These days, it's hard to believe there was a time when people did things like buy CDs and listen to the radio. We were a simpler people in a simpler time. Now you can stream tens of millions of songs to your phone or computer for around $10 a month. For those of us who still remember getting gouged $15 to $20 for a single compact disc containing about a dozen songs, it's a continual revelation.
It's also an extremely competitive market. While Spotify (Android, iOS) is the market leader with about 87 million paying subscribers, Apple Music is pre-installed on the tens of millions of iPhones sold every quarter, and Pandora Music (Android, iOS) can be found on seemingly any device that has a speaker and an internet connection. As a result, to remain the king of the hill, you may have to be a bit of a moving target.
And if you're a techie who uses Twitter a lot, it's hard to not be aware of Jane Manchun Wong's regular river of app news updates, which she delivers by reverse-engineering programming code. That's the digital equivalent of taking a car apart to see how it fits together. This computer science student attending the University of Massachusetts has been making a name for herself for some time, scoring a variety of scoops about app development.
Some of the things she uncovers are early enough in development that they may not make it into the final product, but they still provide some valuable insight into a company's future plans and general way of thinking. So with that in mind, let's go over some of the things that she's dug up from a recent test version of the Spotify mobile app.
Spotify's feature list is already long enough to attract a wide variety of users, so new features that matters to you may not matter to others. But one new nugget from. Wong that caught our attention is the apparent ability to upload music files from your phone to Spotify's cloud.
This is a feature that Google Play Music has had for some time; it's technically capped at 50,000 tracks, but that should be plenty for all but the most hardcore of MP3 collectors. However, with Google transitioning from Play Music to YouTube Music, it's not clear if the upload feature will make the leap to the new platform, so it would be nice to have an alternative streaming service to fall back on.
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Note that uploading your music doesn't make it appear for other users. It becomes a private extension of your streaming service's library, which is handy for filling in gaps in the catalog. For many years, the Beatles, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, and other iconic groups did not have any of their music available through streaming services, so Google Play Music's upload feature came through in the clutch. You can stream their tunes now, but others remain offline, such as Tool.
Wong's reverse-engineering efforts also indicate that Spotify is making some substantial changes to podcast navigation. For one, she's spotted a "Saved for later" function. When you tag a podcast with this, it will appear in a list of other podcasts that you've tagged for listening to later. This could help you prioritize your podcast subscriptions, or least help remind you to listen to them when you have the time.
Her research also indicates that the full descriptions for podcasts will now show up on a separate screen, to reduce visual clutter. On a mobile phone's screen, every square inch of real estate is precious -- yet sometimes, less is more. One example comes from Spotify itself, which took the five buttons that normally appear at the bottom and recently reduced them to the three most popular ones.
Again, it's not guaranteed that everything uncovered here will see the light of day. A given feature might also go through a lot of changes during development. Either way, it's good to know that Spotify is at least iterating on music uploads and upgrades to the podcast experience.
- App researcher Jane Manchun Wong has reverse-engineered a test version of the Spotify mobile app and discovered plans for music uploading, podcast organization, and other features.
- Note that test versions of an app may have features that don't make their way into the retail version, or they may change a lot. But at the least, we get insight into what kind of features a developer is working on.
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- Is YouTube transitioning away from subscription-based original content?
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