin market SmallestViolin is actually optimized for the larger screen. The other three make use of the iPad’s 2x feature to enlarge the app to fill the screen. Surprisingly, these three apps only open in 2x view and the option to return to 1x view is not available.
How does one play a tiny violin on an iOS device? Simple: just use your finger to drag the bow left and right across the violin. Each app does have subtle differences, though.
Newcomer SmallestViolin is the only app that allows dragging anywhere on or off the bow to begin playing music. While this allows the player to quickly play a tune, it feels haphazzard to be moving the bow, which moves only left and right, without actually touching it.
Tiny Violin and Smallest Violin both require touching the bow to move it and begin play but do have one anomaly. Letting go of the bow to stop playing doesn’t stop the music. It carries on for a few seconds after release even when quickly closing the app, which is a bit disconcerting.
Only World’s Smallest Violin seems to respect both the concept of having to touch the bow to move it and stopping the music when the bow is released.
Tiny violins must set the mood! How does each compare?
Tiny Violin has three selections: Despair, Joy and Let’s rock! For sad stories the Despair selection is most appropriate. But it really sounds like a new violinist practicing scales rather than melodramatic backgroun music. Joy and Let’s rock are both definitely upbeat, but I have to ask “why?” I don’t really need a tiny violin to set the mood for a square dance or rock concert.
World’s Smallest Violin also comes with three musical options, each selectable by tapping a note in the app window. And each of the choices is appropriate for a different type of melodramtic mood.
SmallestViolin ships with five options, selectable by tapping the right or left arrows at the bottom of the screen. The color of the violin denotes the tune. Unfortunately, all the tunes are rather upbeat and not very appropriate for that melodramatic moment when your co-worker starts complaining about his first world problems.
Finally, Worlds Smallest Violin comes with a grand total of two alternating tunes. The player doesn’t get to select which he hears.
What else makes any of these apps stand out from the rest?
Both Tiny Violin and SmallestViolin offer a “shake to play” feature, which doesn’t really make much sense to me. Seems like more effort to shake the phone than simply swiping a thumb across the screen.
And SmallestViolin offers one really confusing “feature”—at least I think it’s a feature. Double-tap the screen and it shrinks from a small violin to a microscopic violin. See that tiny spec in the middle? Yep, that’s an even tinier violin. Just double-tap again to return it to normal size. In all fairness, this one wins the “smallest violin” award.
Which is the best tiny violin app?
After purchasing all four tiny violin for 99¢ each and evaluating them carefully, World’s Smallest Violin (with possessive apostrophe) is the best hands down. While it may have two fewer tunes than SmallestViolin and not be optimized for iPhone 5 and higher like Tiny Violin and SmallestViolin, it has more visual style and a better selection of moody music than the others. It also functions as expected, playing only when your finger touches and moves the bow.
And considering this app hasn’t been updated since 2009, giving the other three apps five years to surpass it, they simply don’t. In fact SmallestViolin, my pick for worst app, is only three months old and pretty lackluster given that it had three predecessors. Someone didn’t do his market research.
You, dear reader, need only spend 99¢ on the app that matches your needs most closely. I have saved you $2.97 by not having to purchase the rest. Choose not to purchase any of these four apps and you’ll save an additional 99¢ for a total of $3.96. Your welcome!
I think I’ve over-analyzed this.