Spotify Event (April 2018): Free app update preview, latest rumours and live updates
At a big event in New York, music streaming service Spotify made some big announcements about the free tier of its service. Here’s everything you need to know about what was announced today, as well as some rumours about what we thought was going to be announced prior to the April 24 Spotify event.
Initially, we suspected that the event would focus around the announcement of a new piece of hardware, possibly a Spotify smart speaker, before a teaser for the event included the words, “Hear what’s next for our mobile app”, implying that it would be a software-focused presentation.
“What’s next” for the mobile app, it turned out, was an entirely new app aimed at its free tier users powered by a whole lot of machine learning and AI. The company announced that it will be using the technology to automatically generate playlists for its users in an attempt to take on the traditional radio broadcasting industry. Users will get unlimited access to 750 tracks from 15 top playlists (including Discover Weekly), which isn’t nearly as much as they could get through paying for the service, but it’s still a big step up considering they’ll get unlimited ‘skips’ and will be able to pick songs directly.
Spotify’s app hasn’t seen a major upgrade since 2016 when it ditched the ‘hamburger’ menu button in favour of a menu bar across the bottom of the app, and it sounds like things are going to stay that way for the time being. The new functionality was only discussed in relation to the new app, which will be focused on the needs of free users.
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Spotify Event As It Happened: All the news news from Spotify’s free app update event in New York
This event has now concluded, but our full report is below. Alternatively, scroll down for what we had hoped to see at Spotify’s April event.
Today’s Spotify event in New York kicked-off at 2.30pm BST, or 9.30am local time in New York, where the launch is being held.
The first announcement made by the streaming service was that the company will be introducing ‘self-driving playlists’ that will utilise machine learning to generate playlists. Spotify hopes that this feature will allow it to take on traditional broadcast radio in addition to challenging the traditional record store as it has done in the past.
These new playlists will be available through a brand new free mobile app, which the company expects its 90 million free tier users to make use of.
Spotify promised that this new app will be a big upgrade for free users, bringing their experience much closer to the premium tier. They’ll get unlimited free listening to 750 tracks from 15 top playlists, which is over 40 hours of listening. Users can select exact tracks to listen to within these playlists, rather than being forced to rely on shuffle, and can skip as many times as they want.
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The new app is designed to be lightweight, and the firm is promising that it will consume up to 75% less mobile data if they turn on the ‘Data Saver’ mode.
Playlist generation starts when you first open up the new app. It will ask you to list your favourite artists so it knows what music you’re into. After that point, the app’s home screen will be populated with Daily Mixes and curated playlists based on your preferences.
However, if you’d like to curate your own playlist then Spotify will help you do so by suggesting similar songs you might want to add.
The new app will be rolled out globally in the coming weeks.
So far the company has announced no changes to its Premium, £9.99 a month, service.
Spotify sees its free tier as being key to attracting new, young users who can’t afford a monthly subscription. However, through exposing them to new music, the company hopes to broaden their musical horizons while also encouraging them to pay for the service.
There were plenty of rumours swirling before the event began about what the company was expected to announce. Read on below for everything that we hoped would happen.
Spotify Event Rumour #1: Voice control
We were fairly sure that we’d see some kind of voice control announcement out of the event. Recently, select users found that a new ‘mic’ icon had appeared for them in the Spotify app, and pressing it allowed them to control and search for music using just their voice.
Spotify has supported the likes of Alexa and Google Assistant in the past, but building its own voice control functionality would allow it to offer a deeper level of integration by letting people access advanced features like Daily Mixes.
Then again, these voice control tests could have been done in advance of Spotify announcing its own piece of hardware, which was also absent from the event.
Spotify Event Rumour #2: Higher quality streaming
This is something that we’ve wanted forever. Tidal has offered CD-quality 16-bit/44.1kHz streams since its inception, and Deezer got the upgrade late last year. Meanwhile, Spotify tops out at just 320kbps. This isn’t set to change any time soon according to the event.
Initially, we could excuse the lack of CD-quality streams because the internet wasn’t fast enough for most people to be able to stream it — especially on mobile.
But in more recent years this is no longer the case, as shown by the number of Spotify’s competitors that are now offering high quality streams.
Spotify has experimented with high quality streaming in the past in some limited tests last year, but so far the functionality has stayed in the testing phase.
Of course, in an ideal world Spotify would follow its competitors into offering hi-res streaming, but one step at a time right guys?
Spotify Event (April 2018): What we wanted to see from the Spotify update
Make it easier to download music
It wasn’t something that was specifically rumoured, but if Spotify was updating its app then we figured it would be a great opportunity to simplify the process of downloading music for offline listening. However, with no update to the main app detailed, no changes to offline listening are expected.
In an ideal world, we’d all always have the internet available to stream music to our heart’s delight, but the likes of flights and underground commuting mean that in reality some offline listening will occasionally be required.
The good news is that Spotify has allowed its premium subscribers to download music for some time now, but the bad news is that the process of doing so is horribly cumbersome, involving first ‘saving’ a song or album, and then having to download it as part of a batch using a toggle switch at the top of a playlist.
It’s clunky and horrible, and we’d much prefer an easy-to-access button to let us download tracks directly.
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A better offline experience overall
You know what, if you’re fixing the process of downloading music then it would be great to also change up how you go about listening to music when you don’t have an internet connection.
At the moment, there’s no easy way to find your offline music without specifically toggling Spotify’s offline mode from the settings menu, which seems strange when it would be so easy for the app to auto-detect when there’s no connection.
It’s even harder when you’re travelling abroad and you want to limit the amount of data you’re using even though the Spotify app technically has a connection it could use to stream.
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If we could get a dedicated menu entry in the ‘Your Library’ tab for offline music then that would be an enormous step forward.
What were you expecting to see at Spotify’s event, and what do you think the company needs to fix about its app? Let us know @TrustedReviews