Spotify review: The best streaming music experience you can buy

As of July 2015, these features are only starting to become available in the iOS app, with plans to roll out to Android shortly. Details are sparse on when they'll show up in the Windows Phone app. Each of these features exists as their own tabs in the menu for easy access.


Introduced in May 2015, Running is a novel new feature that matches music to your running stride. It uses the motion sensors in your phone to detect your pace and then plays music with a beat that closely matches it.

When you fire up a Running playlist, all of which are stored in the app's Running tab, you're asked to start jogging so Spotify can determine your stride in steps per minute. It uses that number to find songs with a similar beat per minute tempo and plays that music through your workout.

The point of all of this is to keep you motivated and energized while running using songs with a beat that matches your running pace. The effect is great, even if the music selection Spotify chooses isn't always spot-on for exercising. For people who religiously run to music like myself, this feature is helpful and fun. I enjoyed testing it out, and for more detail on how it worked, check out CNET's hands-on with Spotify Running.

Spotify isn't the only app that offers this technology, but it's the only streaming music service to have it built into its app. Standalone app Spring also matches your running stride to music and it works just like Spotify.

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Podcasts are now part of Spotify. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET


The latest version of Spotify includes podcasts and video, the app's first foray into content that's not strictly music. In the new Shows tab, you'll find audio and video shows covering a wide variety of topics. Many top podcasts, including Marketplace, WTF with Marc Maron Podcast and Stuff You Should Know, are available, but others -- This American Life and Serial -- are missing. As it stands now, Spotify isn't likely to replace your current podcast app, especially if you listen to offbeat or obscure podcasts, because there are quite a few missing pieces and you cannot manually add a show using an RSS feed.

Spotify makes up for this by including videos of TV show clips and podcasts. Inside Amy Schumer, Jimmy Kimmel Live and TED are just some of the popular shows with clips you can watch. With both audio and video shows, you can follow your favorites to get updates on new episodes and clips.

Spotify vs. Apple Music

Though Spotify is packed with new features, it doesn't do everything perfectly. Other services, notably Apple Music, are strong in areas where Spotify is not. One key area is personalization, and Spotify's never been great at learning your music habits. The playlists, albums and other content that it suggests in the apps are the same for everyone and based more on current trends and the season than on your listening history. The only places you can offer feedback is with Radio and by following artists you like. By doing that, the Discover section of the app will offer personalized recommendations, but they're so tucked away that you may never find them.

This is quite different from Apple Music, which is constantly paying attention to what you're playing and relying on feedback from you to craft recommendations for artists, albums and playlists. Those recommendations are everywhere in Apple Music and nearly impossible to avoid.

Spotify has also struggled for years with helping you combine your own music files with its streaming catalog. Using the Spotify Mac or Windows app, you can add local music files (MP3, MP4 and M4P) stored on your hard drive to the service. However, the process is often too complicated and unstable.

It's easy enough to get your music files from your computer into Spotify, but it's a different story getting them synced to your phone or tablet. First, you'll need to be on the same Wi-Fi on both your phone and computer where the files are stored. Then you can open the app on your phone or tablet, head to Playlists and tap on Local Files to see these tracks. However, that process has never worked for me. Instead, I have the best luck manually syncing my own songs by using the desktop app. There, you can click on Devices, select your device and choose which playlists or tracks to add. Even then, with my phone and computer on the same WiFi, the desktop app didn't always recognize my device.

It gets more complicated. Once you successfully get your music onto your phone, you can't find it by browsing the Songs, Albums or Artists tabs. You can only go to Playlists and select Local Files. The easiest way to find your personal music in the Spotify mobile apps is to make a playlist of those tracks and sync it. Then, you can download that music to listen offline. Because this process is confusing and tedious, Spotify isn't a great choice if you want to listen to both streaming music and tracks you've purchased over the years. While Apple Music's version of this doesn't always work either, it's at least better designed, so that when it does work the experience is mostly seamless.


Spotify is one of the most popular streaming music services you can buy, for good reason. It has an immense catalog of music across genres and eras, and simple search tools to find it all. There are hundreds of playlists for every kind of music-listening 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.

Unfortunately, Spotify suffers from a few problems. It doesn't offer much in the way of personalized music suggestions. Combining your own music files with its streaming catalog is not an easy or straightforward process. And while the iOS version of the app is getting new tools, with Android following behind, the desktop and Windows Phone don't show signs of catching up.

Furthermore, if you don't want to pay $10 per month for the Premium service, you're stuck with limitations. With a free plan, 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 either and you'll hear ads frequently.

However, if you're willing to spend the $9.99 every month (which is on par with all of the other streaming music services), Spotify is worth every cent. It covers all of the bases, playing music for every part of your day, activity or theme. And with the inclusion of podcasts and videos, it gets even more versatile without sacrificing the music.

Still not convinced? Check out CNET's guide to the top music streaming services to 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.

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