July 14, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
Don’t believe the hype. That’s what I thought few weeks ago when it became clear that Spotify‘s oft-rumored U.S. launch was finally going to be real. I wondered if anybody would care considering that Spotify took so long to invade the states that most of us had already adopted Amazon Cloud, Pandora, Rdio, Slacker, and the most recent Google Music. The last thing anyone wants is another music service, right?
Maybe not. Spotify is officially available in the United States, but only if you have an invitation. I got mine this morning and have been busy testing it on the desktop because the only way to use Spotify Mobile is to sign-up for a $9.99 monthly membership. After some peppering by our European readers vouching for Spotify’s greatness, I decided to bite the bullet and sign-up for a membership. I’ll be back with my thoughts in another post later, but let’s recap my first impressions of what a $9.99 Spotify Premium membership gets you.
15 Milllion songs
Spotify has a very large music library. That’s no surprise since all streaming music services have at least 2 million licensed songs if it even has 2 to offer. However, don’t be surprised if the organization of that library has some mistakes (Jon B is organized differently than Jon B.) or a few up and coming artists all but ignored. Be sure to sync your personal library to fill in the gaps.
If you have a Sonos S5 and Android app set-up, you can stream your music in excellent quality and control it directly from your phone. I had some problems getting controls to work, and loading my local Spotify library didn’t work. I had to restart my phone to get controls functional, but local music is still a no-go for me.
- Spotify has an Android app that many have raved about. After testing it for a short while, I can mostly see why our European readers forced me to spend $9.99 to test it.
- Controls are available through a slide-up menu that shows album cover art and song information. You can also skip or pause songs with a 4×2 widget.
- Music management is done through Playlists, which users can sync from their desktop. Adding songs from Spotify to your library is very easy.
- Music discovery is pretty darn good. The “What’s New” tab shows a popular new song from many genres and Top Tracks charts what’s popular among Android users.
- Search is decidedly less-awesome because it’s so incomplete and inconsistent. Spotify has 2 of Blue Scholars 7 releases in its library, but only one shows up in search on the mobile device. The same happens when I search for Jay-Z and find several versions of the name, none of which list his seminal Reasonable Doubt.
- Sync and offline support are enabled with Spotify. Members can mark certain playlists to store locally when you don’t have a web connection (160 kbps files). You can also sync your local files over Wi-Fi. This can be a good way to cut down on streaming if you have a tiered data plan.
Music Playback is fantastic. I don’t know what Spotify is doing that’s different from all the other apps, but I don’t remember any other app being able to respond as quickly to controls when streaming. I tap a song and it starts playing; I skip forward and it moves in an instant without any buffering or long pauses. That’s one advantage I give to Spotify and something all other services need to match.
It’s too early for me to anoint Spotify as a gift from the music gods like most people seem to think, but I will say that this is definitely a very good music streaming service. I need to spend some more time with it before I say that it’s any better than the many music services out there, so check back in a few days. For now, I’m giving Spotify a cautious thumbs up.