Spotify for iPad arrives, aims to become 'the OS of music'
The race for digital music supremacy got a little more interesting this morning when Spotify, the online music streaming service that has quickly become both an industry standard and a key online innovator, released its long-awaited iPad application, replacing the dinky half-size iPhone app that preceded it. The new software, available free to premium subscribers, aims to further erode Apple's dominance in digital music -- through Apple's own devices.
Though available only to listeners who pay the monthly $9.99 fee, Spotify is currently offering a free 48-hour trial, which can be extended to 30 days after the initial run expires if (of course) you're willing to sacrifice some information/data about yourself. It's a good way to make your own decision about whether or not the service merits all the hubbub that has sprung up around it.
Granted, Spotify has a mere 3 million premium subscribers, and not all of them have iPads, so the percentage of listeners/readers who will be affected by this news is relatively small. But that doesn't mean that the new app hasn't advanced the conversation on the future of digital music yet another step.
The goal to become, as one of Spotify's executives described it, "the OS of music," had eager fans of the service pushing the company to finally unveil the app, so the pressure to follow through was relatively high. The good news is that the app is as engaging and intuitive as other versions of Spotify are, if a few tidbits here and there do still need attention.
Search function allows you access to the service's entire catalog, and, as with its desktop app, you can build, adjust and share playlists with friends and followers. Plug it into your home stereo system and bingo, you've got the service's library at your fingertips. Sound quality is good (256 kbps, though they'd do well to up it to 320), and the stream is clean and relatively seamless.
The biggest concern, though, is the scant space devoted to music discovery and new release updates. The company relies on friend connections to serve this purpose, but it's often difficult to intuitively learn about the new music that's arrived onto the site. There are playlist functions for this, of course; one called "New Album Releases on Spotify" has more than 25,000 followers who learn about essential music recently added to the site. But little energy seems devoted to keeping listeners fully informed about new music.
The main Spotify home page -- called "What's New" -- offers relatively little in the way of advice or tips, and what it does offer, a handful of new releases, much of it major-label fare, doesn't seem designed to create recommendations that are relevant to the listener's taste.
Also, the company's selection of add-ons and plug-ins -- a brilliant, built-in way to showcase and filter the vast range of music available -- doesn't function within the iPad version. Hopefully, these and other concerns will be addressed in future updates, but for now, if you've got an iPad and are able to spend $10 a month for the premium service, there are few better ways to discover and share new music than through Spotify.
-- Randall Roberts
Photo: Screen shot of Spotify's new iPad application. Credit: Randall Roberts / Los Angeles Times