I’ve just given myself the gift of Spotify Premium. This is my ‘as-it-happens’ review
I’ve been using Spotify off and on for most of this year. In all of that time, it’s been a fun service to use firstly because it has been free (ad supported) and secondly because it gives me access to a million tons of music I would never have otherwise heard in the days of CDs and ‘physical music’.
Can’t fault the ad-supported version. Yes, the frequency of ads increased over the year but even then it was a relatively small price to pay for all that free background music. In the course of Spotify’s first year, it’s been my pleasure to help out rather a lot of people get free accounts (via this link here) many of whom, lets hope, go on to be fully paid-up Premium subscribers in turn.
So what’s the Premium experience like then?
Let me point a picture of me-as-Spotify-user first. I’m 46, male, white. Professional. Critical technophile (meaning I love & hate technology in equal measures). I don’t have a lot of music CDs. I don’t follow any particular bands. Live gigs bore me after 45 minutes. These days, I’d rather hear lots of random stuff I don’t know than stuff I do know. I’m as likely to listen to spoken word these days as music. I don’t go to festivals
There you have it: grumpy old bloke sets out to try out Spotify Premium.
Signing up for Spotify Premium
First thing is that I hate being signed up to a rolling subscription when I only want to try. If you try to upgrade to Premium, it will assume you’re signing up month on month (leaving the onus on you to cancel). My way around this was to ‘gift’ myself a 1-month Premium Code via a Spotify Premium e-card. £9.99 one-off card payment.
It worked – now I’m Premiumed up for one month. Thank you Sam. You’re welcome Sam. (BTW don’t bother seaching Google for an obvious phrase like ‘spotify premium gift card’. It’s as if they don’t want you to find their e-card. Doh!)
Spotify iPhone app
Downloading the iPhone app is quick and easy. Ignore the 1 star reviews from the muppets who have downloaded the app expecting to be able to use it with a free Spotify account. Don’t blame the app because you couldn’t read the small print, folks.
Now, there are two things you’re going to want to test with your Spotify app: the offline playlist capability and the streaming on-the-go 3G connectivity.
Spotify offline playlist downloads
On the face of it, this feature is supposed to make Spotify available to you when you don’t have enough 3G bandwidth to stream it. In theory, it sounds good but in reality how long a playlist takes to download will depend on the WiFi bandwidth you have available..
At home on my 450kbs broadband connection, downloading a 100 song offline playlist took several hours. I can’t see myself having enough time to download playlists on a regular basis.
Another consideration here is that there doesn’t seem to be any indication of the size of the files that are being downloaded. How much will my 8Gb phone take?
And finally: on the iPhone, it appears that playlists don’t download unless you open the app and start them (or let them re-start). If I exit to do something else, the downloading stops. I think it carries on when the phone auto-locks but, without any detailed progress indicator, I can’t be sure.
Spotify 3G streaming
At home in Devon even on a lousy 450kbs broadband, Spotify Premium streams pretty well on the laptop – with only the occasional drop-out.
At home, where the 3G coverage is also patchy or non-existent, the iPhone app gives up trying to stream altogether and reverts to any saved playlist.
Sitting in London with a chunky 3G signal the Spotify app works perfectly on the iPhone. Right now, I’m listening to Elvis – the 68 comeback special. I have no idea if / whether streaming Spotify tracks ends up costing on my O2 iPhone contract.
Spotify Premium verdict?
The usability of the Spotify app is only as good as the mobile 3G coverage and the WiFi access you have (see above). If both are lousy you’re not going to get the most out of Premium because the fallback (downloading playlists for offline listening) can be a long-winded and impractical business.
In reality, though, fewer and fewer of us are stuck with both crap 3G and crap broadband all the time – and it’s a situation that will only improve.
A major downside to Spotify has got to be the inability to run the app in background mode while I do other things with my iPhone. After all, iTunes can do it – so why not Spotify? Is it a deal-breaker? I’ll let you know when my trial month is up.
On the upside, Spotify does something that’s so different from any previous mode of music ownership: it encourages me to listen to lots of new things. With Spotify, the musical world expands. With my real-world CD collection (or paid-for mp3s), it seems to contract, encouraging us to listen more and more to the same things.
And Spotify’s search facility is everything you’d expect of a software that learned from iTunes, YouTube, Google and everything that paved the way before it.
All in all, I keep thinking “I don’t want to own music! I just want to listen to it” – and Spotify lets me do that for £10 a month on my handheld device of choice. I think that’s probably worth it.