6 things to know about the new free Spotify

The world's largest music-streaming service just amped up its freebie options. Here's what you need to know.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
2 min read

Spotify now lets you listen to 15 select playlists on-demand -- but still with ads.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Can't swing a Spotify subscription? (Even if it's combined with Hulu?) Fear not: Following its IPO earlier this month, the music-streaming giant just overhauled its free-listening tier for mobile users.

That means you're about to get more bang (and other noises) for no bucks. Let's take a look at some of the key aspects of the new free Spotify.

You're no longer restricted to shuffling

Before this update, you could listen to any Spotify artist, album or playlist, but only in shuffle mode. Now, you'll get on-demand access to 15 of Spotify's most popular playlists, many of them custom-tailored to your preferences. That means you can hop around within those playlists and listen to exactly the songs you want.

The 'Free 15'

So exactly which playlists are available as part of the free tier? The full list is yet to be revealed, but they'll include Daily Mix, Discover Weekly, Release Radar, Today's Top Hits and the hip-hop list Rap Caviar. Some of these contain personalized selections based on your music preferences. All told, there will be about 750 total tracks available for on-demand listening.

You can still venture beyond the Free 15, but within those playlists, you'll still be limited to shuffle-play, same as before.

Watch this: Free Spotify: Here's what's new

It still has ads

You didn't think those free tunes would also be free from commercials, did you? That's been the model of Spotify's freebie tier since the beginning. If you want an ad-free listening experience, you'll have to pay for a Spotify subscription.

The tablet experience is still better

Spotify's best-kept secret is that if you run the app on a tablet, you can listen to any song you want, on demand. You'll still have to contend with ads, but you're not shoehorned into shuffle mode like on your phone.

It's not available yet


Spotify didn't announce a mobile player, but Mighty Audio already has one.

Mighty Audio

The updated Spotify app will roll out to users in the coming weeks, so you'll have to wait a bit longer for the new on-demand options.

Spotify didn't announce hardware, but...

Some observers were hoping Spotify might announce a mobile player, but, alas, no soap.

There's already a product that lets you take your Spotify playlists on the go, however: The Mighty. Similar to Apple's now-discontinued iPod Shuffle , the Mighty player can hold up to 1,000 tracks and plays for up to 5 hours on a charge. It sells for $86.