Spotify for iPad review
2nd May 2012 | 11:00
Music streaming hits the big screen
Spotify for iPad review
iPad-owning Spotify users have been crying out for a proper iPad app for months, sick of 2x-ing the relatively basic iPhone version to fit the larger screen, so Spotify for iPad is a welcome release.
But after the long, arduous wait for a dedicated iPad app, can Spotify's latest mobile version live up to its promise?
Well, if it's a slick interface you were looking for then yes – swiping around the Spotify iPad app is a pleasure and the dual-panel layout lends itself nicely to the screen size, reminiscent of the Mail app. You can have several of these panels open at once as you click through related artists and the like, and getting back is just a matter of swiping your way through, like pages in an iBook.
And you can take a look at the app in action in our handy video below:
It's worth nothing that there aren't any features that are exclusive to the iPad software, aside from the Retina Display compatible album graphics – and, in an app whose raison d'etre is to play music, that might not be a massive deal to most users.
But there are some bits and pieces that are on the iPad app that the iPhone version lacks – like crossfade, which you can set to whatever timing suits you, and gapless playback.
Both work, which is reassuring, although they may require a few more thoughtfully-crafted playlists. Note to self, '90s pop-reggae classic 'Sweat (A la la la la long)' does not segue nicely into Big Star's 'Thirteen'.
There are a few options for sound quality – Normal (94kbps), high (160kbps) and the excellently named extreme (320kbps). Unfussy casual users won't notice much difference – there isn't really that much in it – although the music does get a little warmer with each hop up the quality scale.
You can sync music to offline in any of these modes too, although there'll be a trade off in the amount you can sync if you choose the higher quality options.
The status bar across the bottom of the screen is always there telling you what's playing, with skip and pause functions to boot.
Tapping the album thumbnail brings up your additional options – star, add to playlist, send to a friend, shuffle and continuous playback. It's a much more sensible layout than on the iPhone app where these are hidden away in the 'info' tab when you're on the 'now playing' screen.
Speaking of which, the full Now Playing screen is lovely – the artwork takes centre stage (and looks fabulous when coupled with the new iPad's Retina Display), and you skip songs simply by swiping up or down. It's such a simple thing but a real pleasure to use.
The app also offers Airplay functionality so if you've got Apple's Airport Extreme set up, you'll be able to play Spotify tunes wirelessly from your iPad through your speakers.
Spotify for iPad: Playlists and search
On first play with the iPad app, this reviewer was excited to note that editing playlists was a joy. Like other iOS apps, you can choose to edit the line up, which gives you the option to 'unlock' and then delete playlists as you see fit. Easy peasy and a prime opportunity for a playlist spring clean.
Although your existing folders are there to browse through, it doesn't seem that you can add playlists into folders or create new ones, which is a shame because organising playlists like this on the desktop app is a real pain. That's a minor point though, so don't let it put you off.
Given the focus on discovering music, the process for subscribing to and creating playlists has been made really easy. It's really a one-tap process once you've found the playlist or song you're after. Although long-time iPad users may instinctively want to drag and drop songs but Spotify has deemed tapping a more intuitive control mechanism.
As with the iPhone app, you can sync playlists to the tablet to listen to offline by toggling the offline sync control. We synced 14 songs over Wi-Fi at extreme quality and it took only a few minutes.
The good news is that anyone upgrading from the old iOS app to the new iPad app will retain their synced playlists. Hurrah.
The iPad app is geared more towards music discovery, so some real thought's gone into the search function. Results start to populate as you type, with the best match hoiked up to the top of the screen, before sections for artists, albums, playlists and tracks, with artists and songs already in your library prioritised above others.
It's a nice change from the annoying tabbed layout of the search function in the iPhone screen, and being able to browse relevant playlists (as you can in the desktop app) is a really welcome addition.
Spotify for iPad review: Social and verdict
Good news for stalkers, rifling through your friends' profiles is an easy, large-screened experience.
The app makes good use the panelled layout to take you through from a simple list of all your friend's published playlists with songs, to a thumbnail view, to a single playlist outline.
Sharing songs and playlists to your Spotify contacts or Facebook, Twitter is as simple as hitting the share button on the playlist view. Twitter sharing uses the Twitter account you have synced to the iPad and auto-creates a hashtag-tastic Tweet that you can edit down.
Facebook isn't quite as straightforward: sharing opens a small screen pop out that you'll need to log in on, but then you can share it to your timeline, a friends' wall or a group. It's not a very pleasant experience since you're limited to a tiny box and have to scroll sideways to complete the action.
It's a shame really, because the rest of the Facebook integration is as excellent as it is on the desktop version. Your friends are automatically imported when you link your Facebook and Spotify accounts, and what you're listening to shows up on your timeline and in friends' tickers on the Facebook newsfeed. If you're listening to any '90s pop-reggae, you can simply switch on private listening and no one need be any the wiser.
The inbox function is also present and correct, with conversation view showing you all the songs you've sent back and forth. It also shows you whether or not your friend has actually listened to that 20 minute experimental jazz piece you sent them or not, ungrateful swines.
Quite simply, this is exactly the Spotify iPad app we've all been waiting for. It looks good, it works flawlessly and it's a more straight-forward app to use than its iPhone equivalent.
Yes, we'd like to see Spotify apps come in and yes, we'd like a bit more control over the folders in our playlist library, but we reckon these will be things that come with time. But even so, iPad users should upgrade quick-smart.