May 6, 2011 at 11:42 am

Review: Spotify

spotify appThe oft-delayed, much-discussed streaming service is a hit in Europe but has yet to launch in the U.S. While there are some backdoor methods to gaining access (now is a good time to have a friend with a Swedish iTunes account or British credit card), those of us in the States will just have to keep waiting patiently to experience the magic of Spotify.

While rates for the U.S. haven’t been announced, Europeans using it have a number of plans to choose from – a free, ad-supported plan that tops out at ten hours per month; unlimited web listening for 5 pounds or Euros per month; and 10 (pounds or Euros) for unlimited web and mobile streaming. Most likely, Spotify will charge the standard rates here, should it ever launch: $5 for web and $10 for mobile. Its catalog is said to include 13 million tracks.

Positives: The desktop app is lightning fast, and its pleasant, easy-to-use design brings powerful, intuitive features. Plus, Spotify has new releases from all over Europe, so the latest Dutch disco sensation’s new effort is only a click away! In all seriousness, this is a selling point for expats and fans of music from across the pond who can’t access it in the U.S. It’s easy to create playlists out of whatever you find on Spotify, and you can store them on the device for listening without a connection. Because the service’s much touted social functions are still unavailable in the U.S., it’s hard to judge the playlisting and recommendation functions, but it’s simple to share any song or playlist using a special Spotify URL, and collaborating with friends on a shared playlist is dead simple.

Negatives: The home screen on the app is not actually that well designed, in that users have to scroll across for new releases and the news feed featuring the latest and greatest news about the service seems out of place. And while the social functions are what supposedly make Spotify great, they require a lot of participation; the more friends a user can connect with, the richer the experience. Unfortunately, due the service’s long delays and the fact that other streaming sites have failed to reach a mass audience, Spotify’s social aspects may never reach their full potential.

Who it’s great for: Right now, if you can finagle an account, Spotify a top-notch freemium streaming service with a great selection of foreign and domestic content (as well as new iPod syncing features and an MP3 download store). That said, it’s worth withholding final judgment until it launches in the States.

Read more cloud-based, on-demand music subscription reviews.

(Screenshot courtesy of Flickr/Dekua)