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music streaming service, but could there already be a streaming service capable of replacing Apple's increasingly outdated iTunes and iPod model?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.
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 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.