March 15, 2013 at 11:53 am

Report: Spotify Wants Beefier Free Apps

spotify free mobile on demand

Today, Spotify restricts non-paying mobile users to a radio-style service or 30 days of on-demand playback. That could change, as mobile devices become more central to computing.

Spotify’s strategy, from the beginning, has included allowing people to listen for free on the desktop. There’s a catch when it comes to playing that music away from a computer. If they want to take the millions of tracks on Spotify to their iPhones, Androids, televisions, or other devices, Spotify users have to pay for the premium version.

In June 2012, Spotify released its first free iOS app, which allows non-paying users to get a taste of Spotify during a 30-day trial — or, U.S.-based users can use the Spotify app forever, but only as internet radio. In other words, they can’t pick and choose any song they want to play. Spotify rolled out the same features to Android the next month, so now it’s “freemium” on both major mobile platforms.

Could Spotify be ready to change up this formula, allowing mobile freeloaders to pick and choose their music with more control? According to a report from our pal Greg Sandoval at The Verge, Spotify is in fact trying to work with the record labels to beef up that mobile offering in a number of possible ways. could not confirm the report with Spotify, which declines to comment on negotiations with rightsholders. However, it adds to previous evidence that Spotify is looking past the desktop in its attempt to attract free users.

So, what would this look like? The options appear to include:

  • a limited number of tracks that play in a particular sequence (this could be an offline playback-enabled version of the free radio service Spotify already offers on iOS and Android, because Spotify already offers free unlimited streaming radio to mobile);
  • a limited number of offline playback-enabled internet radio tracks that have to be swapped out for new ones after a few months;
  • or (the most intriguing option) a number of on-demand tracks, selected by the user, that can be played in any order, just like in the paid version. These might only play for a certain number of times though, and might include ads, the way the free desktop version does.

Today, as yesterday, the “free on desktop, paid on mobile” strategy makes sense from the perspective of both labels and Spotify, which now claims six million paying subscribers. But what about when lots of people don’t use computers anymore — or, perhaps more accurately, when smartphones, tablets, and televisions become so computer-like that only uber-nerds, hardcore PC gamers, and music/video producers need actual computers?

Our analysis: Spotify is trying to prepare for that future, just like its buddy Facebook is doing.