Spotify Mobile Faceoff: iPhone vs. Android

Spotify Mobile on iPhone and Android are both reasonably mature apps now, having been launched simultaneously back in September 2009. At the time, the Android version had a slight edge in terms of features, with its unique ability to Sync Over 3G, a What’s New area, and most crucially the ability to play in the background. But the iPhone version seemed to take priority at Spotify and within a few months it had caught up then taken the lead from Android.

So how do they compare today? Here’s a detailed breakdown.

 

Updates and Customer Satisfaction

Spotify on iPhone is now a full SEVEN versions ahead of Android (v0.4.16 vs. v0.4.9) and saw five updates in 2010 compared with only one update for Android. Clearly there are many more users of Spotify on iPhones than Android, although I am sure this gap must surely be shrinking (cf. Android dominating iPhone in UK smartphone market). Checking the user ratings on the Apple App Store and Google Market shows:

  • Spotify on Android has an average score of 88%
  • Spotify on iPhone has an average score of 50%

This seems to imply that Android users are much happier with Spotify compared to their Apple counterparts, although note that many users rate Spotify with a one-out-of-five merely because they don’t want to pay for it.

 

Where Spotify on Android Beats Spotify on iPhone

Google Android has several unique built-in features that developers can take of advantage of when creating new apps. Luckily the bright sparks at Spotify siezed upon these to make sure Spotify on Android took full advantage of its platform. This enabled the following features unique to Spotify on Android:

    Spotify Widgets on Android

  • Player widget on home screen. One of Android’s killer features is home screen widgets. Any music player worth its salt on Android has a player widget and Spotify is no exception. You get some mini-album art as well as the basic playback controls.
  • Starred Tracks folder on home screen. Any track you’ve starred in Spotify is listed in a special folder you can add to a homescreen for quick access.
  • Integrates with Google Search widget. Apps with searchable “things” can register for the standard local search on Android. Spotify is there, letting you search for tracks in playlists (including local music). Clicking a search result opens Spotify and starts playing the song, although there seems to be a bug for local music (it opens Spotify but doesn’t locate or play the track).
  • Voice search. My favorite Android Only feature is the integrated voice search. It’s great for impressing your friends with: ask them to name a song, any song; you whip out your ‘droid, say the name of the song into it and the tune starts playing instantly. Of course, you then have to get the next round in for being such a smart-arse but I think it’s worth it.
  • Choose storage location. On devices with more than one storage location (for example, Samsung smartphones) you can set Spotify’s caching area.

Spotify for Android has three other features missing from Spotify on iPhone:

  • Artist view: Biography. Thanks to Androids tab feature, when you’re on an Artist page you can click the Biography tab to read the band’s biography (if they have one), just like on the desktop.
  • Artist view: Top hits. Another dedicated tab on an Artist page, this lists to top tracks for that artist, again just like on the desktop. You can actually get this on Spotify for iPhone: simply search for the band then click the Artist tab. Songs are listed in order of popularity which is the same as Top Hits.
  • Library. The Library area from the Playlists tab lists all the songs you have in playlists (including local music) alphabetically. I’m not too sure what it’s good for (shuffle play your entire collection?) but it does have a filter hidden at the top. This attempts to replace the missing playlist search feature on the iPhone version (see below) but it’s a bit of a fudge.

Artist Biography on Android - not available on iPhone

 

Where Spotify on iPhone Beats Spotify on Android

There are lots of features on Spotify for iPhone that are missing from Spotify on Android. None of these seem to be specific to iOS, so their omision from Android is probably just down to a lack of priority or resources.

Here’s what you’ll find that’s currently unique to Spotify on iPhone:

  • Playlist folders. Eleven months after they arrived on the desktop, playlist folders finally appeared on Spotify mobile. But only on iPhone. For anyone with more than a few dozen playlists, folder management is the essential feature to keep track of your music. Implementation on iPhone is flawless, copying the desktop style perfectly and enabling nested folders for even greater flexibility. This single feature gives Spotify on iPhone a huge advantage over Android.
  • Create a new playlist from a track. If you hear a track you like you can create a new playlist based on that song. On Android, you can only create new playlists based on entire albums.
  • Rearrange tracks in a playlist. Another big advantage to Spotify on iPhone is the ability to sort tracks within a playlist. Android has no sorting option at all.
  • Rearrange playlists. As above, but for playlists.
  • Search in playlist. Similar to the filter feature on desktop Spotify. Unavailable on Android, although the Library filter is similar.
  • Album art on Artist and Search pages. A “feature” exclusive to iPhone from the start, thumbnail coverart for albums appear on both Artist pages and in search results.

Album view comparison

  • Artist art on Search pages. Switch to the artist view on search results shows thumbnail artist photos as shown below.
  • Volume normalization. Audio (or peak) normalization makes every track sound roughly the same volume level. It’s particularly useful when you have a playlist with tracks from both new and older albums (since new albums are always artificially made “louder”). Normalization is available on the desktop and on iPhone, but not Android.
  • Find/play replacement tracks. As on the desktop, if you try to play a track that’s “not available in your country,” Spotify for iPhone will try to find and play from an alternative album instead. As far as I know, this doesn’t happen on Android.
  • Add a note when sharing a track to Spotify People. When sharing a song to someone’s Inbox, you get the option to add some text along with the song (just like on the desktop). This isn’t an option on Android.
  • Copy playlist URL to clipboard for pasting. Ironic given the iPhone’s history, you can easily copy a playlist’s Spotify URL for pasting elsewhere. You can’t do this directly from Spotify for Android, although you can share to twitter (for example) then copy the URL that’s entered into your draft tweet.

Artist search view comparison

 

Summary

Adding up the unique features (and allowing the inclusion of Android OS-specific ones), we get:

  • Spotify on Android: 8 points
  • Spotify on iPhone: 11 points

So Spotify on iPhone wins in terms of number of unique features. As an Android fanboy it pains me to say it, but when you also consider the quality and usefulness of these unique functions, Spotify on iPhone is a clear winner.

But if you’re looking at hardware and processing power and want to compare the iPhone 4 with my Samsung Galaxy S II, well that’s a completely different story ;)

 

Differences in the What's New page

Thanks to @jasminetea for Spotify iPhone screenshots. 

  © 2014 Jer White / Pansentient League.
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