The Spotify desktop app reminds us of the older iTunes music player, with a large main window displaying tracks, and a left pane for various navigation options and activity information. A recent update introduced a sleeker all-black overhaul. Mobile apps are available on just about every platform and designed to look similarly as the desktop version so there’s very little learning curve.
Spotify as a free service is supported by ads. A premium account subscription costs $9.90 a month, and for that you get uninterrupted music and the ability to download tracks for offline listening. However, this is limited to a maximum of 3,333 songs per device (up to three devices). Spotify has a variety of bitrate options, from as low as 96kbps up to 320kbps, though the highest quality requires a Premium account too.
Prior to December 2013, mobile apps were only accessible with a Premium account, but it is now open to all. The caveat for free accounts is the inability to select specific songs to play. You can access all playlists, but only play in shuffle mode with limited skips.
The main method of accessing content on Spotify is via its search bar, which returns results sorted by song title, album and artist. Our searches for a diverse variety of music from Taiwanese pop to US metalcore bands all registered hits, but Spotify does practice some geo locking and licensing restrictions as we noticed some songs within an album being greyed out.
Spotify also has a Discover feature that makes suggestions based on your listening history with a very intuitive preview function; click and hold on the suggested song and Spotify will play a brief section. If you are currently listening to music, your original song will pause. The preview will end when you release your finger, and your existing song will resume. If you like what you listen to, you can go straight to the new artist.
The Radio feature is also a great way to discover music. You can create your own radio stations from just about any criteria: song, album, artist or genre. Unlike a regular radio, there’s no disruption to your flow of music and you can easily skip tracks not to your liking.