First look! Bitterwallet review of the Spotify iPhone app
What place has a review of the Spotify iPhone app got on a consumer(ish) website? Well, if it holds to its promise, for your £10 monthly subscription you'll never buy another track of music again. Maybe you've been bit-torrenting for years and so haven't paid for music in as long - in which case there isn't going to be a whole lot of music around in the future. The Spotify iPhone app (which is also released today for Android handsets) could be the model that gives both consumers and record labels what they want.
So first things first - the Spotify iPhone app downloads in seconds over 3G. Downloading the app is free, but you'll need to pay for a premium monthly subscription (which is possibly one of the simplest sign-ups ever if you're already a member) to use it. As soon as you sign in, the app will automatically open and sync with your desktop account. There's no need to refresh the app if you make changes to playlists on your desktop - the app updates in real-time.
You can listen to your playlists over 3G, but the first thing you notice is the enormous "offline playlists" button - the reason most of us thought this app would never see the light of day. Perhaps all isn't rosy in the iTunes garden, because the ability to cache all your desktop playlists offline is here. Selecting which playlists to cache takes two taps - it's dazzlingly easy to use.
The big selling point of Spotify is that, with a few very notable exceptions (The Beatles and Oasis being two) you have access to millions of tracks. Search is well thought out - tap in any phrase and flick between the returned results for tracks, albums and artists. Editing playlists is simple for anybody who's used an iPhone before; adding tracks from Search isn't quite as intuitive - you've got to tap the information icon, rather than select a more obvious "add to playlist" option - it keeps the interface clean but it's not immediately obvious.
Now the downside; unlike the iPhone's (or iPod's) embedded music player, the app has to remain open to listen to music. This severely restricts your use of the handset - you can't use any other app or feature without shutting Spotify down. Not great, that. The second sticking point is offline syncing - it takes forever. While changes to playlists are synced between your desktop and handset in near-real time, caching playlists is a slow process - a 28 song playlist took over 20 minutes this morning. And hooking the handset up to your desktop doesn't change that; connecting the two makes no difference to the speed of the process.
Overall? Great if you spend hours lying in field of wheat staring at blue skies, not so brilliant if you want music as a soundtrack to the rest of your day. £10 a month isn't a bad price point for unlimited music, but it still has a few limitations - in terms of content and execution - to overcome.
[UPDATE - we’ve just tested it, and another downside is you can only cache your playlists offline using wi-fi; you can have a hard-line broadband connection to your desktop and still not be able to cache your app playlists. So that’s not very good, is it?]