Spotify: Streaming Music to Your iPhone

iTunes has long held the crown when it comes to desktop music on the Mac – and for good reason. Apple has taken the software from a simple MP3 organisation tool, right through to powerhouse it has become today. Despite everything iTunes has to offer, this year has seen me make a move towards Spotify.

Spotify is an audio streaming app that allows you to discover and play any music via the Internet. They also offer an iPhone application, which we’ll be taking a look at today. Spotify Mobile is a great companion to the desktop software, and not to be missed if you’re a Spotify user.

Background

If you haven’t come across Spotify before, a good place to start is by watching a screencast review that I posted on Mac.AppStorm several months ago. It introduces the service, and explains the basics of how it works. As the mobile version is closely integrated with the software on your computer, it’s worth spending a few minutes to watch the screencast:

The other major thing to note at this point is that Spotify is not necessarily available everywhere:

Spotify is currently available in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, France and Spain. We hope to launch in more countries in the future. You can use Spotify Premium in all countries, however you can only buy premium and sign up in our launch countries.

Essentially, this means that you can only use the service outside these countries if you pay a monthly subscription (something I do anyway, and a requirement if you want to use the mobile application).

If you’re a paying Spotify user, then after downloading the application from the App Store you can login with your username and password:

Logging Into Spotify

Logging Into Spotify

Managing Playlists & Offline Music

The first thing you’ll notice is that Spotify automatically gathers any existing playlists you have, and displays them on your iPhone. These are immediately available to select and start streaming (providing you’re on a 3G or Wi-Fi connection). You can also edit, delete, and add new playlists by clicking the “Edit” button in the top left.

Having Fun With Playlists

Having Fun With Playlists

Streaming music is great if you’re in an area of good reception, but this isn’t always the case. For this reason, you can can use the “Offline Playlists” feature to download a particular set of songs for offline access. The synchronisation process will occur automatically whenever you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network, and Spotify is open on your iPhone (it isn’t possible to download songs over 3G).

Wondering how many songs it’s possible to download and store locally? The answer, according to Spotify, is 3,333. Obviously this is also limited by how much free space you have on your iPhone or iPod touch.

Searching for Music

You won’t necessarily have all the songs you want to listen to already stored in playlists, and Spotify has a simple process for searching through their catalog of music for something new:

Searching for Music

Searching for Music

Search results are broken down into Tracks, Albums, and Artists. The easiest way to find what you’re looking for is by selecting the “Artist”, then flicking through their catalog. It’s broken down into Albums, Singles, and other albums in which their work is featured.

Playing Songs

When selecting to play a song, you’ll be greeted with a very familiar interface. Album artwork expands to fill the screen, and beneath it you’ll see track controls and a position scrubber (this is in the same place as the iPod app keeps the volume control – very confusing at first!).

Getting Into the Groove

Getting Into the Groove

Tapping on the artwork reveals:

  • The track album and artist
  • An option to add this particular song to a playlist
  • Shuffle/repeat buttons

I’ve found that playback – even when streaming over 3G – works reliably. Providing you’re in an area of good reception, you shouldn’t encounter too much of an issue.

The only problem is that, because the iPhone doesn’t allow background processes, you can’t continue to play Spotify music while using your iPhone for anything else. This isn’t a problem when you’re experimenting with the application and finding new tunes, but it’s a major annoyance when you come to use the software in a day-to-day situation.

Conclusion

As a self-confessed Spotify lover, I had high expectations for a mobile iPhone application. On the whole, Spotify Mobile delivers. It syncs reliably with the desktop software, allows streaming/offline playback, and wraps everything together in an appealing interface.

The downside? Being limited to keeping the application open when listening to music. And, of course, the fact that it’s only available in selected countries. Hopefully it will make the move across the Atlantic soon, but I’m unlikely shed a tear for our American readers just at the moment. You’ll have your hands on an iPad long before I do!


Summary

Spotify is a streaming music service, currently available to those in Europe. The iPhone application allows you to stream audio on-the-go, sync with the desktop software, and download particular playlists for offline listening.

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