Now fully optimized for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Spotify for Android (free to Premium subscribers, $9.99/month) is one of the most gorgeous Android apps I’ve ever seen, and I dare say better than Spotify for iPhone.
A top-to-bottom makeover this month adds buttery smooth navigation, faster streaming (320kbps) for higher-quality sound, eye-popping album art, and a few other power features. All it needs is support for local files, and I’m ready to delete all my other music players.
For the uninitiated, Spotify (4.5 stars, free) is an online music service that lets you play songs from a mainstream-heavy library of more than 15 million tracks, build playlists, and get recommendations from other members or from Spotify’s own recommendation engine. Upgrading to a Premium account removes ad interruptions, and lets you store playlists offline (up to 3,333 tracks), and sync your account to an unlimited number of mobile devices. Trust me, it’s worth it. If you don’t have Premium, you can (and absolutely should) sign up for a free 30-day trial to enjoy our Editors’ Choice pick for premium music services on your Android device.
If you’d rather not pay a dime and don’t mind being unable to listen to individual tracks or albums on demand, Songza is the Editors’ Choice among free music services, and it supports iOS and Android. Slacker Radio ($9.99, 4.5 stars), another Editors’ Choice pick on the PC and iPad, serves tons of streaming radio stations. For a pure cloud-based music player, Google Play Music is a solid option, but you can only share a full stream with Google+ members and you can only add music you’ve purchased through Google Play.
Better Look and Feel
Spotify for Android looks more like Spotify for iPad (4 stars) than Spotify on an iPhone or desktop. The app sheds Spotify’s original black and green color scheme for lots of clean lines, white space, and grey trim. Graphics, particularly album covers, are so vivid they almost pop. It’s a beautiful way to play music on a tablet.
Navigation is faster and snappier, too, thanks to lots of buttery-smooth scrolling and swiping. For example, you can swipe left to access your Settings menu to open your playlists, Inbox, Friends list, song recommendations, and search box. The menu simply layers on top of an existing page.
Better Than the iPhone Version?
This is the first Android app I’ve reviewed that performs better than its iPhone counterpart. Not only is it faster and more intuitive, it also ports a few awesome desktop features.
Sound quality is better. You can now stream or download tracks at a deliciously high 320kbps, called Extreme mode. It’ll hog your data, so use it sparingly or with Wi-Fi. Spotify for Android also now supports gapless playback and crossfading between tracks, so there aren’t any abrupt pauses.
Looking for new music? From Settings, tap What’s New to see trending songs and playlists among Spotify friends and members located near you, or swipe through a slick carousel of new albums. This section is limited to only five options each, however. The desktop client recommends twice the amount. Spotify for Android also lets you build perfect playlists. For instance it adds Spotify’s Play Queue, a scrollable list that displays what songs lie ahead of your currently playing track. You can drop in tracks at any time, even if you’re listening to someone else’s playlist.
Adding two desktop-only features would make this app just about flawless. It needs to support locally stored files so I could finally delete iTunes. And it needs to support Spotify’s new app ecosystem, which I considered an awesome feature in my review of the desktop service. Spotify apps are simply third-party curated playlists; you’ll find big name apps from Last.fm, Songkick, and Rolling Stone magazine.
An Incentive to Upgrade
Spotify, our Editors’ Choice pick for premium music players on Android, is an incredible service that has essentially eliminated my need to ever buy music again. And it clearly understands mobile: Spotify for Android is a gorgeously designed app, approaching all the features offered by its desktop client. If it ever supports locally stored files, I’m deleting all my music player and music storage apps. Highly recommended.