Category Archives: Android

Spotify on Android: Workarounds for Missing Features

The new Spotify for Android app has been widely praised (not least by me) but there were some features from the previous version that were either dropped completely or hidden away. Fear not though as there are some workarounds you can try: read on to find out how!


How to Play Local Music Files

Spotify on Android used to have a Local Files area that listed all the MP3s and other non-Spotify music files stored on your phone. You could then use Spotify like any other music player. The new version of Spotify has removed the Local Files list, but you can still play MP3s by adding them via the desktop:

  1. Start Spotify on your phone.
  2. Now start Spotify on the desktop then drag-and-drop the MP3s you want to a new playlist.
  3. Select your phone from the Devices list, locate the playlist then set it to sync. The MP3s will be downloaded from your PC to the phone.

Most of these mixes are MP3s downloaded from my PC to my phone.

Of course this is a bit of a long-winded workaround and might seem daft if you already have the MP3s on your phone in the first place. But it does work! Just be sure your phone is on the same WiFi network as your PC and that you let the files finish syncing before you quit Spotify on the desktop or phone.


How to Play Your Entire Library

Spotify’s Android app used to have a Library area that alphabetically listed all of the tracks in all of your playlists. People liked to play this on shuffle and it also had a handy hidden filter to search only songs you’d added (not the entire Spotify catalog). The new Spotify for Android removed the Library view for whatever reason. But you can still play your entire library if you make use of playlist folders. Here’s how:

Every playlist folder has an “All Tracks” link at the top. This lets you add all the songs in every playlists in that folder to the queue, which you can then shuffle if you like.So to play your entire library, organize your playlists something like this then click All Tracks:

Click All Tracks within any folder to play all tracks.

In this example:

  • The top All Tracks link will play everything in every playlist in every folder in the folder called Folder With All My Playlists.
  • If you click Folder A then click the All Tracks link in there it will play everything in every playlist in Folder A.
  • If you click Folder B then click the All Tracks link in there it will play everything in every playlist in Folder B etc.

Once the first track starts you can click the Shuffle button (bottom-left) to shuffle the music.


How to Exit Spotify

The old version of Spotify on Android had an Exit option from within the app. These days most Android apps don’t bother with Exit buttons: you just use the Back button instead and let the operating system handle running apps as it sees fit. Some people really want to be able to exit Spotify though, so to do that:

  1. Long-press (press and hold) your phone’s Home button to display recent apps.
  2. Click Task Manager.
  3. Find Spotify in Active Applications then click Exit.


How to Set the Cache Location

Most Android phones let you add microSD cards to give you more storage space. With the previous version of Spotify you could tell it to cache the music on your SD card instead of the phone’s internal memory. Unfortunately there’s no in-built way to do this with the new version, but you can still set the location as follows.

There are a couple of workarounds that might work for you. Firstly, try temporarily downgrading to the old version (i.e. uninstall Spotify then install an older apk), setting the storage location like you used to (press Menu from the login screen), then upgrade to the new version again. This method worked for me!

A second option is to use a 3rd-party app called DirectoryBind to create a symbolic link from the Spotify cache folder on the phone to one on the SD card. CAUTION! This technique requires some technical knowledge as well as a rooted phone: attempt at your own risk! See this page on XDA Developers for details.


How To Use Spotify on Android To:

  • Work in Landscape Orientation
  • Add a Whole Album to an Existing Playlist
  • Create a Playlist Folder
  • Rearrange the Order of Playlists
  • Rearrange Songs in a Playlist
  • Search For a Playlist
  • Search for a Song Within a Playlist

Spotify for Android Update: Here’s What’s New

The Spotify update for Ice Cream Sandwich came out of preview today – get the update (0.5.0) from the Play store. It’s a huge improvement over the previous released version, so you’ll definitely want to upgrade (no matter what version of Android you use). I reviewed the preview version of this update already, so here’s a look at what’s changed since then.


Playlist Folders

The biggest new feature for me is Playlist Folders – finally on Android! These work just as you’d expect: click a folder name (which also tells you how many playlists the folder contains) to open the folder. You can use the back button as a way to navigate back through nested folders if you have folders-within-folders. You can’t create a folder (you do that with the desktop app) and the Downloaded section is still a flat list.

Playlist folders also have a handy "All Tracks" option to play all tracks in all playlists.


Home Screen Widget

The widget is back, now sporting a Spotify green go-faster stripe along the bottom. Functionally it’s the same as before, with the standard playback controls and album art icon.

