Spotify on Virgin Media TiVo: App Review

Virgin Media customers in the UK can now access a new Spotify app on their TiVo boxes. The Flash-based app lets Spotify Premium users browse and listen to playlists through their TV/hi-fi using the TiVo remote, all from the comfort of your sofa. Read on for more on Spotify for TiVo!

 

Following a much-needed software update, Virgin Media introduced folders to the Apps & Games section on their TiVo box. Select the Music folder to access Spotify:

The Spotify app takes a moment to load before displaying a login screen (or if you’ve already logged in before it takes you directly to a What’s New home page, so no need to log in every time). You enter your details using the TiVo remote control (there’s no pop-up keyboard like in the YouTube app), but luckily you can multi-press the buttons like on a mobile phone to quickly enter letters and symbols. New customers to Virgin Media can get Spotify Premium free for 3 or 6 months (depending on the package you take) while existing Spotify Premium users can just use their current details to login.

Once you log in you’re presented with a What’s New page divided into albums, tracks, and a currently-selected area on the right:

A What's New page is used as the Home Page

Navigation is easy and intuitive using the up/down/left/right buttons on the TiVo remote, and you can press the Play or OK button at any time to start the music. Playback is near-instantaneous, thanks to the dedicated modem in the TiVo box. While playing, the fast-forward and rewind buttons skip through the track and you can use the TiVo Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down buttons to quickly star and unstar the current song. Pressing the Blue button pops up some track options to Star, Browse Album, and Browse Artist; pressing the Yellow button accesses the top menu where you can switch between the What’s New page and your own Playlists view.

Once in the playlist view, all your playlists are listed on the left with playlist tracks shown in the middle and current track on the right:

My Spotify playlists

The Full Screen button does what you’d expect, displaying a nice big cover art image, minimal controls, current track details and next track details too:

Listening in Full Screen mode

 

A basic but slick Spotify player then. So what’s missing? Well, the most obvious omission is the lack of a search bar, so you’ll need to set up all playlists on the desktop first. The Browse Artist option is a reasonable search compromise, provided the artist you want to browse is already included in a playlist somewhere. [ I find it useful to maintain a single playlist to use as a launch-point into a particular selection of albums or artists. For example, I have one called “Best of 2011” where I add the first track from each artist’s latest album; I can then use this one playlist to single-click artist or album links . ]

The "Browse Kate Bush" page

There’s also no song shuffle or repeat, no radio and no option to scrobble to Last.fm, set the stream quality, or share with Facebook. You can also still only listen on one device at a time: if you’re playing music on Spotify for TiVo then start a track on Spotify for desktop, the TiVo stops playing and pops up a message to say “Spotify has been paused because your account is used somewhere else.

 

Despite its limited “listen only” features, Spotify on TiVo is a fantastic app that looks great, is simple and fast to use, and streams the music with the speed Spotify is famous for. Virgin Media are offering some sweet deals too for both new and existing subscribers, so if you’re a UK music fan in a cabled area then this is definitely something worth looking into.

  • Welshcake2

    Every time I have tried to scroll down through my playlists, the Tivo box crashes and reboots. No search function is ridiculous.

  • Neil Studd

    You’ve got 143 playlists which is comparable to me – what’s the load time like when you first launch the app? First time I opened it, there was about a 90-second delay while it loaded all of the playlists, which was pretty annoying. It didn’t lag when I launched for a second time (which suggests there is some sort of cache) but when I returned a few hours later (after putting the box on standby) there was the 90-second delay again.

    Lack of shuffle is a real killer for me, as the majority of my playlists are genre/tag-related, but as an existing Premium subscriber it’ll be a nice addition for parties, as a replacement to my existing laptop-to-stereo-via-lineout system 🙂

  • Anonymous

    AFAIK none of the third parties implementation except Sonos and Squeezebox have Search. This includes the Pioneer Spotify cable Receiver.

    Queue is missing too.

  • Not much of a delay on start-up for me; noticeable for sure but nothing like 90 seconds. Faster than iPlayer or YouTube app startup I thought.

    Yes, the shuffle is something you’d expect in this app, especially since it seems to be aimed at “listen only” party plays where you’d often want a randomizer. Sounds like you have a workaround though, provided no-one spills drinks on the laptop :p

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  • MattS

    App feels rushed, lacking of features and has some performance issues! The lack of the most basic functions is kind of irritating but as it comes to no additional cost to existing Spotify subscriptions I consider it more of a bonus then a deal breaker and for that alone it’s a nice, though slightly frustrating, touch. 

  • I’ve had more of chance to play with this and I’m tending to agree with you. The app crashed on me several times, forcing me to hard reboot (i.e. unplug) my TiVo box to get it working again. I found songs would missing from my playlists and yes, the lack of a search feature soon become rather annoying too. But like you, I see this as a “bonus” thing too and since I already have Spotify in my living room it’s not essential. I might be more inclined to use it if the audio quality was as good as on the desktop, but it’s not so I’ll probably only use for parties.

  • Total waste of time. Takes for ever to load, then the TiVo box crashers. Its basically a brick. I was told by Virgin Media its down to capacity and if I could keep it down to less the 300 tracks it would help, how ridiculous, I have about 100 play lists and 20,000 tracks. I would have to delete them all and only have access 300 tracks on my computer, phone and iPod touch. So I will stay with listening to Spotify on these devises. I have my iPod touch connected to my sound system which gives me instant access to all my play list, sweet.         

  • Tasha Yar

    After many aborted attempts I finally managed to access my TIVO Spotify. I have to say that the only plus after all my problems was the option of hearing my picks thru my hi fi. Even here I found I had to alter all of my equaliser settings. Anyone else had similar stuff?

  • The audio quality did sound worse from Spotify on TiVo compared with the desktop, so I suspect it uses low bandwidth streaming.

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