Finding and adding music to playlists using the mobile application is largely very easy too, though not without its problems. Sitting next to the ‘Playlist’ tab is the ‘Search’ tab. A text box at the top works in the customary manner, though it’s worth noting the on-screen keyboard only works in portrait mode. Searches are neatly separated into ‘Tracks’, ‘Albums’ and ‘Artists’ tabs. Selecting a track will instantly start it streaming, selecting an album shows the track listing and options to ‘Add to playlist’ or ‘Shuffle’, while selecting an artist will display a list divided by albums and singles.
This is all very slick but there’s one massive oversight in the iPhone application: you can only add tracks or albums to an existing playlist. This is particularly irritating if you just want to add a whole album, since you have to create a playlist for it and then add the album’s tracks to it. In the desktop version, you can just drag the album to your playlists to create it. Another issue is that, unless the previous screen you were looking at ”was” the playlist – in which case you can hit the ‘back’ button – there’s no quick and easy way to view the whole playlist you’re listening to without heading back to the playlist menu.
So even though the barebones of the application have been thought through well, these issues highlight that there’s a little way to go before the app provides a refined and mature experience.
No real complaints can be made of the basic playback menus, however. While differing slightly to Apple’s own iPod controls, the ‘Now Playing’ screen is arranged intelligently, with playback controls and the progress bar along the bottom, and album art dominating the middle. Hitting the middle of the screen, or the info button in the top right, will bring up alternative controls, including ‘Repeat’ and ‘Shuffle’, a volume slider, additional artist information (e.g. album, artist) and an ‘Add to playlist’ button. You can also change tracks by sliding your finger left and right.
All of which covers the core of the desktop application functionality, but there are plenty of things that haven’t made the transition, such as the artist information provided by all music, recommended artists, or artist radios – all of which are missed, even if their implementations in the desktop version are far from perfect.
Clearly of greater importance, though, is the fact the iPhone version of Spotify can’t run in the background. As most of you will know this isn’t Spotify’s fault; Apple decrees it this way, but it clearly restricts things somewhat. Spotify does at least handle this problem well, with playback continuing where you left off if you have leave the app. On Android handsets, of course, no such issue exists, making it the best platform to enjoy the service right now.