Click the widget's album art to jump back into Spotify. Scrobbling

Scrobbling is back and works as expected: reports each song as “Scrobbling from Spotify Mobile” as soon as a new song starts playing. Note that you need to press Enter when putting in your password, otherwise it won’t be saved.


Crossfade and Gapless Playback Control

Also new is a crossfade feature as seen on the desktop and iPad app. This lets you set a crossfade between tracks of 0 – 12 seconds. My preference is to set this at around 7 seconds. Gapless playback was available in the preview, but this version now gives you the option to switch it off.


Play Queue

The Play Queue returns: click the bars top-right from the Now Playing screen to display it. This lists songs coming up in the queue (and shows album art for each track – nice!) but doesn’t show the queue’s history unfortunately.

After missing album art from the Android app for so long, it's now everywhere!


Other Tweaks

The currently-playing screen now displays the name of the playlist or album you’re listening to, which you can now click on to view the playlist/album. The Spotify icon in the notification area has had a bit of a monochrome makeover, and you’ll also see album art if you pull down the notification area while listening to something. “Under the hood” it seems more stable than the preview version: I’m glad to see I no longer have to kill the app several times a day to get it going again.

The notification area now shows album art.


Missing Features

This app has been completely rewritten to add a pile of new features, but inevitably some features from the old version didn’t make it. You don’t seem to be able to set the storage location, making your microSD cards useless for Spotify. There’s no Library any more, meaning that you can’t play all your songs at once (on shuffle or whatever). There doesn’t seem to be any local files option (unless you add them to a playlist on the desktop then “download” them on the Android app) and you can’t clear the download cache in-app any more. Oh, and there’s no Exit option or support for Landscape mode.



Based on the previous released version, this update is a huge improvement. It IS slicker and it IS faster. But since it’s a complete rewrite it does also introduce a few new glitches and problems. The bonkers design of duplicating all your downloaded playlists in a long flat list before you can get to your folders seriously reduces the app’s usability, and I’ve had more “Spotify is offline” errors today than I’ve ever seen before. But these are the kind of bug that should be easily fixed; all things as they are, I’m very pleased with this update!

Spotify Preview for Android: Full Hands-On Review

Spotify finally released an update to their Android app this week and boy did they come up with something special! Released as a “preview” version (so it’s not yet available in the Google Play store), this beta app is a complete rewrite that brings a host of features to Spotify on Android for the first time. It’s also fully compatible with Ice Cream Sandwich, making this the first Spotify tablet app.

The web is full of press release rewrites and brief overviews of the new app, but here is an in-depth expert look at what’s new, what to expect in the final version, and some hints and tips for “power users” to get the most out of the preview app.


The first thing you’ll notice when starting the new Spotify on Android is how much faster and smoother it is compared with the previous version. Google’s Holo theme is used throughout, lending the app a polished 2012 feel that has seen the end to any lag when navigating around the app. In keeping with ICS, the greys have been darkened down and the subtle use of Spotify Green throughout adds suitable brand identifiers. The old tabs at the bottom are gone: instead there’s now a smooth slide out sidebar with options for SearchPlaylistsWhat’s NewInboxFriends and Settings.

Links to the main pages have been moved to the side; the turbo-boosted search now shows artist and album art.

The Search function shows a vast improvement: it’s way WAY faster than before and results are all listed on the same page. It also now shows artist and album art for the first time on Android: just like the iPhone version! Clicking through to an artist goes to an Overview page showing a large artist image following be sections for Top Hits, Albums, Singles, Compilations and “Appears On.” Sliding the page to the left shows the artist Biography page and on the right is a new Related Artists page. This has a collage of images for the top 20 most-related artists and is an excellent addition for music discovery on mobile.

Artist pages now have large, hi-res artwork; the all-new Related Artists tab is much like the desktop but debuts on mobile with this preview release.

The player itself has also had a huge makeover. In full mode it shows off the new high-resolution album art to the max, with all the playback buttons you’d expect below and a standard ICS-style triangle button to popup a menu with further options such as Add To Playlist and Share. Hitting the “X” top-left shrinks down the player to the bottom of the screen, where you can still access the play/stop button while navigating the rest of the post.

Most importantly though, two new core playback features have arrived with this preview release. Firstly there’s the option to both stream and download in Extreme Quality. Extreme Quality is roughly 320 kbps (it’s Ogg Vorbis q9) and pretty much the entire Spotify catalog is available in this high audio quality format. If you’re an audiophile this bitrate should be your standard setting: everything I’ve listened to so far sounds crisper and so much sharper than before.

The new player looks fantastic, I just wish it mentioned the name of the album somewhere.

