Spotify has used a simple strategy for years: Get users hooked on the desktop version of its service, then charge them $10 per month (or the overseas equivalent) if they want to bring all the playlists they’ve made to a smartphone, tablet, television, or other non-computer. So far, that strategy has led to at least three million paying users (update: Spotify tells Evolver.fm that the new number is “four million;” AllThingsD agrees), but that hasn’t stopped Spotify from tweaking the formula.
Last month, the company unveiled its first free and unlimited mobile app for iOS, which lets people dabble with Spotify’s free, personalized radio service. Today, it lets Android users in on the fun with Spotify’s first ever freemium Android app, which likewise lets users of Google Android-powered mobile devices play as much Spotify Radio as they want, for as long as they want, without paying a dime. The stations draw on Spotify’s entire catalog of music, last said to be north of 17 million songs (by comparison, Pandora has about a million songs).
How does Spotify afford giving this away for free? Simple: It pays the same DMCA-compliant radio rates that Pandora, iHeartRadio, and other services do. However, Spotify has an edge over those services, in that you can tag any song you hear with a Star to add it to your permanent collection. While you can’t play those songs on-demand on your phone without paying for a premium subscription, you can play them in Spotify’s free desktop version.
Instead of your Up and Down ratings merely sculpting your radio service, you can actually collect music using these free mobile radio apps, all without paying. According to Spotify’s announcement of its new free Android app this morning, this means “Spotify is the only radio where users can save the songs they love.”
The company hopes that this still leaves enough of an incentive to upgrade, because any serious music fan wants to play specific music at specific times — and in order to do that on iOS or Android, they will have to pay, just like they always have.
As with the free Spotify app for iOS, Android users can base stations not only around specific artists, but also around songs, or the playlists they’ve created on their computers. In the last case, this means you’ll hear some of the stuff in those playlists — again, all without paying. However, the stations will have audio ads unless the user springs for the premium version, as with other streaming radio services.
Given that this one lets you harvest songs from the radio and add them to your desktop Spotify account (or your mobile one if you upgrade), we expect Spotify’s new Android app to attract a decent following.