August 3, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Is Spotify Preparing Third-Party Apps for the iPhone?

spotify mobile apps

As of today, the Spotify desktop client contains 44 optional apps with which users can play music. Is Spotify planning to do the same on the mobile side? Our tipster thinks so.

We’re somewhat obsessed with Spotify apps, because they let developers build all sorts of wacky stuff on top of a legally-licensed music library. This makes it possible for you to hear music in all sorts of new ways, whether you pay for it or not, thanks to Spotify’s agreements with labels and publishers.

When we met with Spotify director of product Charlie Hellman at Spotify’s New York headquarters earlier this year to check out the company’s then-brand-new iPad app, we asked him if Spotify if the company was planning on rolling out third-party Spotify apps within its own smartphone app. He hinted that we were onto something.

For now, Spotify apps (not to be confused with Spotify-powered iOS apps, of which there are at least 47, and which run as separate programs rather than within Spotify itself), are only available on the desktop, for a number of reasons.

However, Evolver.fm recently received word from web developer Ethan Lee about some interesting files he turned up while snooping around the Spotify app with software that lets you peak inside your iPhone. What he found indicates that Spotify may have already built some of the architecture that would be required to roll out third-party apps within its iOS app:

I was recently digging through Spotify.app in my iPhone (using Phone Disk, which lets you mount your iOS filesystem as a volume in Finder), and I found a subfolder in its package contents labeled ‘apps’.  Further inspection revealed two files: ‘api.spa,’ and ‘radio.spa’.

Unfortunately, I could not read the contents of either file (due to permissions issues, my reluctance to jailbreak, and only a free trial of Phone Disk), but ‘.spa’ looks a lot like “Spotify App” to me.  Radio is listed in the desktop client of Spotify as an app (although not in App Finder), so perhaps Spotify might be looking into rolling out its HTML 5 apps on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

This might seem a bit tenuous, but given what Hellman told us in May — and given the clear market value of porting these apps into the mobile version of Spotify, not only to the company but to its app-building partners — we’re inclined to believe it. After all, listeners to the desktop version of the apps racked up 1500 years of play time in the first three months they were available.

There’s just one wrinkle: From what we understand, Apple bars iOS apps from including app stores within themselves, like some sort of Russian nesting doll. However, Spotify may have ironed that out — we would guess by making these third-party apps available as in-app purchases using Apple’s own system. If Cupertino were to get a cut of these apps, why would it stop them from happening? Simple: It wouldn’t.

Anyway, assuming our tipster really is onto something, as we suspect he is, what apps would be available within the iOS version of Spotify? For starters, they would likely include the same apps that are available on the desktop, including these:

Stay tuned.