The second new playback feature (unannounced in the press release but discovered by yours-truly!) is gapless playback. Gapless playback came to the desktop recently and now it makes its debut on mobile with this Android preview. I discovered the lack of gaps while listening to a Shpongle album to check out the Extreme Quality setting (Twisted Records albums are always expertly produced). To my delight, I discovered that each track sequences perfectly into the next, just how the artist intended. I hadn’t “downloaded” the album and was streaming it live. And this was even on a 3G connection, not wi-fi!

Another area that sees a big overhaul is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the social “My Friends” side of things. The Friends page lists all your buddies and you can now click through to view their profile pages. This reveals your friend’s Top Tracks, Artists and published playlists. When sharing a track or playlist to a friend you can now add a comment (as on iPhone) and from your Inbox you can now see received comments too. This all makes the Android app feel a lot more social and connected, encouraging you to spend some time checking out what your friends are listening to. I’d like to see a split between “everyone” and “favorites” as on the desktop though, as many of my Facebook friends have, ah, very alternative tastes than I.

The Inbox now shows album art as well as any messages; viewing a playlist now also shows the number of subscribers.

Other welcome tweaks and new additions include the ability to rename a playlist (yes, that’s only just arrived on Android!), release dates are shown for albums, and I especially like how I can now see how many people are subscribed to my playlists.

There are of course a few things missing from this preview release that the old version had: scrobbling to for one, as well as a homescreen widget and the ability to set the storage location (but see below for a workaround tip). Spotify have promised scrobbling will make it into the final version along with – finally! – playlist folders. There also seems to be no way to playback local files any more (the Library page has gone) unless you add them to a playlist from your PC then set them to download on your phone/tablet. And while you can add a track to the play queue, there’s no way to view or navigate the queue. Oh, and there’s no Landscape mode yet either.

A few tweaks I’d like to see: the main playback display doesn’t show the album name (you need to press the triangle button then Album to view album details) so I’d suggest using the space currently taken up by the Now Playing text to display the album/artist/track name to display all three. Another tweak I’d like is a better way to distinguish Downloaded vs. All playlists. Currently, all downloaded playlists are listed twice (once in each section) which, if you tend to download everything for later playback like me, then your list of playlists is double the length it needs to be (with the added confusion of new playlists being created right in the middle of the two sections). Hopefully though the promised inclusion of folder support in the final version will remedy this.

Playlists are divided (and duplicated) into Downloaded and All sections; the What's New page is now much more like its desktop counterpart.

Although this release is technically a preview version, I unreservedly recommend anyone using Spotify on their Android device to switch over now. This preview is far more stable than the current regular version, and if you want high-bitate, gapless playback then you can have that right now. I’ve spent the past few months moaning about the state of Spotify’s Android app – it hadn’t seen much of an update for a whole year and was starting to get decidedly flaky – but this new rewrite has turned everything around. It’s fast, it’s slick, it fits in perfectly with the Ice Cream Sandwich look-and-feel and it brings some new killer features to Android mobile music.



POWER-USER TIP #1: To set the storage location, first set it using the regular (non-preview) version of the app (to do this, select the option from the Menu when at the login screen). Then install the new preview WITHOUT removing the previous version. The preview replaces the old version but retains its setting for where to cache files. So if you set this to an external SD card, it will continue to use that location.


POWER-USER TIP #2: To enable lock screen player controls, go to Settings > Applications > Spotify then click Clear Data. This may not work for every device, but it has been reported to enable the lock screen controls for the HTC One X, Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy S.


Some Suggestions to Get Spotify Working on Ice Cream Sandwich

UPDATE: try the new Spotify Preview for Android – a complete rewrite of the app and ICS-compatible!

Who remembers the Android release called Gingerbread? This was version 2.3 released in December 2010 so it’s now over a year old, but unfortunately it remains the most-recent version of Android supported by Spotify. Honeycomb (v3.x) is not supported and neither is the version currently rolling out to millions of handsets and tablets around the world: Ice Cream Sandwich.

Some lucky users have not had any problems running Spotify on an ICS device (“I have a galaxy nexus with ICS and no issues so far”) but the majority are eagerly updating their phones and tablets only to discover that Spotify stops working, typically after a few days of usage.

The Google Play market erroneously indicates that Spotify is “compatible with my devices,” but the official word from Spotify is that both Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich are not supported. My own situation is this – I have two Android devices:

  • A Samsung Galaxy S II running Android 2.3.4. Luckily Spotify (mostly) works on this smartphone without too many problems.
  • An ASUS Transformer Prime running Android 4.0. Spotify does not work on this. It installs but crashes every time I start it up. I don’t use my tablet for music though, so this isn’t really too much of a problem for me.

