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Spotify’s New Android App Finally Doesn’t Suck! But…

Posted by on April 20, 2012 at 10:31 am

Two months ago, I wrote about the terrible headache I was having with Spotify. While the desktop app has been relatively stable (and it’s been bettered since that writing, too) the mobile app has always been a rubbish, barely-tolerable experience. Between a non-optimal layout, frequent crashes, and connection issues, it was dreadful to use if you weren’t on wi-fi. Yesterday, Spotify introduced a beta for their upcoming Android app and it rights almost all the wrongs of its previous iterations, but it introduces a few niggling things as well. So how is it? Let’s break it down.

+/- Android 4.0 Required. The first, major caveat of grabbing this beta is that you need to have a phone loaded with Ice Cream Sandwich. That’s not a big deal to me, but considering its still relatively-low proliferation, it’s no doubt a big deal to most anyone with an Android phone. If you happen to be running ICS though, the experience is an incredible step up. The app takes advantage of Android’s new “holo” style guide, so it looks like a primary component of your phone.

+ Better Interface. Along with the ICS components, the app looks and feels a lot better overall. Menus slide out in-line under items you touch, artists have better pages to collate their music and biographies, transitions look fantastic and are usually smooth (more on that in a sec), leaving the app feeling like the experience it should’ve always been, a true 2.0 experience. It also boasts the standardized list button in the corner to access the rest of the app, rather than dominating space at the bottom. When you start playing a song, it appears in a mini-player strip along the bottom of the app. Clicking that brings up the full view with scrubber and album art. This means you have persistent pause/play controls as well as song info as you surf through the app, something that was tucked away in a huge slide-out tray before.

+/- Lock Screen Controls. It’s pretty unheard of for an audio player to have lock screen controls without ROM or launcher changes on Android, so having this added natively was a great surprise. While you get a portion of the album art and song info, the panel removes much of the other stuff that would’ve been on the screen, such as your lock screen background, clock, and any other pertinent info. I imagine they’ll fix this for final release, but it does reduce the screen’s usefulness otherwise.

– No Widget. …Yet. I’m not sure why this happened, but there’s no widget with this new app, whereas previous iterations had one. It’s a bizarre situation, requiring you to dig into the app (or turn off the phone and come back) to pause songs or change songs. I’m not saying there’ll never be a widget because this is obviously a beta, but if they wanted to make a good impression, this should’ve been included, even if it were the crusty old one.

– Performance. One of the cool parts of getting the Galaxy Nexus was knowing that what was once sluggish on my Epic was now silky smooth (or as close as Android will allow). With this new app, I’m back to square one. Again, I’m sure they’ll optimize the app for release, but watching menus chug and heave as they slide up and down and side to side is not a great time.

If you’re running Ice Cream Sandwich and happen to be a Spotify subscriber, the pros still outweigh the cons. I’d handily recommend this preview as a way to enjoy the Spotify service at all over the previous app. I haven’t had any disconnection issues over 3G/LTE yet, so that makes it far more useful, even in its early stages.

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