Category Archives: Apple

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.


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.

Spotify vs. Apple iCloud

Depending on which side of the wall you sit, Apple’s iCloud is either the greatest advance in music technology since the original iTunes or it’s just another (albeit very slick) music locker service. One thing is clear however: the emphasis is still very much on music that you already own. iCloud is not a direct competitor to Spotify: it’s a scan-and-match music locker to compete with Google Music and Amazon Cloud Drive, rather than a subscription service that gives you instant access to millions of tracks.

There are however more similarities between iCloud and Spotify compared with the other lockers: both have licensing agreements with the major record labels (although many independent labels are excluded from iCloud) and neither Spotify nor iCloud require you to upload music before you can listen to your songs on other devices.


Absolution for Your Downloading Sins

Both Spotify and iCloud offer solutions to music pirating, but while Spotify simply makes their service easier and faster to use compared with downloading, Apple has chosen to position iTunes Match as a way to monetize illegal downloads. It’s a clever strategy, as it provides absolution to the pirates and cash to the record labels. As TuneCore CEO Jeff Price says:

“The truly innovative and radical part of the iCloud service is its ability to allow copyright holders – the labels, artists, publishers and, possibly the songwriter – to make money off of music not bought the first time around. Each time a subscriber streams or re-downloads a song via the iCloud service, the label and publisher (and possibly the songwriter for the public performance) get paid.”


iCloud’s Stream is Dry

For me, a streaming music subscription model is clearly the best option for anyone who can spare a fiver a month and who has more than just a passing interest in music. So the question is: why doesn’t Apple’s iCloud do streaming? They bought the technology (LaLa) a while ago. They were heavily rumored to have signed streaming music licenses with the major labels. So why hold back?

Perhaps the label deals just came too late in the day for Apple’s big announcement. Or perhaps those rumors weren’t true and merely refered to the matching service that monetizes illegal downloads. Another possiblity is that Apple (or the record labels) just don’t see a streaming service as something that will make them as much money as downloads. They have such huge brand loyalty that any “new” music offering would still be idolized and thought of as progressive. iCloud retains the status quo of iTunes Uber Alles, consumers continue to purchase track-by-track, and the labels get a bonus of additional income from iTunes Match.

Whatever the reason, if you do use iCloud you’ll still need a fair bit of local storage for all those downloads.

Where iCloud Beats Spotify

There are a few advantages iCloud has over Spotify: it comes with a built-in fanbase at launch, it’s easier to understand conceptually for casual listeners (since it retains the notion of  music files and “My Collection”) and you can access your library on twice as many devices compared with Spotify.

Where Spotify Beats iCloud

I titled this article Spotify vs. iCloud but perhaps that’s a bit misleading. Like Google and Amazon’s offerings, iCloud is a music locker where you download music instead of streaming it. You purchase music on a track-by-track basis and have storage limits to consider when you want iCloud to manage non-iTunes purchases. Unlike Spotify, iCloud doesn’t offer access to tracks you don’t already own (unless you subsequently buy them). So once you get past the generalization that they’re both music services, comparisons tend to break down. As BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones puts it:

“Spotify’s a different kind of service, it allows you to stream music even if you don’t own it. So perhaps Spotify will think iCloud is really just second-hand news.”

If you did want to compare the two though, Business Insider neatly sums it up in their article Why Spotify beats iTunes in the cloud:

  • iTunes does not stream music
  • Spotify will do “scan and match” better
  • Spotify lets you stream or download any song to your device at no extra cost
  • You can create better playlists with Spotify (even if you don’t own the music)
  • Spotify does social much better than Apple’s Ping
  • Spotify integrates with
  • Spotify also works with Shazam

Spotify is also available on many more devices compared with iCloud, particularly Android smartphones and tablets.


Dueling Banjos

For iOS5, Apple borrowed many ideas from Google (and Instagram, Dropbox, Flickr, Instapaper, GroupMe etc.) but for iCloud it fell short of taking true music streaming as offered by Spotify et al. It might offer subscriptions at a later date but for now, Apple are training their users with the benefits and convenience of having music in the cloud.

This popularization of cloud-based music plays right into Spotify’s hands. Just as music fans learned to move from owning stacks of CDs to folders full of MP3 files, so Apple is pushing the next move to a remote access model rather than locally stored music. As more people begin to let go of the 20th century notion of a personal music collection, cloud-based access begins to become the music model de jour. It’s then simply a matter of choosing between a locker for your existing collection, or on-demand access to a limitless world of musical discovery.

The last word goes to Daniel Ek (founder and CEO of Spotify) who told mocoNews:

“We believe music should be connected. People want to discover more music. Not just [listen to the] same music.”

Now that’s how to think different…

Music Streaming Options for an Apple Family

John Lamont is a professional photographer and visual designer based in Central Scotland. A technology expert and father of three, John’s family home is full of Apple products. He currently uses iTunes with some particularly time-consuming steps to make sure everyone in the family gets to listen to what they want. Could Spotify offer a better solution?


