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Can Spotify Replace Your iPod?

Gordon Kelly



Apple's iCloud is the talk of the Internet, with it strongly expected to be the company's long awaited music streaming service, but could there already be a streaming service capable of replacing Apple's increasingly outdated iTunes and iPod model? We decided to run an iPhone experiment: goodbye iPod, hello Spotify.

The Terms

It couldn't have been simpler. Remove all iPod music from an iPhone and move 100% to Spotify. Could we survive like this or are the theoretical benefits far removed from reality?

Why did we choose the iPhone and Spotify? Well, the iPhone bit was easy - we had one to hand, it is utterly ubiquitous, and of course it's on this device that the iCloud is surely to be most thoroughly integrated. As for Spotify, again it is the most ubiquitous of the streaming services, with one of the largest music libraries. We could just as easily have chosen the likes of We7 or Napster, or indeed smart radio services like Last.fm and Pandora, though we've never quite seen the latter as true personal listening alternatives.


Two weeks on the results are in.

The Upsides

The only way to describe removing all the music from your iPod is to compare it to a spring clean. That feeling of terror from what you have discarded, quickly followed by the relief and excitement of a clean slate. The amount of music we all carry around which we never listen to is huge and the instant creation of space is liberating.

Equally thrilling is refilling that space from a library Spotify now calculates to be over 10 million tracks. Our collection is beyond 15,000 tracks - more than most we'd wager - but it simply doesn't compare and knowing where to start is a problem. Thankfully Spotify provides help: both the mobile app and the desktop client provide a 'What's New' tab showing off the latest albums and singles. The desktop client goes further with 'Top Lists': 100 long lists of the top artists, albums and singles, and the 'Related Artists' tab beside each band leads to more daring music choices than the 30 second clips inspire on iTunes.

Apple's music oriented social network Ping is also poor and Spotify has a greater social aspect incorporating the listening habits of friends on Facebook and allowing tracks and playlists to be easily shared via html or Spotify's own 'Inbox'. Inspiration is everywhere. It is akin to being in a sweet shop where everything is free and you are on a conference call to all your other friends who are also roaming free sweet shops. "Have you tried this one yet? What about so and so?"

In terms of performance everything also works as it should. The Spotify app could open faster, but it is solid, has not crashed in two weeks, works beautifully as an iPod replacement and supports Airplay. Critics say if you're streaming music daily there is a far greater battery drain and you will destroy your monthly data allowance. They're right, we found battery life halved and our monthly data allowance (500MB) would have been gone in days, but the solution proved easy: cache music with 'offline playlists'. Up to 3,333 tracks can be cached at any one time and it also combats signal loss.


May 23, 2011, 5:12 pm

Good summary, but I think you've missed a few points here. On the upside:

- Unlike itunes, you can install the spotify mobile player on non-apple devices. This means that if you have (as I do) an android phone, you straight away halve the number of devices you have to carry around! (I know there are itunes alternatives for Android, before anyone points out DoubleTwist etc, but not of them are as endemic as itunes, and I'm really highlighting the system independence of Spotify here)
- Whilst I agree that you should be able to listen to an album without creating a playlist, it's not as cumbersome as you make out. I hardly ever use the desktop client. I just search for the album on the mobile app, then create a new playlist from the album. You don't have to drag each song over individually. In usage, I generally cache the album to offline, listen to it a few times over the course of a week or two, then delete it.

On the downside, Spotify just doesn't have as much music available as itunes. The FAQ on Spotify's own website names and shames some of the big omissions, including Pink Floyd and the Beatles, but of greater annoyance to me is there seems to be a delay between new albums being released and becoming available on Spotify. Also, a lot of popular current bands don't seem to be represented at all. For example, just recently I've been frustrated by the absence of Pink, and Florence and the Machine, to name a couple.

Ben 3

May 23, 2011, 5:31 pm

"Equally problematic is while locally stored music can be catalogued and played by the Spotify desktop client, there is no way to get it onto the mobile app. If your favourite band isn't on Spotify then it is doesn't matter to your phone if you have already paid to download a digital copy."

Since the last update Spotify can sync local files in playlists into the iOS mobile app


Denis iii

May 23, 2011, 5:49 pm

I think Spotify needs to hurry up and evolve ASAP.

I don't buy music, online or physical media, nor do I pirate but once Spotify integrate Pandora style radios, Google style "make playlist from track", Apple's "Genius Playlist" and fix the other issues in the article I will sign up for paid mobile access version.


May 23, 2011, 6:01 pm

To an extent. You can make your 'local files' folder an offline playlist, but most people's local files are far larger than their phone capacity.

If you have spotted an alternative I'm happy to be corrected.