Since ICS is due on my Galaxy S II over the next few days, I’m anxious to find a solution. I could of course just remain on Gingerbread until there’s an official fix, but given the neglect the Spotify Android app has seen since its release I fear this could be a long wait. There do however seem to be a few possible temporary workarounds to get Spotify working on Ice Cream Sandwich. None of these are guaranteed, but if you’re desperate they’re at least worth a try.


Some Suggestions to Get Spotify Working on ICS

  • If you installed the Spotify Android app from the Market, uninstall it and install the version from the Spotify website instead.
  • If you installed the Spotify Android app from the Spotify website, uninstall it and install the version from the Market instead.
  • Don’t store any offline playlists i.e. use Spotify as for streaming-only. If you really can’t live without offline playlists, keep the number of playlists stored offline down to a minimum.
  • Don’t play an local files through Spotify.
  • Try an older version of the app. The current version is 0.4.12, but there are reports that version 0.4.04 is much more stable on ICS. This version pre-dates Facebook logins though, so only downgrade if you have an “old” (non-Facebook) Spotify login.
  • Change your password. Bizarrely Spotify suggest this might help.
  • Uninstall, delete cache, re-install. Repeat these steps every week or so to get around the “breaks after a few days” problem.
  • If you have lots of playlists, delete most of them then try again.
  • Alternatively, get an iPhone.

Some of these workarounds are pretty severe and limiting, most are a pain in the ass, and there’s no guarantee any of them will work on your device anyway. I guess it depends on how badly you want Ice Cream Sandwich and Spotify.

Personally, I need Spotify on my smartphone on a daily basis, so I cannot afford to take any chances. I will not upgrade to ICS unless there are genuine reports that prove Spotify will continue to run on my Galaxy S II, or until robot pigs invade from space Spotify release an Android update.

Asus Transformer Prime – UK Review

My HTC Desire and 7” Samsung Galaxy Tab went on ebay at the end of 2011 to fund my purchase of an Asus Transformer Prime. Through a £499 pre-order on, I was lucky enough to receive this amazing Android tablet a few days before the official UK release and have now had a week or so to play about with it. Here are my impressions!



The UK version of Asus Transformer Prime is the 32GB Prime + Dock combo, tightly packed in a single box with a charger and cable. Docked together, the Prime was a little heavier than I expected, no doubt due to the additional battery in the dock and the counterweights below the keyboard to stop the whole thing toppling over. On its own, the Prime tablet is pretty light and feels like a solid, premium device in the hand. The design tends to make you hold it landscape (as opposed to an iPad’s portrait design), which means your right hand can easily cover up the single speaker. I also found that my microSD card wasn’t flush to the chassis and tended to stick out by a few millimeters. Not much, but enough to slightly spoil the smooth tapering of the Prime’s edges. Minor gripes aside though, the overall look and feel of the Prime is one of class and quality. I opted for the Amethyst Grey version which in reality is more a light shade of purple.

Purple Prime, docked and closed. It's an Android ultrabook!


Ice Cream Sandwich

After logging in, the Prime immediately prompted me to download an update aka Ice Cream Sandwich. My Galaxy Tab ran Gingerbread, so I’ve bypassed Honeycomb completely in my Android user experience. ICS is very intuitive and easy to just pick up and use: swiping from screen to screen is fast and (for the most part) stutter free, as is jumping to the App drawer. Despite the quad-core CPU, there’s still the occasional delay switching if you’ve been running a few apps, and there’s a noticeable delay when navigating within the YouTube app.

The ICS browser is very good, especially as it now finally syncs bookmarks with Chrome on the desktop. I did however switch to ICS Browser+ so that I could set the user agent to Desktop and make all web pages the “full” version rather than mobile versions.

My fairly standard homescreen. I like how this live wallpaper changes depending on the time of day.


Display & Peripherals

The screen looks amazing, definitely on a par with my Samsung Galaxy S II. My old tablet was a seven inch, so this ten inch display gives me more space to stick icons and widgets than I know what to do with. I bought myself a £5 HDMI cable and was very impressed with the output onto my large screen TV: playing some 1080p video looks stunning. I’m not too sure whether I’d use this feature much, but it’s nice to have the cable “just in case.”

I tested out a few other peripherals: my PlayStation 3 controller worked fine when plugged into the USB port on the keyboard (tested with Grand Theft Auto III), although I couldn’t get an Xbox controller to work. USB flash sticks and mice all work plug-n-play style, but like a PC you need to “unmount” memory devices before physically removing them. There’s a one-click option to do this in the notification area, but I forgot one time and ended up with a blank SD card. The Prime reads NTFS-formatted drives no problem, so you can copy huge movie files for offline viewing.

