We've seen the Spotify iPhone app in detail and it's pretty damn good

Next Story

Bing's Idea Of A Perfect Summer Vacation: A Terrifying Lightning Storm

I’ve now been given an extended demo of the Spotify iPhone app which is currently awaiting Apple’s approval. Unfortunately the guy who showed it to me managed to prize the iPhone with the app on it from my cold sweaty palms, so I wasn’t allowed to take the app away on my own iPhone (alas), however, screen grabs taken from the video they released this week illustrate how the app works very well. I can confirm that everything in the Spotify app works as the video showed it. It’s in fact a very simple application, but extremely easy to use and the sound is magically good.

Here’s what I found:

The Radio feature of the desktop software is not present in the iPhone app, nor is Play Queue. Otherwise pretty much all the essential features are there.

You open up the app and see your playlists. You select a playlist and – even over 3G, not WiFi – the track streams almost immediately.

If you tap Offline Playlists and you select what you want to play when you are out of range of a 3G signal, the playlist will sync to your phone. Offline playlists need to be synced over Wifi, hence why its clear there is some kind of download happening here.

We don’t actually as yet know how they do this. There must be some kind of data download that brings in tracks which don’t appear as MP3s or as discernible tracks outside the app itself. Could the files end up being hacked out of the application? I don’t know but I daresay someone will try to find out.

Playback resumes where you left off after closing the app. While you’re playing a track you can click the “i” button and add the track or the album the track is from to your playlists.

You can also set up new playlists directly within the app. Any changes you make to playlists etc are synced with the desktop version. You can search on tracks, though not artists right now.

However, the biggest surprise is that the app works very well just over 3G. The latency between tracks is only slightly longer than over WiFi. The sound quality is, to my ears at least, excellent.

This is going to be Spotify’s killer feature – as it is on the desktop – the ability to play any track in their catalogue with no latency. Is the Spotify app the first P2P app on the iPhone? It looks like it might well be. LastFm’s iPhone app is pretty good but their latency – since the data has to stream in with no P2P software to help it – is much greater and discernible to the ear. Plus of course Last.FM is really a radio station not the proverbial celestial jukebox.

Now, it’s not clear as yet, but I am assuming I would not be able to cache vast numbers of tracks for offline playing, thus rendering my iTunes purchasing habits a thing of the past. The company has nothing to say on this but I daresay Spotify and Apple have had some pretty heavy words about this. [One commenter below suggests it’s ‘limited’ to 3,000 tracks, which would probably be way above what Apple would approve].

Lastly, co-founder Daniel Ek said something this week which makes me 99.9% sure this app will be approved for the iPhone app store: “We have a great relationship with Apple, think the iPhone is awesome and absolutely expect them to approve our app in the next few weeks. Apple has already approved several other music services such as Lastfm, Deezer and Pandora. We very much look forward to people being able to access their Spotify library wherever they might be and we’ve spent significant time and resources to ensure we’ve stuck to Apple’s developer guidelines point by point.” (Our emphasis).

In other words Spotify is betting the farm on this app being approved and they would not have done so had they not got the green light from Apple that – so long as they followed all the rules to the letter – the app would be approved.

  • http://shkspr.mobi/blog/ Terence Eden

    It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this sort of app is possible. Last.fm does something very similar on Android. Even Omnifone was doing this back in 2007! http://shkspr.mobi/blog/index.php/2007/12/musicstation-some-thoughts/

  • LIAD

    The app will also let you cache up to 3000 songs so you can play them offline if/when you don’t have an internet connection.

    They’re basically giving you a disposable 8 gig iTunes library absolutely free.

    Wouldn’t be surpised if Apple agreed to approve the app on the proviso that the cache functionality was first removed

    • Thlom

      The iPhone app will only be available for premium costumers.

  • http://geekspotnow.blogspot.com Chris

    Man, I hope Apple doesn’t go messing with a good app again. The Google Voice thing made me mad. I hate seeing a company take business over the customer.


