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.
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”.
(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.
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!