A Musical Family

John and his family have a wide musical taste, with each having their own particular genre preferences (although the two teenage boys both love their metal). John ripped all his old CDs a while ago and with MP3 purchases since, his iTunes collection now weighs in at over 18,000 tracks and growing.

The Lamont household has two Mac desktops and a MacBook Pro laptop. There’s an Apple TV networked in the lounge which is used to sync music over WiFi to an Apple AirPort Express in the kitchen, in turn connected to a hi-fi and used for all the household’s music. John and his wife have iPhones and the teenagers all have iPods.


Upsetting the Apple Cart

John’s obviously a big Apple and iTunes fan, but he realizes there are several limitations with his current setup. “iTunes is a very frustrating architecture to manage in a multi-user environment,” he says. “Since iTunes isn’t networkable, I have to use one iTunes account to add any newly bought music. It shares music from one library to another desktop or mobile, but restrictions mean that I can’t sync that remote music to a second library for storage on an iPod or iPhone.”

The upshot of all this is that John has to manage the entire family’s music storage and syncing through one Apple Mac. This PC has his passwords on it, and John says “I’m too fond of money to give my 11 year old free-reign in the iTunes account with on-click buy enabled!”

John’s process to manage all this is a nightmare for any busy working father:

When the kids want to change music, they trawl the main iTunes library remotely on the second desktop Mac. They write a list of artists/songs they want added/deleted from their playlist, leave it with me and I’ll edit their playlist. When that’s finished they drop their iPods into the dock and iTunes syncs the changes. What a pain in the a**!

In An Ideal World

“In considering nirvana,” says John, “I’m looking at Spotify and wondering if it could deliver a better solution. I’ve tried Spotify freemium and the choice is jaw-dropping.”

John analyzed the music he bought for his children and checked the playcounts. He found that their music tastes went stale quickly, especially the chart buys. Previously averse to the music-rental idea, John’s now coming around to the idea. “Why buy and not listen? Does rental make more sense for my family’s ever-changing tastes in music?”

So John’s requirements are:

  • Listen to music from different rooms in the house
  • Listen at same time
  • Kids sync devices themselves
  • Sync iPhone with playlists
  • “Some sort of buy password/barrier to avoid youngest buying the Gorillaz back catalogue – again!”


Solution 1: iTunes Home Sharing

Home Sharing in iTunes lets you stream and transfer music with up to five other computers on your local network. I don’t have any Apple products so can’t test this out, but I asume John has loooked into this and not found it suitable.


Solution 2: Spotify Family Accounts

A Spotify account can be used on up to three computers, so with 5 people in the family it might seem that two accounts is all that’s needed. Unfortunately music can only be played on one computer at a time: if you’re listening on one Mac and someone hits play on another, your music is paused for the duration.

Some kind of Spotify family pack subscription option would seem ideal then. But despite many requests for family-based subscriptions, this still remains missing from Spotify. According to the company:

We’re very interested in this and we’d love to make it happen. However, the changes would require new licenses which is a very time consuming process. Hopefully one day it will happen.

Further comments from Spotify seem to suggest it’s not going to happen any time soon.

So John would need a separate Spotify account for each family member. Assuming it’s just the kids that need mobile, that works out at:

  • 1 x Unlimited for John = £5/month
  • 1 x Unlimited for John’s wife = £5/month
  • 3 x Premium for the kids = £30/month

Total cost: £40/month

This may be out of John’s monthly budget, but it does provide the least amount of hassle as everyone can manage their own music and listen to it whenever they want.


Solution 3: Spotify on Sonos

Spotify is now integrated in Sonos, the multi-room wireless music system. The killer-feature here is that you can listen to different tracks in different rooms, all at the same time and all from a single Spotify Premium account. By setting up zone players in each room, each person in John’s family can have music streaming from both Spotify and iTunes whenever they want. Sonos has iPhone apps too, so there’s no need for the kids to log in to John’s master Mac.

With only one Spotify subscription, all John would need to do would be to set up some top-level playlist folders, one for each person in the family. They can then add and manage their own playlists independently.

This would seem to be the best option for John except for one thing: the cost. Sonos systems aren’t cheap, but at least you can mix-and-match the ZonePlayer variations to bring the price down a little. John would probably need five “zones” so that amounts to:

  • 1 x Sonos ZonePlayer 90 (connects to amp) for the living room = £279
  • 1 x Sonos ZonePlayer 120 (connects to speakers) for the kitchen = £399
  • 3 x Sonos ZonePlayer 120 for the kid’s bedrooms = £1,197
  • 1 x Premium Spotify subscription = £10/month

Total cost: £1,875 + £10/month

John might be able to shave off a bit by using a Sonos S5 (£349) instead of a couple of the ZonePlayer 120s, but this is still a pricey option. Compared with option 2, John could have over 5 years of Spotify subscriptions for the whole family for the same price.

Still, the Sonos solution is pretty cool and I’m sure it might tempt John’s inner gadget geek.


