Spotify for iPhone: What You Need to Know
As you’ve all probably heard by now, thanks to all the chatter, Spotify recently launched in the states accompanied by a nice, little iPhone application to go along with. Currently only offering one way to become a member, which is by invite (unless you decide to go premium), the service streams a whole bunch of music for its members absolutely [kind of] free. I take a look at the service and give you my recommendation along with a brief comparison with iTunes Home Sharing, which shares certain characteristics to what the iPhone application of Spotify allows you to do.
Spotify was just introduced in the United States, and is currently available in a total of eight countries, seven of which are located in Europe: Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Also, before I get into things, let me explain how the different memberships work. There are currently three different memberships that Spotify hosts. When you first join, you’ll automatically become a free member, which gives you most of the perks with ads. You can then upgrade to an Unlimited membership for $4.99 per month, which gives you most perks without ads and then you can further upgrade to a a Premium membership for $9.99 per month, which gives you access to, simply, everything! For more information on the ranks, if you will, check out this page on Spotify’s website.
Once you sign up for the free/premium-based service, you’ll gain access to millions of your favorite songs courtesy of the somewhat-comparable-to-iTunes alternative, Spotify application that you download to both your computer and mobile device. Once installed on your computer you’ll be able to load all of your songs from your hard drive into your library, browse through Spotify’s large collection of songs and charts, make playlists (with songs from their collection with no purchase as well as your own songs, catch explained below), and more – to describe the overall experience, I’d say say something very much like iTunes.
The mobile version is basically what was described above, coded to fit on the iPhone’s screen. However, Spotify for the iPhone (iPhone link [FREE]) also introduces a new way to get your music onto your iOS device without having to include iTunes in the process. What iOS 5 will be bringing as a hyped feature, is the ability to sync your device using solely your WiFi rather than your computer; Spotify offers this now. If your computer is on the same WiFi network as your device, desired playlists from the desktop version will be synced over the air, without any connection to the computer or manual syncing required to your device. It’s an amazingly simple process that just gets rid of the need for iTunes, already, before iOS 5. The only two restrictions here are that any songs that you don’t own, that were added to playlists that are synced, cannot be played without a premium membership. Similarly, here you have access to the large database but without the ability to play any songs. Sad, but you have to upgrade for the privilege to do that.
So, say you were looking into the service. What makes you want it over iTunes? The few pluses I found for Spotify against iTunes were that Spotify provides you with album artwork for songs it recognizes in your iTunes library – yeah, small, but noticeable when you have a 1,000+ song library on iTunes without artwork and then suddenly have a cover picture for almost every single one of your songs. It additionally completes all of the fields for a song (album, artist, etc.) if not already filled out, and it provides an easy way to get your music on to your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad without the hassle of syncing involved with iTunes.
The latter of the pros can be done with iTunes Home Sharing. After enabling the iTunes service that recently became compatible with the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad (steps here), you will gain access to playlists on your computer’s iTunes, although you won’t be able to take these on-the-air playlists offline, whereas Spotify enables you to do so, in some cases depending on your status as a member.
My verdict? Getting a Spotify account may not be as fulfilling as expected unless you’re up for spending monthly to get premium service – for iOS anyways. With a free membership, you’re not getting much that you can’t otherwise attain by other methods, or by the standard way of iTunes. However, it’s great for the computer when looking for different music and a massive, easily navigable database. I would offer out invites, but there’s no good way to do it. So if you you really, truly want an account, just go to Spotify.com and enter your email address in the field; you should get an invitation when Spotify can fit you in. I got mine just one day after submitting my email, which is pretty desirable considering others have had to wait for weeks.