1080p video output from the Prime to my Sony Bravia. Playing Shadowgun THD with the PS3 controller is a bloody joy!


Bundled Apps

Some of the apps bundled by Asus are actually very good indeed: I was particularly impressed by the bundled Splashtop Remote Desktop app that lets you remote view and control a PC. Resolution is top-rate and there’s almost no lag at all. You may have seen videos of the Prime “running” Skyrim – this is how it’s done. Note that you need to install the Splashtop server on your PC first, and on the Prime it’s called MyNet instead of Splashtop.

The bundled DLNA/UPnP media streaming app is also very good, way better than the Samsung equivalent. It picks up the devices and navigates through folders very fast. I installed the free app UPnPlay as a backup, as well as DICE Player for the odd MKV that played with no sound in the stock player.

The Prime comes with the Google Music app pre-installed. At first I thought this was a mistake, since Google Music is not yet (officially) available in the UK. But of course it acts as a local music player too (duh).

Splashtop Remote desktop session to my Windows 7 PC. Finally a decent Spotify app on Android! 😉 The sound comes out of the Prime too.



Games on the Prime take mobile gaming to the next level. There aren’t too many out yet that take full advantage of the Tegra 3 processor, but the ones that do (search for “THD”) all look jaw-droppingly good. Console quality? Well, not quite but it’s getting close. Better than PS2 for sure. The ability to plug in a PS3 controller and connect the Prime to a TV makes this a perfect second games console.


Tablet Apps

I installen Beansoft’s Thumb Keyboard as I found typing on the stock virtual keyboard almost impossible while holding the Prime in landscape. Thumb Keyboard splits the keyboard into two and works a treat with almost no training time at all. Tablet-specific apps are still a bit thin on the ground, but I found Flixter Movies, IMDB, Feeedly and Pulse all take advantage of the tablet form-factor. TweetDeck looks awful on the tablet (almost as bad as the Spotify Android app), so I opted for TweetComb instead. This has columns and looks like TweetDeck on the desktop.


WiFi and GPS

There’s been a lot of complaints about the WiFi and GPS on the Transformer Prime. Personally I think GPS on a tablet is almost as pointless as a camera, so I’ve not even bothered checking it. I did do some WiFi tests and am happy to say that I’ve not experienced any problems. I have 30Meg broadband and with the Prime in the same room as the router, I get a consistent 29Mbps on WiFi (my Samsung Galaxy S II gets about 20Mbps). In my bedroom (on the same floor as the router but through a couple of brick walls) I get around 15Mbps on WiFi for both the Prime and the GSII.



The Asus Transformer Prime is as near as possible the perfect tablet for 2012. The Prime’s speed, display and overall design is superb and everything I’d hoped for from a quad-core mobile machine. I don’t have a laptop so with the combined dock this is the only mobile computer I need.

The bugs and problems I’ve encountered so far are minor: I’ve experienced the occasional screen “jitter” (where the image jumps up and down for a fraction of a second) but this is rare. The stock ICS browser was perhaps a little bit laggy, but I’ve now switched to ICS Browser+ and find this a bit smoother. A couple of times I found that I couldn’t type on the dock’s keyboard automatically, but I think this was due to my 3rd-party Thumb Keyboard app confusing it.

But these are minor issues, none of which comes anywhere near to spoiling my satisfaction with the Transformer Prime. Its unique design means that unlike the Samsung Galaxy Tabs, the Prime can be be called an iPad wannabe. So I will take Asus up on their kind offer to extend my warranty but there’s no way anyone’s gonna prise this Prime outta my hands!


Searching Your Playlists on Spotify Mobile

A reader of this blog sent me an email recently to ask how to search for an artist or song in playlists on Spotify Mobile. This would seem like a simple question with a simple answer. Unfortunately Spotify have made it rather difficult to do this, but there is a way to kind of get what you want. Read on for the solution!

Reader Joe asked the following:

I’ve recently upgraded to Spotify Premium and am having trouble with it on Mobile. I’d like to be able to see a list of artists in my playlists. Is there any way of listing artists so it’s easier for my to find the song I want?

A simple request it seems: you have lots of playlists so obviously you’d want some way of searching them. What you’d expect to be able to do is this:

Search tabs show you results for Tracks, Albums, and Artists. But not Playlists.

You’d expect to go to the Search tab, type your query, then view the results in a Playlists tab. But there’s no Playlist tab there (the image on the right above is my mock-up of how I think it should look).

