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We tested : Spotify
Sep 2014

We tested : Spotify

A couple of weeks ago we saw the debut of Spotify in Canada, a new player in our country’s online music scene. Some have been waiting impatiently, while others are still wondering what it’s all about. Spotify is a music platform available on the PC, smartphones, and tablets that facilitates the management and discovery of music. While this in itself is nothing new, Spotify is a streaming service, so there is no need to download the music (legally or illegally). If you want to avoid exceeding your mobile package’s download limit, Spotify also provides a way to access your music offline as part of a premium (i.e. paid) account.

The company made ​​its debut as a startup in 2006 in Stockholm, Sweden, and has established itself as a leader in the online music industry in Europe and other parts of the world. With over 40 million members and 10 million premium subscribers, Spotify arrives in Canada as a mature platform.

We tested both the free and the premium accounts using the Mac, iPhone, iPad and web versions of the software.

What you should know 

Free accounts: 

  • Spotify ads are played every 3 to 4 songs and should not exceed 2 minutes per hour. Fortunately these are ads that promote Spotify features and, of course, the advantages of Premium subscriptions. But beware: the application monitors the computer volume level and will pause advertisements if it detects any change, making it difficult to avoid them.

  • Playback on mobile is intended to be radio-like, meaning your favorite albums or playlists are always in shuffle mode. Also note that you can only skip songs 5 times per hour (it’s the law!).

Version Premium : 

  • Offer the ability to take your music anywhere without exceeding your mobile data plan. This is an interesting feature also found in other major streaming platforms like Rdio and Deezer. Loading music on your phones is even simpler and faster than using iTunes! (Be aware that the same amount of disk space is needed to store songs, as if you transferred music from your computer).

  • Shuffle mode is no longer mandatory, but is still available on mobile.

Major Spotify features 

  • Search. Spotify’s search engine is very efficient. The display order is always relevant and auto suggest is smart enough to take into account our library’s content and the popularity of the presented results.
  • Playlists and radio. A bit like Songza, Spotify creates themed playlists, suggests different ones according to the time of the day and also offers “radio stations” based on a song or an artist, by genre and by era. It’s an interesting feature in case you just want to listen to a particular style or don’t want to invest time selecting songs one by one. The algorithm, however, needs further refinement as it is not uncommon to have the same song played twice or have multiple songs from the same artist played in a sequence. Fortunately you can “like” or “do not like” a song as you go, improving the automatic song selection. Playlists can also be saved to your library and are automatically updated.
  • Editorial. New releases, new acquisitions (broadcasting rights), and music news are something that many people enjoy.
  • Music management. Finding a song is not a problem. One can easily create playlists and change their order in the library. They can then be published on the Spotify network and shared with friends who can add their own songs.
  • Social. Spotify has introduced a social networking system that is almost impossible to use, especially for those who are not signed up through Facebook. The upside is that you can share music with friends. The downside is that if you’re craving Britney Spears and forget to put on the “private listening session” mode, well, all your friends will know!
  • Sync with iTunes. Spotify will look for songs already on your computer and include them in a list of “local files”. It will also detect and replicate iTunes playlists – this seemed to work automatically but required additional manual work before we could listen to them.

The good 

  • Listening offline (Premium). For its easy management. It’s a shame you can’t specify an individual song to be available offline, you have to select an entire album.
  • Versatility. No matter the platform, your music is always with you..
  • Information about artists. Biographies are interesting and you also get to know if there’s an upcoming concert for that artist near you.
  • Visuals. Kudos for the images used for radio stations, playlists and artists. They are beautiful, engaging, and make us want to hear everything.Beautiful use of pictures

The bad 

  • Complexity. One of the biggest problems with Spotify is its tendency to complicate or hide the majority of its interesting features, particularly the functionality related to its social network.

    We recommend: Add some sort of contextual help.

  • Cross-platform inconsistency and feedback. Unlimited skips on the PC, limited skips on mobile (on free accounts); icons that are only used on the iPad and not on the other platforms; lots of details that force us to re-learn how to use the app on each platform in addition to the lack of information or feedback. The learning curve is very steep! It constantly leaves us in doubt, especially if we are not a Premium member. There is no evidence that some features only work if we upgrade to a paid account.

    We recommend: Add “alerts” when a feature is available for members only.

  • Layout. The similarity in how artists, albums and songs are displayed is very confusing.

    We recommend: Use icons to help distinguish between these views or use simple text hierarchy principles (big vs small, normal vs bold vs italic) to indicate what we are listening to.

  • Vocabulary. Follow, save, add,… After two weeks of using the applications it’s still very difficult for us to understand the differences between certain terms. Example of different labels being used for the 

  • Catalog. Although there are over 20 million songs (Rdio and Deezer have 25 million and 30 million each), some albums are incomplete and/or contain duplicates. The French catalog, particularly regarding artists from Quebec, needs to be expanded.

Overall, the app is very functional if your goal is to simply add music to your library and listen to playlists. You will have to invest some time if you want to understand the more advanced features. Spotify needs improvement concerning some user interaction aspects in each platform and its overall user experience.

We wish them good luck in their competition with Deezer and Rdio which is fierce in this industry!

Source: New feed

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