Category Archives: Music
Posted by Nathan Lawrence
Remember when I reviewed the United States coming of streaming music service Spotify? Well, it looks like I was dead wrong. I complained about the price point, the usability of the software, and the way it presented gapless albums. Well, now I’m switching my streaming music solution from a cocktail of Music Beta by Google and Rdio to Spotify. Here’s why.
I’m not gonna lie. I may be an Android user at heart, but I still care about shallow appearance and user interface. Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at these apps.
Here’s what Rdio looks like on Android:
And here’s what Spotify looks like on Android:
Spotify just plain looks better. Since neither has a tablet app, this becomes doubly important on Honeycomb Tablets. Since I just bought an Acer Iconia Tab a500, this is a huge issue for me. The Spotify app just fits the design language for Honeycomb better.
2. Streaming Quality and Fidelity
Since I started using primarily Rdio, I have noticed how poor the streaming quality really is. The tracks sound like they’re coming out of a tin can, even at High Quality. Furthermore, streaming is rarely available or practical. Even on my home Wi-Fi (802.11N connected to a DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem with Comcast’s Blast Internet Package- up to 50 mbps), it can take 10-15 min to buffer enough of a song that it will stream. Then each subsequent track takes up to 5 minutes to buffer as I progress through the album! Since one of my major complaints about Spotify was the interstitial advertisements that interrupted album playback, I decided I couldn’t stand what amounts to a five minute advertisement for silence.
Worse yet, when I set it to high quality, I also lose the ability to stream at all. In any Wi-Fi, choosing to stream a song does nothing. This is unacceptable. Since my interstitial ads disappear with the paid version of Spotify, it was looking more and more logical.
One of the most attractive elements of any streaming music service is the Social aspect. However, as with any social network, they are only as good as the friends on the service. For me, the number of friends I have on Rdio is zero. Since Spotify connects to Facebook, every single friend there is a potential friend on Spotify. I already have three, and expect this number to keep growing as the free version of Spotify opens up to everybody (it currently has a limited sign-up).
Spotify’s social experience is also significantly better than Rdio’s. Rdio has a social model similar to Twitter or Last.fm. What you listen to, add to your music library, and synchronize to your phone appears in a timeline that others can subscribe to. Initially, this sounds great. It means you’re able to follow big infulencers on the music scene and get an idea of what they think without them following you. However, this is a very skin deep way of having a relationship, and not suitable for something as personal as music. Spotify takes more of a Facebook-like approach. Your Facebook friends appear in a sidebar on the right of your screen. You can see what they’re listening to, listen to it yourself, and send them song recommendations, which arrive in their Spotify Inbox. This inbox is treated like a playlist that can then be played on the computer or phone. It’s a very elegant system and seems to work fantastically well.
For $10 a month, my streaming music service has to be good. Hopefully Spotify will fit that bill better than Rdio. If not, it’s back to the drawing board.