Price: FREE to download; $9.99/month for Premium
Version Reviewed: 04.14
Device Reviewed On: iPhone
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The Holy Grail of streaming music services has finally appeared in the US, though it is still rolling out slowly to users. Spotify, that once mythical, hard-to-obtain mash-up of iTunes, RDIO, Pandora and more is at last a (legal) reality in the United States. Is it worth the wait? Read on...
There's really two parts of Spotify - the desktop client for PC and Mac and the mobile client (sorry, but there's no browser-based version). If you've never tried Spotify before, you may be surprised at how much like iTunes the desktop software looks and feels, though Spotify is much, much peppier. In Apple's parlance, "It just works." Part of that is because it is dedicated to music and music only. Don't expect videos, movies, podcasts or anything else. Spotify is a jukebox loaded with literally millions of songs, and the great part about the desktop client is that a free account grants access to the full spectrum of music on the service, as well as the ability to create playlists, plus listen to local iTunes tracks. The downside is that all of this free content is ad-supported, so expect some annoying pop-up ads for Coke and other products, as well as some odd song snippets in your playlists. Apparently, Spotify is trying to sell new music by exposing users to it in their streams, but the effect is more jarring than persuasive.
There's not much to be said about the iPhone app for Spotify unless users shell out the $9.99 a month for their premium service. Premium service grants unlimited streaming of all of their content, offline syncing of Spotify music, on-the-fly playlist creation and the ability to sync and play an iTunes library through the app. In this way, it's not terribly different from Rdio. The main difference between the two is in the details.
Spotify on the iPhone has, hands down, a cleaner, quicker, more elegant interface. Music is available quickly over WiFi or 3G, and it has that ineffable "feel" of an Apple product. It works and it works well. What's more, it feels good to use. Rdio, on the other hand, is not as slick and it has a decidedly barebones appearance to it, both on the desktop and on iOS. However, my experience indicates that Rdio currently has more content relevant to US listeners. For example, Adele's album "21" is available on Rdio. Not so on Spotify. The same goes for other high profile, newer albums. Obviously, this can be a deal breaker. If I want a particular song or album on Spotify and it's not there, I'll definitely think twice before renewing my monthly premium membership.
Spotify also offers tight integration with Facebook, so sharing music or playlists with friends, is, at least theoretically, as simple as dragging and dropping a track on a friends' name. I say "theoretically" because, as it stands right now, there are not many people on Spotify due to their "invitation-only" membership policy. It will be interesting to see how the partnership with Facebook will pan out over the coming days, weeks and months.
With Apple's iCloud service in the wings, plus healthy competition from Rdio, MOG and Rhapsody, Spotify is not the dominating presence it could have been had it launched in the US years ago. Still, it's a strong, elegant piece of software that's hard to ignore.