Spotify

Spotify has become the standard for streaming services, partly because it’s free and partly because of its widespread record label support and social networking features.

Sharing Spotify playlists was a popular pastime even before the integration of Facebook, and the ability to combine the two just makes it all the more addictive.

Spotify is a good way to stream, but not a great place to purchase

If you want to share and stream music then Spotify is an excellent choice. Most of us can live with the free service’s occasional adverts, and the new £4.99 unlimited service does away with those ads on a PC.

Signing up to the £9.99 premium service buys higher quality 320Kbits/sec streams, and the option to use Spotify on an iPhone or Android and Symbian handset. Thanks to offline synchronisation, you may never need to buy any music again.

Searching for tracks is easy, as is subscribing to friends’ playlists, sharing your own or recommending songs to other users. The highlighted tracks on the homepage could do with closer targeting and the Radio feature suffers from a lack of polish, but in general using Spotify is a pleasure.

With a typical footprint of 19 to 29MB it isn’t a particularly obtrusive app, and with more than 10 million tracks to choose from, it isn’t difficult to find something you want to listen to, even if the 160Kbits/sec Ogg Vorbis streams don’t offer optimal quality.

For buying music, it isn’t quite so simple. Spotify actually hooks through to 7digital for downloads, meaning that you get the same 320Kbits/sec DRM-free MP3 downloads, but unfortunately at the same higher-than-average price.

Integration is perfectly good, particularly as Spotify can now work as a player for local files, and the service also earns points for making buying a no-brainer.

It takes only a click and the entry of credit card details to purchase an album, which can be dangerous when you’re in the midst of a Spotify trawl and have your wallet handy.

The advantage of using Spotify is that you can preview full-length tracks and buy from within one application, making it an excellent way of sorting the wheat from the chaff on well-padded albums.

However, in many cases, you’ll be paying a pound or more for only a slight saving of time and effort. Given this, Spotify is a good way to stream, but not a great place to purchase.

Rating: 4/6

Click below for reviews of:
7digital
Amazon
Apple iTunes
HMV Digital
MSN Music
Play.com
Sky Songs
Tesco Entertainment
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