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Spotify for iPhone review

Andy Vandervell



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Spotify for iPhone
  • Spotify for iPhone
  • Spotify for iPhone
  • Spotify for iPhone
  • Spotify for iPhone
  • Spotify for iPhone
  • Spotify for iPhone


Our Score:


It's been strange to watch the hype surrounding Spotify. It has been aided, in no small part, by the mainstream media's greater awareness of ongoing tech trends. It is one thing for us to enthuse about something, but quite another to see it headlined in the Daily Mail as the next big thing to corrupt innocent children or subject to pointless vox pop segments on Radio 1. Spotify, though well-known in tech circles, began to reach such levels of recognition last week when it launched mobile applications for the iPhone and Android handsets.

If somehow you've managed to miss all this (my mum knows about Spotify, so you should be embarrassed if you don't!) then now is the right time to acquaint yourself with our previous feature, Spotify: The Future of Music? For the rest of you, however, you should know Spotify as the music streaming service that has made its name by being completely free and supported by advertising. However, it has always carried a subscription option that eliminated adverts which, given several reports suggesting the ad-supported model is unsustainable, is ultimately where the future of the service probably lies.

It's a fact clearly reinforced with the advent of the mobile applications, which are free to download but require a monthly 'premium' subscription to the service. At £9.99 a month this is no trivial commitment, despite being cheaper than Napster's 'Napster To Go' package, which costs £14.95 a month for unlimited music transfer onto a compatible player (Apple products not included). Of course the two services, though superficially similar, differ in many important aspects and we're not going to exhaustively compare the two, here. However, we feel Napster still represents the best recognised alternative - as last year's Music Subscription Service Round-up attests to.

In essence the mobile application offers the same service as the desktop iteration, but with one important difference: it adds the ability to download tracks. Thus, while you can still stream music over Wi-Fi or 3G, if you're somewhere that you can't get either or just don't want to drain your battery, you can still enjoy your music.

Like most things Spotify, the process for this is insanely straightforward. Upon logging into the mobile application, all the playlists you already have are synchronised to it. This works in both directions, too, so any changes or additions you make while using the mobile app are instantly mirrored in the desktop version. With your playlists loaded, all you need do is go to the 'Offline Playlist' menu and select the lists you want to access when offline.

Provided you're connected to a Wi-Fi connection these are then downloaded in 160kbps OGG, free to be listened to offline provided you reconnect within 30 days to confirm your subscription. Of course, the connected nature of an iPhone means this isn't a great trial, taking just a few moments and not even requiring a 3G connection.

As for streaming, while it will kill your battery pretty rapidly, it works perfectly over both Wi-Fi and 3G. It's just as fast as the desktop application, which is no small achievement really. Anything less than a reasonable Wi-Fi or 3G connection and streaming becomes problematic, but the quality sacrifices necessary for it to work on EDGE probably wouldn't warrant the effort. Speaking of quality, while not good enough for audiophiles, the 160kpbs OGG files (roughly equivalent to 192kbps MP3) are more than good enough for the general population, not least anyone still using the horrific Apple-bundled earbuds - dear God why?


September 15, 2009, 3:54 pm

While I'd agree that Spotify for iPhone (or in my case iPod Touch)has a few rough edges, I can't help feeling that your review is a little grudging. It's pretty good value when you think what else it's possible to fritter away a tenner a month on, and I find the idea that I can knock myself up a playlist in minutes for offline listening quite mindblowing.

Incidentally, anybody with a 1st gen Touch might like to know that the maximum volume is set way too low - and of course there's no non-software volume control. The workround, kindly supplied by a Spotify wallah, is to fire up the YouTube app and ramp the volume up on that. Higher volume then transfers to Spotify somehow - takes a bit of trial and error to get it right, but it works.


September 15, 2009, 4:59 pm

I can't help but feel that if you already have a decent music collection then surely it would just be easier and cheaper to load that to your iPhone/Pod. As such £9.99 still feels very expensive to me. If you have zero music already, then I could see the appeal. Also, music I like I play on other formats (round the house, in the car, etc) where Spotify would be awkward to use, so I would still end up buying the music anyway.

I like the PC free version of Spotify but the subscription model doesn't work for me. If it included the ability to download high quality MP3's as well for "offline" use then maybe it would be worth considering.


September 15, 2009, 6:00 pm

Steve - I have to say I think you're taking a rather black and white view of this. I have a large music collection (some would say too large), but the world is still full of music I don't own, have no particular interest in buying but am still interested in listening to. I play my music collection in all the traditional ways according to mood and circumstance (and my Touch doesn't have room for even a tenth of it anyway), but Spotify is a great way of checking stuff out, making unexpected discoveries, having a random Van Morrison morning at my desk that I didn't know I was going to have when I was at home, etc. It really is like having your own radio station with no annoying gits yelling in your ear (unless that sounds like Van Morrison to you). Worth every penny of £9.99 IMHO. You pays your money...


September 15, 2009, 8:09 pm

MikeP - That is exactly what I use Spotify for - checking out stuff, etc. It's great for that. I just don't think it is worth paying £9.99 for. But as you say, you pays your money...


September 15, 2009, 10:57 pm

Spotify is just so overhyped by the tech press. Yes it is great as a free service on your PC. But I'd be surprised if more than 1% of users paid the subscription.


September 16, 2009, 2:35 pm

Wouldn't pay a tenner a month for it personally.

Can't any phone with a decent browser and connection use the ad-supported We7.com instead for free?


September 18, 2009, 1:16 pm

I ditched Napster for Spotify purely for this app and heres my tuppence worth.

I dont want this to turn into a "my dads harder than your dad" type argument but I own 500 or so albums and still find a great use out of subs based music. Spotify also provides me with a way of ultimately saving money by being able to listen to whole albums on the iPhone (or pc) before taking the plunge. I spend a fortune on physical cd purchases, always have and always will and to me it is great being able to save some pennies. Not to mention a great way to have a "jukebox" for house parties - I dont own and never wish to own 90% of the UK charts but its handy for the girlfriend and her mates for example.

There are some issues with the app though (in my opinion):

1. I like the desktops artist radio (when available) as well as some of the other info you get.

2. Surely future versions could utlise a home page type thing on boot up? Could show recommendations, whats new, etc

3. Also, I regularly commute through an area that drops out of the 3g network for large periods, not to mention O2s occasional network issues and I would like to have seen some sort of way of queuing searches - it could work in a similar fashion to safaris use of multiple internet windows. My reason for this is during the 1 week or so I have used it I can think of dozens of times I ultimately forgotten what Im wanting to look for because I can only search one at a time and only when connected.

4. Adding tracks to playlists via app isnt very intuitive. I often find the quickest way is to interrupt what you are listening to to get an individual track onto an existing playlist.

My other problems concern Spotify in general. The shuffle function is nowhere near iTunes standard (lost count of the times a track has been repated before every playlist track has been played). Also, recommendations arent quite up to speed or extensive enough yet but this is something that comes over time.

Apologies for the lengthy comment and I know its mostly gibberish but in short the app does feel a little rushed but Id expect some big changes in future updates via user feedback.


September 18, 2009, 1:20 pm

Oh, and Id like to add that the catalogue sizes between Napster and Spotify was a big concern of mine but of all the 80s-00s searches my girlfriend and I did (mostly indie, electronic, and cheesey guff) it was very rare to find tracks that were not on both. The only track of the top of my head was Pure Imagination from the Willy Wonka soundtrack! (which I couldnt find on Spotify)

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