Solution 4: Waiting for Cloudo

Apple is expected to announce its iCloud next month. Having finally inked deals with most of the major record labels, only publisher deals remain in the way of the Apple LaLaland…

If you’ve any advice for John, please let him know in the comments below or at:


John has written an excellent article on what happened next. Check it out here: Comrade iTunes, this is Spotify.


Spotify Says Hello to the Walkman

Spotify’s new feature announcement is great news for its freemium users, casual listeners and iPod owners. If you’re one of these: rejoice! You can now benefit from cheaper-than-iTunes MP3 purchases, wireless syncing and Spotify-lite on your mobile. But for Premium users like myself there’s not too much here to get excited about.

When I signed up back in ’09 for Spotify’s cloud service in the sky, I shifted from downloading MP3s to accessing Spotify’s near-infinite stream of on-demand music. This was a complete pardigm shift in the same way that vinyl to CD was (actually, more so). So this week’s introduction of an MP3 download store seems a bit of a backwards step to me. Granted it’s bound to hoover up some pennies from the freemium users (who were probably never going to upgrade anyway), but it also waters-down Spotify’s unique selling point (on-demand, P2P-based streaming music service) and further muddies Spotify’s message of being “the best alternative to piracy.”

The whole notion of MP3s and iPods seems so last-century to me now that I’m left somewhat perplexed about Spotify’s direction and wondering what’s happened to its bold, pioneering vision of a music-streaming future. Whether this diversification was self-driven or inflicted on Spotify by the record labels we’ll probably never know. I guess the figures didn’t add up and there are still too many “legacy” downloaders and iPod owners who aren’t yet ready to exchange file ownership for streamed music access.

Don’t get me wrong though: I think it’s fantastic that freemium users now finally have a chance to use Spotify Mobile: it’s a brilliant app – mobile’s killer app – but Spotify Free for Mobile doesn’t access the Spotify stream, making it essentially just another way to play MP3s (albeit one with a unique wireless syncing feature that’s bound to appeal to iTunes users).

Spotify have lost some friends of late (a bunch of freemium users and oh yes, 7digital) but I still have true faith in the company: despite the focus and innovation seemingly aimed solely at free users, their Premium streaming service still remains second-to-none.


Needless to say, many stories and reactions to this latest Spotify news have appeared throughout the day. Here’s a selection of the best:


How To Sync Your Local Music With Spotify Mobile


Paul Brown recently wrote a great article on Why Spotify is an iTunes-killer worth paying for. In it, he mentions that you can sync your local music with Spotify on your mobile. This feature’s been around in Spotify for a while now but it seems that not everyone was aware of it. Instead of having to use cables or manually copy files to your phone, Spotify can sync them for you via WiFi. So to complement Paul’s article, here’s an expanded How To Guide.

NOTE: since this article was written, Spotify updated their app to make it easier to sync (see the comments below). Basically you should now see you smartphone/iPod appear in the new Devices section in Spotify desktop. You can then just tick the playlists you want to sync, or make Spotify sync everything.


.1: Import to Library

First of all, if you’ve not already done so you need to import the MP3s you want to sync into the Spotify Library:

  1. Start Spotify on your desktop.
  2. Click the Library link then follow the instructions to import the MP3s into Spotify. You can browse to a folder to import or simply drag-and-drop the music files into the the Library’s Local Files view:


2: Create Playlist

Create a new playlist then drag the tracks you want to sync from the Local Files area into the playlist. You might want to create one playlist per album, a “New Tracks 2011” playlist, or one big playlist with all your local music. For example, here’s a playlist for the Arcade Fire album The Suburbs:


3: Connect Phone and Sync

Now make sure your phone is connected via WiFi to the same network as your PC (this step is important: you can’t sync local files over 3G). Also make sure Spotify is still open on the desktop, otherwise the files wont sync.

  1. Start Spotify on your mobile.
  2. Click Edit Offline Playlists then locate the new playlist(s) you created earlier. Tick them to start the offline syncing. The local files from your PC are then downloaded to your mobile:


As you add or remove local files to these playlists on the desktop, the mobile version keeps in sync with the changes. So in three easy steps, I now have Arcade Fire on Spotify Mobile!



Spotify’s Friends & Enemies (UPDATED)

They love me, they love me not… here’s a graphic showing Spotify’s friends and partners (on the left) versus their “enemies” and competitors (on the right).

According to CNET, Apple are actively trying to dissuade the American record labels from signing up with Spotify. Google may also turn out to be a Spotify competitor/killer, and Microsoft too (despite Daniel Ek and Steve Ballmer’s recent Windows Phone 7 love-in). The music cloud battle-lines are drawn: who do you love?


UPDATE 12/10/10

Add INQ to the friends side, possibly RIM too (but let’s wait for Spotify Mobile for BlackBerry).

UPDATE 14/10/10

Add Virgin Media to friends? Not sure about FaceBook, although Zuckerberg apparently is a fan.