Article updated on June 6, 2024 at 3:00 AM PDT

Spotify Review: Best Music Streaming Service, Now With Books

From Spotify Connect to audiobooks to one of the biggest music catalogs available, this is the best streaming service.

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Ty Pendlebury
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Ty Pendlebury has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
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8.4/ 10



  • The biggest catalog of music available for any genre
  • Excellent social features
  • Spotify Connect makes streaming easy


  • No Dolby Atmos or lossless music
  • App interface is dated
  • Audiobooks can shuffle accidentally
  • Artist compensation remains an issue

From the outside it can appear all of the music streaming services are the same; they cost between $10 and $12, and each has "millions of tracks." If you're willing to scratch at the surface, just a little, there's a lot more to them, and this especially applies to the two strongest services: Spotify and Apple Music.

Apple Music's large catalog offers tight integration with Apple products, as you'd expect, but it also includes some extras, including lossless tunes. On the other hand, Spotify offers a similarly large catalog of music but supplements it with a host of features, including podcasts, audiobooks and excellent streaming capabilities.

While other streaming services are only now starting to follow suit, social features have been a core part of Spotify for many years. From the ever-popular Spotify Wrapped annual roundup to the ability to collaborate with friends, the other services are still lagging behind in terms of social integration. Higher-res music? Teased, but still missing. In the lack of a hi-res tier, Spotify has been in an arms race with itself to add a whole new bunch of features. In the past six months alone, Spotify has added both "free" audiobooks and gig recommendations from Bandsintown. This has also meant some price increases, and yet even at its new price of $12, the service offers more than enough entertainment for your money.

While you can't go wrong with either Apple Music or Spotify, it's the latter one I would choose, especially if you're an Android user or use smart speakers. Spotify is the biggest streaming service for a reason, and if you like sharing your music tastes with friends or having a vast smorgasbord of entertainment to choose from it's the one to get.

Read more: Best Music Streaming Services of 2024

What is Spotify?

The desktop version of Spotify on a Windows computer

The desktop version of Spotify.

Screenshot by Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Spotify is a music streaming service with a catalog of 100 million-plus songs, and a selection of apps available for desktop, mobile and smart devices. Streaming quality is capped at 320Kbps, which is higher than Amazon Music and Pandora, although the company has also teased a lossless tier for many years. 

When it comes to accounts there are two main ways to listen: Free and Premium. The Free plan costs nothing, inserting advertisements between songs to cover costs. The trade-off for the Free service is that there are fewer features, plus restrictions on the music you can play and where you can play it. With a Free subscription, you can only shuffle songs from an album, playlist or radio station when using the mobile apps. You aren't able to pick a song and play it on the spot. Although there's also no offline listening, at least there is the ability to stream to other speakers via Wi-Fi using Spotify Connect.

Spotify app on iPhone in front of speaker

Spotify is available on phones, tablets, gaming consoles and smart TV devices.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Premium is Spotify's flagship product, full of all of the eye-catching features that make it great. It costs $12 (£12, AU$14) per month and is available in over 180 countries worldwide. With Premium, you can play any song, album, playlist or radio station on-demand. You can build your own playlists and add music to your library -- a personal collection you can come back to over and over. There are no ads to be found, giving you an uninterrupted flow of music at all times. You can download music to your computer, tablet or phone to play it offline. Finally, you get better audio quality than with most Apple Music tracks at up to 320Kbps.

As part of Premium, Spotify offers a family plan, which costs $20 per month with up to six accounts. Each person gets their own account, so your hip-hop playlists don't get mixed in with your kid's Imagine Dragons albums. Meanwhile, Apple Music's family plan also includes six separate accounts for $17.

One of the best reasons to choose Spotify over other services is the sheer size of its catalog. As a long-term user, I've only ever encountered a couple of instances where music wasn't available. From the obscure to the popular, it's likely that if it isn't on Spotify then it isn't available on streaming. Some artists have legitimate reasons not to be on the platform, whether it's the infamous bust-up between Neil Young and Joe Rogan, or because they would rather release their music on services that offer better compensation, such as Tidal or Bandcamp.

Using Spotify

Screenshot: Ty Pendlebury/CNET

When it comes to desktop and mobile apps there are three main sections: Home, Search and Your Library. For the mobile app, these options live at the bottom of the screen while on the desktop these sections are available on the top-left corner. The desktop's extra real estate over mobile also enables an expanded section for artists, books or playlists (including ones you've created) on the bottom left, and the Friends list on the right-hand side. The latter list enables users to see what their friends (via Facebook) are playing in real-time. Be aware that Friends isn't available on mobile, though Spotify has been reportedly working on a similar feature called Community.

While it's different for every platform, the Home page mainly consists of playlists, from suggested mixes for every time of day, to genre-based entries, to "Made for you" lists that collate your music into discrete Daily mixes. By default, after playing a song Spotify will play a continuous stream of music based on the track you choose. If you like a song you hear you can either long press it, click the hamburger button (...), right-click on the desktop and get more information or add it to your library with the Like button. These songs are automatically added to the "Liked" list, which you can then search through and separate according to genre. 

Spotify Connect screen on a smartphone

Spotify Connect lets you play music on your speakers without running your phone down.