On the desktop you can view your Library, select Edit > Filter (Ctrl-F) then type a search query to search your playlists like this:

On the desktop, use the Library Filter to search in your playlists

This doesn’t show you which playlist the results are in, but you can at least sort the results by Track/Artist/Album. Note the the results are listed in the order they appear on the original album, not in the order you have them in your playlists.

There’s also a filter option on Spotify Mobile but (a) it’s hidden and (b) it doesn’t really work very well. To find it:

  • On iPhone, swipe the screen down to reveal the hidden Filter option at the top
  • On Android, view your library of all tracks then pull the list down to reveal the hidden Filter option

Pull the Library list down to reveal the hidden Filter option

Tap Filter to display the keyboard for you to type your search. As you type, the songs listed are filtered down and a popup shows you the query. This has the unfortunate effect of obscuring the middle row of the keyboard but you can still just about see what you’re doing:

The filter on Spotify Mobile

As with the desktop, these filter results don’t tell you what playlist the songs are in but at least on the desktop you can sort the results: here you can’t, everything is listed in alphabetical order based on song title. This means that if you click on a song to listen to it, the next song played is the next song alphabetically, not the next song on the album.

The Filter option also claims that you can long-press the Menu button, but doing that just takes you to the regular Search tab which is not the same as the filter.

Another bug is that if you go back to the main Playlists tab, the Library counter shows the number of tracks based on the filter (for example, “10 tracks”). Useful you’d think, but if you then click on the Library again it lists the first 10 (or however many) tracks of your entire library, not the filter results!


So that’s how you search your playlists on Spotify Mobile. You can’t search based on the name of your playlists (how useful would that be?) and because the results are alphabetical, playing the results can be a somewhat random affair.

Note the examples above use Spotify Mobile for Android, which is notoriously buggy and lacking in features compared with Spotify Mobile for iPhone.


Ten Basic Things Spotify for Android Doesn’t Do (But Really Should)

I use Spotify on my Samsung Galaxy S II Android phone every day, and its limitations are really starting to grate. I’ve already posted at length about how Spotify’s Android app pales in comparison to its iPhone counterpart (see the Spotify Mobile Faceoff: iPhone vs. Android), but there are some problems that I’ve gotten so used to that I wanted to step back and list a few things that really ought to be in there.


  • I’m listening to a track in a playlist. I want to add the track to another playlist. No can do. – as Fred points out in the comments below, this is possible! So I will replace this with: I want to be able to move songs around in a playlist. You can on iPhone, but on Android your playlist is pretty much uneditable.
  • I want to search for a particular playlist. No joy: playlist titles are not searchable.
  • I want to see my playlist folders like on the desktop. Tough luck, only iPhone users are allowed that privilege.
  • I want to move a playlist to the top so that it’s easier to find. Not on Android I can’t, them playlists are all staying where they are!
  • I want to listen to my tunes at the same high bitrate as I do on the desktop (it’s what I’m paying for after all). But Spotify decided that since I’m listening on mobile, I obviously don’t care about audio quality so the maximum it’ll give me is a lowly 160kbps. And they call that “high quality” just to doubly wind me up.
  • I want it to work in landscape mode so that I can actually read playlist and track titles that are longer than 25 characters. Rumors suggest that it does work sideways on a few select devices, but I’ve had six Android phones and it hasn’t worked on any of them.
  • I want to be able to see the little messages people add when they inbox me a song.
  • I want the Top Tracks tag to have some relevance to me. I don’t care what the top songs are on the planet, I’m just not really a mainstream kinda guy.
  • I want to know how many more songs I can sync offline before I hit the randomly imposed limit of 3,333 songs.
  • Finally, when I view a list of albums I want to see the album coverart, not lots of white circles looking like they can from a Tron game circa 1982.

Not very exciting to look at, is it?

So those are my grumbles. Of course the app does still do the main thing it was designed for: play music. But when the alternatives are the vastly superior Android apps from competitors like Deezer, Rdio, and MOG it’s a worry that Spotify is lagging so far behind.


Google Music Beta vs. Spotify

Google Music Beta is a cloud-based music locker service that lets you store up to 20,000 tracks for free. You can then play back your music either via a Flash-enabled webpage or an Android smartphone app. The Android app includes an offline option to store local copies of your songs.

I’ve been using Google Music Beta for the past couple of weeks, putting it through its paces and comparing how it handles versus Spotify. Overall I’ve been impressed with its performance and ease-of-use. Read on for more.