  • http://neverodd.co.uk Paul Smith

    There are full screengrabs available from the earlier review of the app on sharemyplaylists.com – http://bit.ly/aiWim

    I’d agree that Spotify wouldn’t have blown their bugle about this if they weren’t confident, but I’d be curious to understand Apple’s thinking on it since:

    – Spotify have created an app which effectively kills iTunes on the iPhone (as Spotify does very effectively on the desktop)

    – the app is free at point of download and Spotify collect the £9.99 monthly subscription themselves, rather than make it available through the 3.0 firmware subscription service

    I could understand Apple approving it if users subscribed through 3.0 and Apple received their 30%. As it stands, what possible reason do Apple have to approve this? If they’re not afraid to pull Google Voice apps because they duplicate existing Apple services or cause friction with service providers, will they hesitate in turning Spotify down?

    There may be a future option to purchase tracks on Spotify through iTunes (but why would you want to?). Or perhaps Apple believe more in apps than music, or perhaps they simply want an app that makes the iPhone proposition unmissable.

    We’ll see what happens in the next fortnight. If it is approved, the iTunes store won’t be the only casualty – the business model for the likes of Shazam will also hit the wall.

    • TomHandy

      What reason did Apple have to approve the Sirius XM Online radio app? That one is also free, and depends solely on your direct subscription to Sirius XM, without going through the iTunes system for any sort of payments. I don’t see this as being any different.

      • http://neverodd.co.uk Paul Smith

        Does the Sirius app allow you to download over 3,000 songs for offline listening?

  • Erick

    Looks like they used the three20 library from Joe Hewitt. Nice.

  • albsure

    I think Apple were probably happy with Google Voice but were blocked by AT&T (not surprising really, GV is more or a problem than Skype, it effectively turns Google into the Telco not AT&T).

    However, I expect GV to be approved in time when the competition from Android and BB starts to get hotter and Apple end their exclusive AT&T contract.

    At the end of the day, follow the money. Apple will sell more ipods/phones with “now comes with spotify” slogans than they would without them. And Apple dont make that much money from music on the itunes store anyway.

    The people who should worry are the other digital stores, amazon, 7 digital etc.. They are going to completey die over the next few years because they will have nothing to off set their lost revenue.
    If the record companies decide that they make more money on a subscription basis then everyone will have to do it, including Apple.. of course Apple already know this, so I’m sure they dont care whichever way the wind blows.. as long as you buy Apple hardware its cool.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John_Ellenich/2310688 John Ellenich

    I *so* do not see this app getting approved.

    Not with the current review process anyway…

  • Steve Brammer

    It will be interesting to see how AT&T and other mobile operators deal with the fact that this is a P2P application just like the desktop version of Spotify.
    Are there any other iPhone apps that upload significant amounts of data as well as downloading?

  • Richie Rich

    There’s no way Spotify could afford to share 30% of the revenues with Apple on this application. I can only imagine they will struggle to break even on the music royalties as it is.

    And there’s almost zero chance of this application getting being approved by Apple.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Xavier_Xixi_Sebastiani/660413066 Xavier Xixi Sebastiani

    TC was talking about BluBet earlier wishing to takes bet from social networks:

    I would bet that Apple will reject Spotify without second thought.

  • http://betaalfa.polymono.net/2009/07/27/har-ar-spotify-for-iphone/ Beta Alfa » Blog Archive » Här är Spotify för iPhone

    […] är också någonting som TechCrunch nämner när de berättar mer om applikationen i ett fördjupande inlägg om Spotify för […]

  • http://www.facebook.com/people//753385400 fb753385400

    The desktop client caches OGG files at 160kbps (free) and 320kbps (paid), not MP3 files… They seem to use some sort of obfuscation like the iPods use, except it’s a little more complex and well thought out – you can’t simply rename a file from the cache to .ogg and expect it to play (unlike iPods)… But at the end of the day, there is no real point in trying to extract files from the cache anyway when the service is so buttery smooth anyway!

    • Steve Brammer

      Each track is split into many small files which appear to be joined on-the-fly as the track plays. Each of the small files has just a long hex number as it’s name and the small files that make up a track are not numbered sequentially.
      No one has yet hacked the desktop version. The most you can do is capture the playback from your soundcard in realtime and re-encode to mp3. I doubt this will be possible on the iPhone.

