July 22, 2011
Brings Spotify to your mobile device
Listen to music offline with Premium account
AirPlay support (unlike desktop program)
Same drawbacks as desktop Spotify
Some quality problems over 3G
Requires $9.99/month plan
The Spotify app for iPhone brings the full Spotify experience to iOS devices. Is the experience compelling enough to justify the $9.99/month price and ditching your current streaming music app?
Related: Read full Spotify review
A Familiar Experience
Spotify is a streaming service perhaps unlike any other. It allows users to search for music in a catalog of over 15 million songs and then stream them to their computers or, with the right kind of account, mobile devices. Users can save songs or albums to their accounts as playlists for listening later. Some accounts can even save songs for listening even when the computer/device isn't connected to the web.
The Spotify mobile app is a faithful and complete translation of the desktop Spotify experience to the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. It allows anyone with a Premium-level Spotify account to listen to unlimited music anywhere they have a Wi-Fi or 3G connection to the Internet, and syncs the playlists saved in your desktop Spotify program to your mobile device. In addition to bringing your desktop playlists with you, you can also save music for offline listening either directly in the app or via syncing with the desktop app.
Pay to Play
While the desktop Spotify app allows users with free accounts to listen to up to 10 hours of music each month (though they have to listen to ads), and allows $4.99/month users to listen to unlimited music and no ads, to use Spotify on the iOS, there's only one option: the $9.99/month subscription.
This plan gives you unlimited music, mobile device access, and the ability you save music for offline listening (a big benefit when you're in a location where you don't have Wi-Fi or a good 3G signal). While these features are valuable, it's worth remembering that competing services like Pandora offer free mobile apps.
There are, of course, many differences between Spotify and Pandora, and the $9.99/month for unlimited music will seem like a good deal to many, but those watching the bottom line need to realize that Spotify will only work on iOS devices for a $120/year expense.
Listening, Online and Off
The experience of listening to music stored for offline listening is just as good in the mobile app as the desktop one. Offline listening is smooth, uninterrupted, and functions like the music came from iTunes, Amazon, or eMusic.
Streaming music is a slightly different story, though. Streaming via Wi-Fi is generally fine, but over 3G, it's not unusual to encounter sound quality degradation. I tested Spotify for iPhone on various roads around Boston and its suburbs, and Providence, RI, at different times of day and night and found that there was often scratchy, distorted interference with playback. While this interference didn't make the music unlistenable--think of a scratchy radio station--the quality was probably less than Spotify's standard 192 kbps stream and definitely less than the 320 kbps stream that $9.99/month users have access to.
One Other Quirk
One other strange behavior I found in the mobile version of Spotify that wasn't present in the desktop version related to searching for music. In running some searches in the app, the results didn't include some music that was present in the desktop app. This discrepancy didn't crop up too often, but it's something Spotify needs to correct--the mobile version needs to be the same as the desktop.
The Bottom Line
Spotify's iPhone app is a terrific companion to the desktop program. While using the service on iOS devices requires a $9.99/month subscription, that provides unlimited music on both your computers and mobile devices. If you spend that much money, or more, each month on music, Spotify is a terrific deal.