May 23, 2011, 6:04 pm

Some of those are impossible, Apple will never licence its iOS features to others. There are radio stations in Spotify, but it should take a leaf out of TuneIn Radio's book. Meanwhile smart playlist generation and a centralised database for saving and searching for playlists should be at the heart of the service.

Spotify is a hugely impressive technological leap, but you are right it does need to quickly evolve...


May 23, 2011, 6:08 pm

Thanks Bluepork
-I do mention Spotify's flexibility in the section about why we chose to use it. A primary reason is its ubiquity across devices.
-I think this is a debatable point. Saying the work around for the omission of a simple feature ('Add album') isn't too difficult does not justify its omission in the first place.

All libraries have their absentees - the Beatles was missing from iTunes until just recently and Pink Floyd is famously absent from most services. Florence and the Machine is there by the way ;)

More concerning is that tracks are removed regularly so you will often find previous playlists or tracks in playlists greyed out. This suggests Spotify is having some licensing problems which it needs to iron out.

Tom Andrews

May 23, 2011, 8:00 pm

I've been using Zune ever since I got a windows 7 phone and I've found it to be brilliant. I started using it simply because it integrated with the phone better than spotify did, which I'd been using up to that point, but I dont miss spotify at all. The only downsides are that unlike in the US we dont get to keep 10 tracks per month, and of course that it's only useful on windows phones and pcs.

Ben 3

May 23, 2011, 8:47 pm

You can add local files into all other playlists, or create playlists purely from local files, and it will still sync them across. You don't have to treat the local files as an all or nothing option


May 23, 2011, 8:53 pm


Agreed it's a workaround. I'm just saying its not that inconvenient.

You are right about Florence and the Machine. Turns out the "and" is a "+", which highlights the obvious omission of a "did you mean...?" response to the searching facility, a la Google.

That said, there's still no Pink. And I can't think of any alternative spellings to try! There are plenty more examples. I hope they get their licensing sorted out soon.

(Off topic, but as you kindly replied to my comment in a threaded fashion, I would like to be able to add this response to the existing thread rather than starting a new discussion point. Are TR planning to allow this functionality?)

Ben 3

May 23, 2011, 9:00 pm

Further to my above comment, I mean in the desktop client that will then sync to the mobile app. I do agree there isn't a way to manage it directly from the Mobile app


May 24, 2011, 12:08 am

I've attempted a similar experiment and failed, for one the interface doesn't work over my car's system. It does however compliment iTunes quite well, on a recent one month trip I cached a dozen or so CDs alongside the iTunes library. My main problem is with Spotify's unsophisticated interface, they should take a good look at how the iTunes 'increasingly outdated' interface organises a library (I guess the equivalent would be library system for favourites), it leaves Spotify's for dead, and if you're interested in Classical music, searches can get really confusing.


May 24, 2011, 12:09 am

Try P!nk ;)


May 24, 2011, 1:44 pm


OMG you are right! "P!nk" it is!

Can no-one spell or punctuate any more? (I know, I know. Now I'm sounding like someone too old to be listening to Pink anyway!)


May 25, 2011, 2:28 pm

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned that Spotify make you view ads even when just listening to your own local music files. This is the primary reason why I won't migrate, along with many other reasons. They are making money from content they have no hand in delivering.

Library management, Coverflow, Apple Remote, Genius Playlists, iTunes Store, Content Sync,

It might be easy for somebody using an Android phone to move into the Spotify ecosystem, due to the awful Android player and difficulty in getting music easily onto the phone, but Apple users know how good they have it with the iTunes eco-system. When a future update brings Wi-Fi sync to the iPhone, then Apple will further pull away.


June 23, 2011, 2:42 am

darkspark88 - You can only use spotify mobile if you have spotify premium, which is ad-free.

I've recently started using spotify premium and mobile on my android device. I've started subscribing to playlists on spotify, particularly those from Armada Music and Armin Van Buuren. It's a way of keeping up with new music instead of listen to the same songs all the time. After that I started offline syncing some playlists but due to lack of space on my phones SD card and no desire to spend £50 on a larger capacity card, I've decided to drop all my own music library which I used to sync onto the phone from itunes using isyncr and I am now syncing all my spotify playlists onto my phone. I will use my ipod for my own music files, but I'm sure I can find most of them on spotify and build a playlist if I have to.

There are some minor gripes I have with Spotify, but this are more to do with the running of the software such as not being able to choose which playlists sync first (a pain with a 500-strong song playlist, although last night I found out that if you play a song the whole way through, it is then synced, which can be handy for small playlists).

The service is excellent and at £10 a month, I'm not complaining. They've basically ruined spotify free with the recent changes, so if you're going to pay £5 a month for unlimited, why not pay a bit extra for premium and make the most of spotify's features.

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