Spotify is currently the biggest music streaming service in the world, with 70 million paying subscribers as of February 2018, and between 150M and 200M total users. While the iTunes Music Store popularized paying for individual tracks and albums, a low monthly flat rate has proven more fashionable (and it has certain user experience advantages, which we'll get into). Let's see if Spotify still has what it takes to keep rivals like Apple Music, Google Play Music, and Amazon Music Unlimited at bay.
An enormous library that can follow you just about anywhere: Spotify is on our computers, on our phones and tablets, in our cars via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, in smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo, and on most TVs that have built-in streaming apps. And you can leave one of theses devices and pick up where you left on another.
Our PCs and mobile devices can also download tracks for offline listening -- in a variety of quality levels to accommodate limited storage space or limited download speeds -- so you don't necessarily even need an Internet connection to enjoy it. Overall, you can probably get Spotify in more ways than with any other streaming service, which partly explains why it has so many subscribers.
High-quality discovery tools: Spotify definitely puts work into leveraging its all-you-can-eat approach, beyond just providing a lot of content and making it available on a wide variety of devices. It has a cornucopia of dynamic playlists that change on a weekly or even daily basis, and most of them are based on recommendations that are tailored to your listening habits. It will even recommend playlists based on the playlists that you have manually created. There are so many opportunities to explore new music that you could easily run out of time to listen to your usual set of favorite tunes. And podcasts. Did we mention they have podcasts, too?
Last but certainly not least, you can pick any track in the library and tell Spotify to create a playlist based on it, and it even evolves further as you vote tracks up and down. It's not the only music streaming service that does this, but the feature is reliably enjoyable, effective at digging up things you probably wouldn't have tried otherwise, and it's not really possible with services where you have to buy your tracks and albums individually.
A good balance of sharing and privacy: Since Spotify has a free version supported by ads, you can text a song or album link to anyone you know (or post it on social media), and they can listen without having to sign up for a subscription. You can also publish your playlists within Spotify and share them with other users that you have added to your friends list. If it becomes popular, Spotify may feature it on the artist's page.
At the same time, if you just want to sit down and listen to some tunes, you can easily filter out the desktop app's social functions. Within its settings (click on the downward-facing arrow next to your account name in the upper right and select Settings) let you hide the social sidebar and let you switch to a "private session" mode where your top artists and streaming activities aren't broadcast to other Spotify users. When you go private, your account name in the upper right will get a padlock to help you remember what mode you're in.
You can't upload music into their cloud: Google extends their cloud storage services to their respective music streaming services, allowing you to upload a certain number of your own tracks to a personal cloud, where they are integrated into the music service pretty much seamlessly. Apple can also link your iCloud storage to Apple Music.
Spotify can see tracks that are stored locally on your PC, but without cloud integration of those tracks, you can't stream to them to another device. Given that Apple Music is projected to have more subscribers than Apple Music by summer of this year, and Apple Music comes effectively pre-installed on the millions of iPhones and iPads that Apple sells every year, it's that much more important for Spotify to achieve feature parity. The latter's lack of personal cloud storage support may become a problem.
Autoplay could use some more settings: With Autoplay, Spotify will keep dynamically adding tracks to your queue after you've come to the end of it, selecting them based on your listening history. It basically grafts the recommendation algorithm directly onto your listening experience, which is mostly very handy.
However, Autoplay doesn't distinguish between tracks that are already downloaded and tracks that are still in their cloud, nor does it check for Wi-Fi versus LTE. So if your Internet connection has a moderate data cap or is unreliable, Autoplay has to be disabled completely to avoid overages and interrupted streams.
Our complaints about Spotify are relatively minor when you consider the overall package, which has a huge library, wide device compatibility, useful content recommendation systems, and respect for your privacy.