Uploading Tracks

I have about 10,000 songs in my music library that aren’t available on Spotify. This includes some of the obvious no-shows (The Beatles, Metallica, Pink Floyd, Arcade File etc.) as well as around 700 albums from artists that only have one or two releases on Spotify (for example, English punk-rockers The Toy Dolls have only two of their dozen albums on Spotify).

Google Music is not licensed by the record labels, so there’s no matching option: you need to upload your files to Google’s locker to be able to stream them. My 10,000 songs took about two weeks to upload (with my PC left on most nights) but this will of course vary depending on how many tracks you add and your bandwidth. You can specify which folders to monitor, as well as set how much of your upload bandwidth you want to dedicate to Google Music.


The Music Manager lets you select where to upload from and set various options.



Uploaded music appears in “My Library” with areas to list by artist, album, song and genre. Your MP3’s ID3 tags are used for the metadata, but you can easily right-click and edit tracks (as well as upload album cover art). Some albums I ripped from CD and noticed they already had album art when viewed in Google Music, but most I had to add the art manually.

The New and Recent area shows a coverart view of what you’ve uploaded or played recently, while a Recently Added area lists everything added in reverse order.

You can like (“Thumb Up”) a song, and view an auto-generated playlist of these. You can create custom playlists which you can name but not add any coverart to. There’s also an “Instant Mix” feature which auto-generates a playlist of similar tracks based on a seed song.

Artist, Album and Genre library views show up to five album covers per item, and the number of items shown on a row changes as you widen or shrink your browser (so no unnecessary scroll bars). Clicking through to an artist lists the albums in alphabetical order. There’s no way to sort based on e.g. year released or date added unfortunately, even though the metadata’s there to do that. There’s also no distinction between a full album or, say, a single or EP: they’re all listed alphabetically. Tracks have both Artist and Album Artist tags though, so Various Artist albums are handled well.

The search bar is instant, so results are filtered as you type and match anywhere in the name. The instant results indicate whether it’s an album, artist or song which is handy too.


Artist view.



Playback is surprisingly fast, with songs starting almost instantly after clicking them. Sound quality is as good as the uploaded version: there’s no downsampling, meaning that 320kbps songs stay at that high bitrate. Google Music also uploads FLAC files, although these are transcoded to 320kbps MP3s.

The interface includes all the usual playback controls, including shuffle and repeat play. The gap between songs is also almost (but not quite) gapless for albums ripped with an indication of the gap length.



Google Music has pretty much all you’d need already, but there’s one essential add-on I highly recommend. Music Plus for Google Music is a Chrome extension that adds scrobbling, artist biographies, toast-style notifications, lyrics and hotkeys. It also adds a mini-player to the address bar, with playback controls and a full library search, so you can control your music no matter which tab you’re working in.


Music Plus for Google Music mini player.



The Google Music app for Android is a slick music player that’s fast and responsive, is easy to use and has almost all the features you’d expect. It does seem that your music is downsampled when streaming over 3G though, so you’re not getting the full high-quality as you do on the desktop.


What’s Not So Good about Google Music Beta

There are a few minor quirks and things I think are missing. I’ve already mentioned that you can’t sort albums or artists (e.g. by release date), and I’d like to be able to add coverart to the playlists I create. Albums with the same name seem to confuse Google Music (if you click on the album it shows it as one album with two track 1s, two track 2s etc.) and of course with the licensing deals, the initial upload time can seem like forever. The mobile app looks good but the downsampling is disappointing, and for those looking for true lossless streaming the transcoding of FLAC files to 320 MP3s is a let down.


Google Music Beta vs. Spotify

I’ve now uploaded all my local music to Google Music, amounting to around 10,000 songs. Without Spotify my “local library” would be at least ten times that size though, so I can’t use Google Music exclusively due to its 20,000 tracks limit. So for now my choices are:

  • Spotify streaming access + Spotify for local music
  • Spotify streaming access + Google Music Beta for local music

You might think this’d be a no-brainer: why use two different services when you can use one? Well, there’s more to it than that. It might come as a surprise to long-term readers of this blog, but I’ve decided to remove my local music from Spotify and use Google Music Beta instead. Here’s why.

Google Music is a cloud-based locker service like Amazon Cloud Drive and Apple’s iCloud. Spotify, on the other hand, is a music streaming subscription service so not directly comparable. However, Spotify does include a local files option so that you can use it to play and sync music that’s not in the Spotify catalog. So on the face of it, Spotify is all you need. Why bother with cloud locker services at all, if Spotify can be used for everything?

