With competition heating up in the streaming music space, your choices have never been better. With a recent update, Spotify for Android and iOS now comes with free streaming, supported by ads, on mobile devices.
Desktop users of the Spotify application have had this feature for a while. Now, it's available on mobiles and tablets with various limitations compared to the premium service.
As soon as I heard of the new free options for mobiles, I installed the app on my Android tablet. A few days later, I installed it on my mobile phone and another tablet, I got something different from what I'd seen earlier. There was a dialog box about a 48 hour free trial. My research found that you're registered for Spotify premium for 48 hours. After this period your account becomes a free account. I won't be covering any premium features in this review.
When launching the app on Android, you're asked to sign in or sign up for a Spotify account. You can enter an email address or sign up using your Facebook account. I found this process quite tedious and gave up. I went to the Spotify website on my desktop PC and created an account there. On a tablet, It's annoying as it forces portrait mode for the login procedure.
On their website they make this statement. 'This app may post (on Facebook) on your behalf, including songs you listened to, radio stations you listened to and more.' Going back to the app, I was able to login via Facebook. You get a screen with 'Downloaded Playlists' and 'Starred' content. These are empty when you begin with a new account. A tap of the familiar setting icon gives you a choice of what to do next. Browse, Discover, Radio, Playlists, Inbox, Friends and Settings.
Once you get past all that, a browse shows a screen full of playlist categories. If you're using Spotify on a tablet, you can create your own playlists in much the same way you can on the Spotify desktop application. The streaming isn't on demand, but playlists are shuffled. You can't reorder the list, but you get six skips (skip a song) per hour.
I tried searching for one of my favorite artists and got a list of albums and a good number of user created playlists. Impressive! Tapping on the playlist started the streaming after a short delay. The number of pre-built playlists is extensive. Some examples are a classical music playlist designed for studying and a runners playlist crafted with the optimum beats per minute for motivation and pacing.
The in-app ads come in the form of a short audio ad about Spotify between songs, and some ads at the bottom of the screen similar to other free apps. The audio ads only play every five or six tracks which is better than most conventional radio stations. I think this infrequent ad insertion is a small price to pay for what you're getting for free. You'll also see occasional 'Go Premium' messages in the app but these aren't distracting. You can't download songs for offline playback as you can on the pay-by-the-month subscription.
There's a Spotify entry in the notification area with a pause button. If you tap the notification, you'll see a nice screen with the now playing artwork. A tap of the settings button there will display a play queue to show upcoming songs on your selected shuffled playlist.
On a tablet, the app can play specific songs or entire albums and not select similar ones 'you might like'. Sometimes you just aren't in the mood for some algorithm that tries to guess what you may like. Most of those predictions get it wrong and you end up skipping them.
You can get shuffle play through an artists entire back catalog, not just one of their songs every so often. This is a great feature. When I checked the streaming data use, it was around 35 Mb per hour of play. This is worth keeping in mind if you use Spotify to stream music over your mobile data network for long periods.
The developers need to work on their sign-up process on mobiles and clarify the sharing options. Once it's set up, it's certainly worth a try to see if it suits your needs compared to the competition. You can get more details at this web page Spotify Frequently Asked Questions. This page seems to vary depending on your country of origin, so there may be some differences in content.
Spotify — Free Mobile App of the Week
Size: 10.2 MB (varies depending on devices)
For iPhone and iPad
Size: 34.3 MB
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