Fri, 11 Sep 2009 Spotify for iPhone review
iTunes' biggest rival arrives on the iPhone. Spotify has muscled in on Apple's home turf, but does it live up to the hype? We investigate Spotify on the iPhone
- Manufacturer: Spotify
- Pros: Access to 3.8million tracks on your iPhone; free up space by streaming instead of storing music; fantastic Offline Mode for storing tracks when no connection available
- Cons: Requires you to sign up for Spotify Premium (£10 per month); adding albums as playlists is clumsy; lacks some of Spotify's browsing features
- Min specs: iPhone running 3.1 software of later required
- Price: Free (£10 per month Spotify Premium account required)
- Star rating:
Playback quality and offline playlists
One of the great things about the Spotify app is that it works over 3G and not just WiFi. We found streaming music over the 3G network to be fast, reliable, and identical to using a WiFi connection.
One point to note is that Spotify can’t stream music over the EDGE or GPRS network: it has to be 3G. We found as we walked around that the music stopped playing when we walked outside of a 3G area and into an EDGE one – of course, if you live outside a 3G area (as many O2 users do) then you might find Spotify for iPhone functionality severely limited.
Another great thing about the Spotify for iPhone app is that it enables you to download songs in your playlist to the app and play them when there is no 3G or WiFi connection. This stabilises the playback of songs when you're walking around and also lets you listen to tracks when there is no connection – we use this when listening to music on the Tube, for example.
Spotify Offline Playlists enables you to listen to music even when there's no internet connection
The Offline Playlists option works surprisingly well. You tap the Offline Playlists button and tick the playlists you want to sync (you can only sync playlists, not individual tracks). These are then downloaded into the app and can be played seamlessly. You can only sync tracks over WiFi, but the process is invisible and if you are in a 3G connection it carries on streaming until an appropriate WiFi network becomes available.
Offline Playlists are signified by a small green arrow icon, and when a 3G or WiFi network is not available the regular Playlists fade out, and only the Offline Playlists are accessible.
One technical point: Spotify on the desktop uses a combination of streaming and peer-to-peer connections to distribute music. Some Macworld readers have questioned whether it does this on the iPhone because the upload limits imposed under O2's fair use and speed are a concern. The good news is that there is no peer-to-peer functionality on the Spotify iPhone app: it’s streamed directly from the Spotify servers.
We did note with interest, though, that O2 sent out a text to iPhone owners the day after Spotify's release that stated: ‘Get the most out of apps and the web by using Wi-Fi’, and included a link for setting up WiFi on the iPhone.
NEXT: The More menu and Forced Offline mode