Some of us like to buy their music and have it stored for an eternity. Or at least, that was the behavior common when mobile Internet wasn’t popular amongst the population. With the rise in smartphones and 3G data plans, Spotify is one service that offers a native app for the world’s most popular smartphone platform.
Back in 2009, the popular-in-Europe streaming music service launched their own, native application for their premium customers. The app works with Spotify’s online streaming service but also has an offline mode to listen to songs offline.
Initially the application will make you log in, as would be expected on a service like this. Note that you must be a premium customer of Spotify, paying £9.99 per month, in order to use these mobile features. Streaming songs is all done via the Internet and offers up the full library available on the desktop equivalent.
Playlists can also be synced with the mobile app. When you want to launch into a playlist, only a tap is required and then another in order to choose the first song. A long press will let you view an options stream or see artist details. Playlist management is not an easy task in-app but it’s an amicable method for playing.
You can perform a generic search as you would do on the desktop application. By entering a song or artist name, Spotify will generate a selection of results available for streaming. Fans of Google’s voice search will appreciate the option to search for tracks by simply speaking a similar search term.
The “Now Playing” screen is a very simple screen that shows the album artwork alongside play controls and a scrubbing bar. The placement of this screen is very innovative as it acts as a tab which can be pulled up and down to access the controls. This is a nice implementation that makes it overall faster to control your music.
Unlike the iPhone, the Android app launched with background audio so that you could listen to your streaming service whilst doing other tasks on your phone. With iOS 4, Apple addressed this concern but it’s undoubtable that Android got there first. The notifications bar also gets a Spotify link for faster access to control your music.
The Android interface is very simple and is not unlike rival apps or HTC’s music app. Despite sharing functionality, the app on each platform looks different with Android opting for a darker scheme with a body of dark grey. Nothing is cramped and it’s generally a smooth experience that regular users will find hard to condemn.
A major attraction of the app is its ability to sync songs so that they are accessible outside of a constant data connection. One must create a playlist before opting to sync it. Once you do choose to sync it, the tracks start downloading in the background while you listen to other songs or do something else.
Once you want to listen to said music, you can force it to go offline or just go out of range. Then as you play, you’re doing so locally and not from Spotify’s servers. There’s many great usage examples here, especially in the case if you need to turn off celluar networks but still want to listen to your favorite music. The unpredictability of celluar networks means you’re advised to do this for at least your favorite songs every 30 days so you’re never disappointed.
Like all good things, let’s compare it to an iPhone! The Android app has been described as something Apple should be “frightened” of and a killer app for Google’s platform. It certainy has some advantages over its fruity counterpart.
Firstly, voice-activated search is a huge feature that’s kind of gimmicky at first, but could be of real use to some customers. Secondly, a lot more artist information has been available in Android, such as viewing biographies, since launch. It may have been added in an iPhone update since launch, but I cannot confirm this.
Both apps allow you to sync your playlists, but due to Apple’s restrictions, only the Android app can do so over 3G. There’s also a bunch of smaller features – such as viewing disk space – to prefer Android. The gap is closing, however, especially with the background audio being such a huge advantage on the 2009 launch of the app.
Spotify for Android has an attractive interface and a wealth of functionality that any non-premium user will lust after. The service provides an excellent alternative to iTunes or other download services, especially with Google lacking any such stock option on Android.
Though the gap between the Android’s advantaged application and the iPhone one has narrowed since Spotify’s mobile inception, there are still some clear advantages in choosing this.
My only problem with the app is you need a premium subscription at Spotify. Free users or even those who pay the £4.99 monthly charge for their unlimited plan do not get access to this app. But – remember offline syncing – the additional charge is worth it.