Spotify review: Full-featured music streaming, for a fee

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Spotify is packed with curated playlists for any mood or activity. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Pick and play

Spotify's robust search engine is one of its best features. With it, you can find essentially any reasonably popular artist, song, or album in existence. If you're a Spotify Premium subscriber, you can play that music on demand and even cache it to your device for playing while offline. You can also play it over speakers with Spotify Connect.

Spotify's also built an impressive library of curated playlists that fit any mood or activity. The Browse tab in the app changes daily (and throughout each day) to highlight playlists for various scenarios, like the Monday morning commute, an after-work workout or classic music for Throwback Thursday. Below the highlighted options, there are hundreds of other choices in the Genres and Moods section. These playlists are great for when you want to listen and not fuss with finding exact songs or artists.

Radio

Spotify also has a built-in radio feature, which plays endless music based on an artist, song, album, genre or a playlist. Head to the Radio tab and then tap the radio icon at the top right to create a new station. You can search for any keywords to get started.

As you vote songs up or down, Spotify gets a better idea of the kind of music you're into, and it learns quickly, adjusting the station to better suit your tastes. If you'd rather listen to a broader selection of music, you can fire up one of Spotify's several genre stations. Every station you create gets saved in Spotify so you can revisit it. Also, songs you upvote get saved in a playlist called "Liked from Radio" so you can find them again.

Unfortunately Spotify doesn't have live streaming radio stations or programming for sports and news. For that, you'll need a dedicated Internet radio station like Slacker or iHeartRadio.

Social features

If you're into sharing what you're listening to, Spotify has you covered with a tight integration with Facebook. If you sign up with Facebook, or connect your account after the fact, you can see what your Facebook friends are listening to in Spotify and share music with them. You can follow your friends in Spotify to see what they're listening to, and follow artists to get updates on their latest music or upcoming shows.

The settings menu includes an option to show every track you listen to on your profile. Also, using Android's built-in share menu, you can share track info through Gmail, text message, Google+, and pretty much any other app you have installed on your device.

Streaming quality

Spotify's sound quality is great, as is streaming stability, when connected to a reliable data signal. If you have a strong Wi-Fi or data signal, songs will load quickly and often you can keep playing even if you briefly lose your connection.

With a strong connection, you can also increase the sound streaming and download quality to High (160Kbps) or Extreme (320Kbps). The sound quality differences aren't that noticeable unless you're an audiophile, but having that control is a plus.

Conclusion

Spotify is one of the most popular streaming music services you can buy, for good reason. The service has an immense catalog of music and simple search tools to find it all. There are hundreds of playlists for every kind of music scenario, from partying on the beach to falling asleep. Finally, social features help you check out what your friends like and collaborate on playlists with them.

There are downsides however, especially if you have the free Spotify plan. With it, you cannot stream any song on demand; instead you can only Shuffle playlists and albums, or listen to radio stations. There's no offline listening and you'll hear ads between songs.

If you're already a Spotify member, either with a Premium or free subscription, downloading the mobile apps is a no-brainer. If you're not yet using Spotify, and aren't yet convinced it's the right for you, CNET's guide to the top music streaming services can help you decide. And while you're at it, read up on the 6 things you should consider before you get Spotify or a similar music subscription.

What you'll pay

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