There are several reasons why I’ve decided to use Google Music instead of Spotify for local music:

  • Local music doesn’t work across desktops. If you use Spotify on more than one desktop (for example at home and at work), your local music from home is not available at work (and vice versa). In other words, your local music stays local to the machine it came from, unless you subscribe to Spotify Mobile. Since Google Music stores all your files in the cloud, you can access that one library from anywhere and from as many PCs as you want.
  • The Google Music interface is cleaner and easier to use. Spotify handles its own catalog reasonably well, but Local Files is a late arrival and a bit of a mess. You can’t easily view both Spotify and local music at the same time (it usually fails to include local files in artist view), and unless you make a playlist out of each local album the whole lot is grouped together in one giant list. I could just about put up with this on the desktop, but on mobile it’s practically unusable.
  • All my music is in high-quality 320kbps. I always rip my CDs at 320kbps and only purchase MP3s at that bitrate too. So when I listen to my tunes on Google Music, I know it’s all in high-quality. Not so with Spotify: everything’s capped at 160kbps on mobile, at there’s no guarantee that songs you listen to on the desktop are at 320kbps. Spotify claim that “not all tracks are currently available in high bitrate” but refuse to reveal the numbers (or add a bitrate indicator in the client). There’s anecdotal evidence to suggest that more popular albums are more likely to be in high-bitrate, but since I mostly listen to obscure synthpop and electro music that doesn’t really help me.
  • Gaps between songs (for gapless playback) are shorter than on Spotify. I don’t think Google Music does any pre-fetching, but it does seem that for gapless albums (where I’ve enabled “detect gap” while ripping the CD), the gap is very short indeed and almost imperceptible.
  • I can listen on the desktop at work (where Spotify is banned). This is probably the clincher for me. I’m not allowed to install non-work related apps on my work PC, and Spotify has been explicitly named as a banned app. That left me fiddling with my smartphone all day and the 160kbps capped Spotify Android app. Spotify on Android does the basics, but it’s many versions behind the iPhone version and trying to manage more than a few dozen playlists with it is frustrating to say the least. Google Music is web-based however, so not subject to the same restrictions. I can use Google Music on the desktop (taking advantage of all that widescreen real estate) and have guaranteed high-quality audio.

Android apps: Google Music (left) vs. Spotify (right)



I’m not suggesting a move from Spotify to Google Music Beta for all music, just for music that’s not on Spotify in the first place. Of course there’s a complication here in that content comes and goes on Spotify. For example, John Lennon was completely missing from Spotify for years. His entire catalog was finally added to much fanfare back in October 2010 only for it to all be quietly removed again a few months later.

So keeping track of what’s on Spotify is an essential but annoying chore for any serious music fan. I’m currently using half my storage quota on Google Music Beta, so at least I have some spare space for whenever I discover another favorite has been pulled.

Google Music isn’t the first music locker service, and without record label support and music matching it’s probably not be the best either. But it works well (considering the “beta” moniker is hard-coded in the name), and for me is a better proposition than things like, say, Audiogalaxy where I have to leave my PC on all the time to stream music from it. Playback performance is impressive: in over a week of using Google Music every day on the desktop, I’ve yet to notice a single stutter or drop in sound.


SpotSearch: Lyric-based Search for Spotify Mobile

SpotSearch is an app for Spotify Mobile (iPhone and Android) that finds a song on Spotify based on some lyrics you enter. In a way it’s similar to Shazam, but instead of playing it a sample of music you type in some words from the song instead. Maybe you have a tune in your head and you can’t remember what it’s called or who it’s by. If you know a line from the lyrics, use SpotSearch to find and play the song in Spotify.

Using SpotSearch is simple –  just start up the app then type in some song lyrics:


Tap Find The Song and SpotSearch will check the line against various different search engines. It then displays the best matches, showing the artist name and song title ranked in order of the number of times they were found (so cover and karaoke versions get pushed down the list):


Now just click a song title to open and play it in Spotify instantly. There are also links to listen/view the song on YouTube, share the song on Facebook or go back and do another search.

SpotSearch is formidably accurate: It’s managed to find pretty much everything I’ve thrown at it so far. Only 1950s creepy comedy oddity “The Mummy” by Bob Mcfadden & Dor caused SpotSearch a slight problem: I entered the first line “I’m a mummy, I scare people” and it found the song on YouTube but not on Spotify. Still, the app’s design means that searches are performed on the server side so developer Fredrik Thunberg can improve the search algorithms without forcing users to upgrade the app. Fredrik has also hinted that other updates are in the works including the ability to display the full lyrics of songs you search for.

SpotSearch is available in ad-supported free and paid-for ($0.99) versions from the Apple App Store and Android Market.

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



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.