The big challenge for a streaming music service like Spotify is getting the mobile experience right. Until now, the company’s Android app has been a bit lackluster. It used a generic app template and often had issues downloading and staying open (it crashed on us, a lot). Today, we were sent a preview build of the new Spotify app for Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) phones and devices. We haven’t tested it on an Android tablet yet, but below are our impressions of the new Spotify app on our Galaxy Nexus.
Faster and sexier
The first thing you’ll notice about the new app is that it matches the style and functionality of Google’s Android 4.0 apps. The complicated menus are now gone and everything is located in common-sense areas. The app now uses visual drop-down menus and larger buttons, much like the Google Music app, but to greater effect. While Google’s app seems to have trouble fitting all of its navigation into a single page (like the Play page, which has two views), Spotify has found a way to make everything fit in naturally.
The app now runs a lot faster as well. Tracks seem to buffer a bit quicker and play seamlessly in the background. It also doesn’t crash anymore — at least not yet. While testing this version, the older app decided to completely die on us, requiring a complete reinstall. This has happened more than once.
Everything looks and is organized better, but there are some new features as well.
Offline: Downloading your playlists and tracks is now a much easier process. There is a giant DOWNLOAD button at the top of every playlist and on the playlist screen, the playlists you have downloaded to your phone are now separated and clearly marked. The whole process of downloading tracks is much nicer. Previously, trying to figure out which of your playlists would work in offline mode was like a game of Russian Roulette.
Navigation: In the upper left, there is now a menu button that will slide out a tray of options from the PC version of Spotify. While the old version had rudimentary forms of Search, What’s New, and Settings, these items are now easier to get to and work much better. Also accessible from the menu is your Inbox and Friends list. You still can’t do a whole lot with them, but you can at least view their pages and playlists like you can in the PC client.
Overall: Much improved
This is now one of the best music players on Android.
Sadly, Spotify does charge $10 a month for the ability to use its smartphone apps, but if you own an Android phone, the experience is now acceptable enough to justify it. This upgrade will benefit Android 4.0 users the most, but no matter what version of Android you run, it looks like things will be improved. We’re fairly impressed with the new app. Hopefully the rumored iPad app will launch soon as well. We’ll keep you posted. If you haven’t tried Spotify yet, you can download the PC and Mac client here. It’s free to use on a computer. The new Spotify for Android should be available in the Android market soon.