Celso Bulgatti/CNET

In the middle of the three options is search, which opens Spotify's tool for finding any song, album, artist, podcast, audiobook or playlist. The final tab in the menu is home to your music collection on Spotify, called Your Library. I've built hundreds of playlists over my years of using Spotify and rely on them a lot, especially while traveling. Other parts of Your Library include tabs for the music you've saved organized by artist, song and album.

A plethora of control options

The Google Nest Audio on a table

The Google Nest Audio offers excellent integration with Spotify.


Spotify's biggest advantages are its compatibility and adaptability -- it plays nicely with almost any connected audio device, and it works with every voice assistant, too. Spotify Connect continues to lead the way in making multiple devices work together, and to activate it you tap or click on the speaker icon at the bottom of the interface. Opening this feature brings up a list of Spotify Connect-compatible speakers, soundbars and AV receivers you can stream to in your home. 

If you do use a smart speaker, you have several services available to you, but the one I've used that works the best across both Alexa and Google Assistant is Spotify. I have used many music services -- including Apple Music -- but none come as close to Spotify in getting the song you ask for most of the time. It comes back to the breadth of Spotify's catalog. My family and I use Spotify every single day, but our main method of interaction is via Google Assistant, and I only use the Spotify app when making or listening to playlists.

Apple Music is an excellent alternative for people who don't want to give their money to Spotify, but it lacks the same level of compatibility or social interactivity. As great as Apple Music is, and as many advancements it's made to make it less of a walled garden, it's still not great for PC users in particular. There is an Apple Music for Windows 11 store but it's not as robust as the native Apple app. Meanwhile, Apple devices have both Apple AirPlay 2 and Siri, and they're designed to work together seamlessly. 

Although Apple Music is also one of the services Google Assistant users can choose, I haven't been impressed with the experience. Firstly, when you're setting it up it defaults to authorizing Apple Music on an iOS device in the Google Home app, and this can be an issue if you don't have even one. When I cleared that hurdle, I used Apple Music as my default service for two weeks, but Apple Music failed to find requested tracks as consistently as Spotify. 

Not just music

Audiobooks are one of the newest Spotify features.


Spotify has so many features -- both hidden and in plain sight -- that not every user will ever use them all. New ones are being added all the time, with audiobooks the latest in a long line of add-ons. Alongside the fledgling feature, Podcasts has become one of the major tentpoles of Spotify. However, it's only with the latest mobile update that the feature has been visible. But there are plenty of podcasts to choose from, including the Spotify Original Heavyweight

Spotify currently offers over 375,000 audiobook titles, in addition to its selection of podcasts and albums, but it's still not what I would call a "go-to" for book lovers. First, you only get 15 hours included as part of your subscription, and if you're used to audiobook apps like Audible or Audiobooks, then you may be disappointed by Spotify's take. Yes, it does offer the ability to alter the reading speed, but the interface still treats books like they're albums. This instantly becomes an issue once the app starts shuffling chapters. This issue first happened to me while I was listening to World War Z -- an episodic novel with no real narrative thread -- and so I didn't notice that Spotify had shuffled the chapters around until it started to repeat them. This problem is obviously disastrous for readers and stems from the interface breaking chapters into "tracks" rather than as a single tome, as with its competitors. With the competitive Audible, for instance, you get to pick up where you left off, as the interface shows you instantly how far you are into a book.

The drawbacks

The Joe Rogan Podcast on Spotify's mobile app

The Joe Rogan Experience is a Spotify exclusive.

Sarah Tew/CNET

From its controversial $200 million deal with podcaster Joe Rogan to what are reportedly the lowest rates in the industry, no other streaming service is as polarizing as Spotify. As the dominant player, Spotify basically gets to dictate its own terms, and artists in particular can either like it or lump it. For instance, the company has just changed the way it pays royalties -- an individual track must have received a minimum of 1,000 streams in the past 12 months to be eligible. Understandably, artists have cried foul, and it's not just the smaller ones. In his video greeting from Spotify's 2023 Wrapped, Weird Al Yankovic claimed he had only received a sandwich worth of royalties -- or $12 -- from 80 million streams. Of course, his math is off -- one fan calculated he would be getting hundreds of thousands instead -- but his message is clear: Spotify needs to pay its artists more, not less. 

Sometimes Spotify announces features that just don't pan out. Take Car Thing, for example: In 2022, this car-friendly dongle came and went, ending even before the summer did. Running and music game Heardle were two more high-profile features that Spotify retired. 

Lastly, Spotify is beginning to show its age -- from the green-and-black interface it's had since 2014 to its uncanny ability to hide new features such as podcasts or audiobooks. Most of the service's competitors have been able to showcase their expanding range of offerings in a better way -- from spatial audio to radio. 

Should you subscribe? 

There is no such thing as a perfect streaming service, but Spotify comes closer than most by offering a large catalog of audio-based entertainment and a myriad of ways to interact with it. For $12 a month, it includes a bunch of fun features, including Wrapped and podcasts, and is more than enough for the needs of most people. 

On the other hand, if you want music with lossless quality, or don't want to pay for podcasts and audiobooks, Apple Music is an excellent alternative. Albeit, Apple Music is better if you have an iPhone, Mac or Apple TV, but it's not a requirement. Yet whichever service you choose, know that you're getting the best value for your money with either option. Not even video streaming services offer this much for this little a month.