  • http://ionizedmedia.com/blog/the-spotify-app-in-detail/ IONIZED: A Journal of Witty Commentary - The Spotify App in Detail

    […] ✖ […]

  • http://www.ethervision.net Randall Cross

    I cannot see any way that Apple would approve this. My gut says it will clean house on Cydia and everyone will now want a hacked iPhone.

  • http://www.newsjacker.co.uk/media/we%e2%80%99ve-seen-the-spotify-iphone-app-in-detail-and-it%e2%80%99s-pretty-damn-good/ We’ve seen the Spotify iPhone app in detail and it’s pretty damn good 

    […] but I daresay Spotify and Apple have had some pretty heavy words about this. [One commenter below suggests it’s ‘limited’ to 3,000 tracks, which would probably be way above what Apple would […]

  • Alexander

    3,333 tracks will be available offline, according to Spotify.

  • http://www.invisiblefestival.org Invisible Festival

    How about a free, legal, virtual music festival using Spotify playlists?


    Check it out. We have 50 VIP passes to give away so you can listen all weekend advert free.


  • http://Spotify Andres Sehr

    To clarify – Spotify does not use P2P on the iPhone. We’ve got some other methods to make it super quick. :)


    • http://www.solidstategroup.com Ben Rometsch

      The idea that a p2p stack would help with latency did strike me as very odd! If anything it would cause slow downs, surely…

  • http://www.top3citytips.com David

    And when will we get it for Android? We’ve had the preview 3 months ago already… I was hoping that for once, we’d have an application that the iPhone doesn’t have yet.

  • http://www.theequitykicker.com/2009/07/29/apples-rejection-of-google-voice-on-the-iphone-doesnt-bode-well-for-them/ Apple’s rejection of Google Voice on the iPhone doesn’t bode well for them | The Equity Kicker

    […] We’ve seen the Spotify iPhone app in detail and it’s pretty damn good (uk.techcrunch.com) […]

  • http://www.mobil.se/iphonebloggen/index.php/2009/07/spotify-for-iphone-spelar-latar-offline/ Iphonebloggen » Blog Archive » Spotify för Iphone spelar låtar offline

    […] test som visar lite mer detaljer om hur det ska fungera. Wired och Sharemyplaylists har testat och Techcrunch har sett programmet på nära håll. Dessutom har Spotify själva försökt svara på några av […]

  • http://financegeek.com/apple%e2%80%99s-rejection-of-google-voice-on-the-iphone-doesn%e2%80%99t-bode-well-for-them/ Finance Geek » Apple’s rejection of Google Voice on the iPhone doesn’t bode well for them

    […] We’ve seen the Spotify iPhone app in detail and it’s pretty damn good (uk.techcrunch.com) […]

  • http://netzwertig.com/2009/07/29/apple-und-spotify-das-perfekte-team/ Apple und Spotify: Das perfekte Team » netzwertig.com

    […] man im Stockholmer Spotify-Hauptquartier zuversichtlich zu sein scheint, alle Anforderungen von Apple erfüllt zu haben und grünes Licht zu bekommen, habe ich mir genauer […]

  • http://andrearroyo.wordpress.com/2009/07/30/spotifys-iphone-app-apples-billion-euro-question/ Spotify’s iPhone app: Apple’s Billion Euro question? « Spare Cycles

    […] think it is an iTunes killer (I think it complements iTunes and it could drive sales) and Spotify appear to be confident that they have played by the developer rules.  But most of all, I think it would start to focus official attention on the way Apple chooses […]

  • http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/07/30/groovesharks-iphone-app-is-great-but-its-about-to-get-smacked-down-by-apple/ Grooveshark’s iPhone App Is Great, But It’s About To Get Smacked Down By Apple

    […] the last few days we’ve seen a lot of attention centered on the new iPhone application from Spotify, the so-called ‘iTunes Killer’ subscription service that lets you plays […]

blog comments powered by Disqus