Spotify Premium v Unlimited; Why I Downgraded

Anphicle September 16, 2010 6

Spotify is a music streaming service for residents of select European countries. I love it. I bloody love Spotify. I trialled Spotify Open in May after reading all the praise written on the web, and after about 7 hours into the monthly 20 hours limit I thought this was a service I could happily pay for, and it takes a lot to grab my money. I opted for the £4.99 monthly service Spotify Unlimited. Today I decided to take the plunge and upgraded to Premium at £9.99/month for experimental purposes, though I switched back a few hours later. It wasn’t about the cost and here I shall explain why I downgraded my package back to Spotify Unlimited.

You can get a thorough Spotify product comparison here but simply put over Unlimited, Premium offers higher quality tracks, the offline option and the use of Spotify on mobile devices.

Spotify Premium or Unlimited

Higher Quality Tracks vs British Internet Speeds

At first I didn’t notice a difference, then I noticed the check box option in Preferences to “Enable High Bitrate”. I still didn’t notice a difference after that. I don’t have top quality speakers set up, my laptop speakers are so tinny I choose to wear headphones. I honestly could not tell the difference in sound quality. I feel I am getting older here as my ears used to be good at telling this kind of thing, but there were none-audio clues to say the higher bit-rate was enabled.

My internet speed is beyond poor, I have to share it with other residents of my house and the neighbourhood. We don’t have cable alternatives to the poor 1980’s infrastructure which won’t be upgraded unless the UK consumer revolts by quitting (As in, If the pounds are rolling in, it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). This isn’t a worst case scenario, it is a typical British town. Large towns and cities have reasonable speeds, the countryside has it even worse. Using Spotify Unlimited I could stream tracks uninterrupted at the expense of slower general web surfing. If I am watching BBC iPlayer, having a session on Youtube, or downloading software I close Spotify. Trying to casually browse the web with the higher bit rate today was painful. I was watching images slowly download line by line and I felt I had time travelled to the 1990s.

Spotify Off-line Mode

I’ll be honest the only reason I tried the downloading option was to see if they were transferable to other devices, burnable to CD etc. I wasn’t expecting them too but thought there was chance of a loophole. No. The way it works is each track is split into multiple part-files which as far as I can work out is only playable back in Spotify. I do know though that this is no good for the hard drive, start-up or operating speeds of the computer. Spotify allows you 3,333 offline songs, each with thousands of tiny files. At that rate a virus scan or defrag would take days. The reality is that it isn’t worth it to me. Echo “to me”.

Spotify Mobile

(Warning: this section contains maths that sound so extortionate I’m not so sure of it.)

After upgrading to Premium I took a look at Smartphones with a view to making an actual purchase. All the unlimited tariffs I looked at had a bandwidth limit of 1GB (SIC they really should be advertising data transfer in bits per second, data storage is measured in Bytes; it’s the same BS that sells broadband). Assuming they did in fact mean 1 GigaByte, at four minutes per track at the higher quality of 320Kbps you could play a whopping 109 songs per month. Oh, and no alternative internet such as the web, video or email can be used. According to Vodafone’s pricing structure of exceeding the “unlimited” data, 55 more songs will cost you £5. Of course you could switch to standard bit rate for the Mobile App but that defeats the object of living in a mobile, connected world.

That sounds like absolutely shite to me but I’ve done the maths a few times to make sure. I’ll wait for somebody to clear this up for me in an abusive comment below. I also imagine there are people out there using the service no problems who either pay through the nose for mobile internet, or managed to scrape the extra bandwidth at no extra charge. To me it isn’t clearly defined what I am paying for so I decided against a new smart phone.
TL;DR, I still don’t have a smart phone.

Premium Content

Spotify Premium does allow for extra content, the only album I have seen that is restricted to Premium users is Eminem’s latest album. Most music I listen to is several years old by the time I get wind of it. I could cope without it.

The Trade Off & Outcome

Putting Mobile aside, the obvious reasoning for keeping Spotify Premium for my dilemma would be to download up to 3,333 songs I listen to most frequent and switch to offline mode whenever I need the connection most. At 9 Megabytes per track though I am back to storing local music files, removing these was mainly the reason I starting using Spotify in the first place. I’d rather have £5 back in my pocket than lose it, in essence, to have ‘technically higher quality’ tracks. I am by no means discouraging using Spotify Premium, I just wanted to weigh in my thoughts on why I switched back to Unlimited, which I bloody love!


  1. Phillip September 16, 2010 at 03:50 - Reply

    I understand what you’re saying about Premium. And the tracks do munch through your data, but I physically NEED to have Spotify on my phone now because that’s where all my music comes from.
    I just get the best of both worlds because it’s set up to download all of my tracks when I’m on a wifi connection (in response to your ‘British internet speeds’ post, I’m on Virgin’s 50mb package, so it’s blazingly fast, even though admittedly I do pay through the nose for it )

    • Anphicle September 16, 2010 at 11:43 - Reply

      Thanks for your comment, I feel less of a moron for writing this! I never thought of using wifi in that way, clever stuff.

  2. Pete December 14, 2010 at 11:55 - Reply

    Hey dude,
    I had spotify basic for months loved it upgraded to unlimited was so chuffed! Finally felt that there was a suitable medium in which to charge for music at a more reasonable price and the artists still get rewarded. I recently got a Nokia N8 upgraded to premium thought it would be brilliant, but when I started using it, to update my music I would either have to use 3g (which would cost after bandwidth is used up), or a wi-fi, the wi-fi also has to be unrestircted for some reason. From spotify help:
    “When Spotify Mobile is blue it’s in offline mode and is unable to connect to the internet. This is a common problem when Spotify Mobile is connected to a wifi with restrictions (often at work/office).
    Please try on another unrestricted wifi to sync playlists offline, or use your 3G to stream music.”
    Until they get that bug fixed it makes more sense to download tracks not using spotify and transfer them over to my phone, because I’m not going to change my wi-fi to being unrestricted for the sake of spotify to work in online mode. But I will always keep my spotify unlimited account, brilliant for parties and just having a vast music collection at work or at home!!!

    • Leo December 31, 2010 at 12:20 - Reply

      Hey Pete,
      It may not be a bug with Spotify that is preventing you accessing their service over WiFi. Many networks are setup to restrict the number of open ports to help prevent malicious attacks. I would imagine that the port Spotify Mobile uses is one that would need to be specifically made available by contacting the network admin. Most home networks work on a trigger basis so when the app requests communication on a certain port that port is opened but work and public networks tend to be locked down a bit tighter. Spotify Mobile could use another port (e.g. port 80 that is used for http transactions) but that would cause its own problems. Unfortunately unless you have a sympathetic network admin you’re going to be stuck with the problem.

  3. jo January 29, 2011 at 14:24 - Reply

    why does the songs on ma playlist dont play in offline mode on ma mobile am on premium package

Leave A Response »