Spotify is Here
Spotify has finally launched its streaming service in the United States, but you'll have to stand in line and wait for an invite to use the free, ad-supported version*. We opted to move to the front of the line by signing up for an unlimited account, which allows all-you-can-listen streaming and offline play on a mobile device for ten bucks a month. Drop the offline option and you can cut that price in half.
This arrangement will sound familiar to Rdio and MOG users who have the same deal, but Spotify comes with some big differences. We dug into both the Windows desktop app and mobile apps and came up with this tour of some of the key features in Spotify. We also compare to service to existing offerings like Pandora and Rdio.
*No invite now needed for free version.
A full-featured, standalone app:
Unlike Mog, Rdio, Slacker, Pandora and numerous others, Spotify isn't web-based. While Rdio does have a desktop app, it's really a shell for the web interface. Spotify is a full-blown media application that runs on Mac OS X, Windows and mobile platforms.
A deep library:
Spotify offers 15 million tracks, a few million short of iTunes, but well ahead of other streaming services. I was even able to find great independent artists like Boris McCutcheon and the Salt Licks, who are on a small label out of Santa Fe. I even found some of their albums that aren't available on iTunes.
Import your playlists:
To make it crystal clear that Spotify is hoping to become the new iTunes, the desktop app allows easy importing of playlists from both iTunes and Windows Media Player.
Sync to mobile device:
Every music service out there has a mobile component, whether it's streaming from the cloud with Google Music Beta or offline syncing with Rdio and MOG. Spotify offers the nifty bonus of automatic syncing between any desktop and mobile device that are connected to the same Wi-Fi router.
Social music discovery:
Spotify uses Facebook for its de facto social network, but the integration leaves something to be desired at this early phase, with no simple way to invite friends to Spotify. But if your Facebook friends do sign up in droves, they'll soon be able to recommend songs, which arrive directly to your Spotify 'Inbox.'
Spotify also makes it simple to share any songs or playlists via Facebook, Twitter and Windows Messenger. It is possible also to connect with Spotify users not in your Facebook network by entering spotify:user:USERNAME in the search box in the Spotify client. (Username must be lower-case.)
Paying for offline play capability allows Spotify users to turn their mobile device into a media player a la Rdio, MOG and iTunes. Randomly, users are limited to 3,333 offline tracks downloaded to up to three mobile devices.
Variable audio quality:
When trying to sync over a less-than-stellar 3G connection, Spotify offers the option of storing slightly lower quality music files on your device. Also a great feature if you're looking to save SD card space.
Free for 6 months:
If you don't opt to pay for a premium or unlimited account, Spotify is offering its free account option for 6 months without any of the limitations or caps that have been seen in Europe. After that point some limitations are likely to be imposed on free accounts. Enjoy while you can!