The bottom line: A great perk for Spotify devotees with Premium accounts, Spotify Mobile allows mobile streaming and offline playback of your favorite music.
Spotify's free mobile app is a cinch to set up. Provided you're signed up for a Spotify Premium account ($10 a month), all you need to do is type in your log-in and password, and your favorite music and playlists automatically populate the screen. Spotify users without Premium accounts may log in to the app and look around, but are prevented from streaming or syncing music.
Spotify Mobile's user interface is simple and unobtrusive. Your starred tracks and playlists are listed, along with your inbox and local music collection. Dive into a playlist and you'll see options to take the listed music offline, shuffle playback, edit the playlist order, share the playlist with others, or open the playlist up for collaboration.
The four persistent tabs running across the bottom of the screen let you quickly jump between playlists (the default view), song search, What's New (new and top songs), and settings. Any currently playing song is shown with full-screen album art, with basic track controls and buttons for "hide" and "more info."
Features and support
Just like the desktop software, Spotify Mobile's big trick is its search box, which points you to full song streams of almost any reasonably popular artist, song, or album in existence. You can't get The Beatles, but we had no problem finding greats like The Rolling Stones and David Bowie, as well as obscure indies such as The Ghastly Ones or Four Tet.
Put simply, you tell it what you want to hear, and it plays it for you, provided that you're coughing up $10 for Spotify's Premium plan. It doesn't play something similar to the song you want (like Pandora), or a 30- to 60-second clip of the song you want (like iTunes)--it plays you the whole song or album, just as if it were in your personal music collection, commercial-free.
Of course, there are a few other bells and whistles that make Spotify its own special thing. Integration with Facebook and Twitter allows you to easily share music discoveries with friends. More importantly, the app also allows you to cache your favorite music and playlists for offline listening.
Fans of Spotify's full desktop software may be disappointed to see that not all of the software's capabilities have made it over to the mobile app. The What's New tab is limited to a bite-size selection of what's hot and trending. The same goes for your social network of Spotify friends, of whom only a handful are shown, based on most recent activity. Artist profiles, similar artist listings, and related song breakdowns by common decade are all absent.
We had no issue with Spotify's default sound quality (96-160Kbps Ogg Vorbis), but you can dig into the software's Preferences and enable high-quality streaming (320Kbps Ogg Vorbis).
Furthermore, you can select separate quality settings for streaming and downloaded (cached) content. By default, stream quality is set to Low Bandwidth (96-160Kbps Ogg Vorbis) and Sync quality is set to High Quality (320Kbps Ogg Vorbis).
Spotify's mobile app offers premium subscribers a bite-size version of the service to take on the go. We wish Spotify would throw something in for users with free accounts, similar to Pandora's ad-supported app. Still, the app costs nothing to download and works well on multiple mobile platforms.