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Spotify is now free on Android tablets and iPad, but phones must shuffle

Spotify has finally convinced record labels to let it become a free service on mobile devices, confirming a WSJ rumor. While Spotify fans can currently enjoy free music streaming on desktop and laptop computers, until now, mobile users could only access its catalog of around 20 million tracks by handing over $10 a month. There is a free radio option offered to US-based mobile users, but as its name suggests, you have little to no choice over which tracks are played. Now you’ll have a little more.

Here’s how it works: If you’re on an Android tablet or an iPad you can now get the full Spotify experience for free, with audio ads. If you want to listen on an iPhone or Android phone, things get more complicated. You can listen to playlists, but only on shuffle. This is because the major music recording companies aren’t ready to give you that much convenience. But for Spotify’s Founder and CEO, Daniel Ek, it’s a win.

“We’re the first and only service to obtain licensing rights to do this,” Ek said at a press conference earlier today.

The service is also limited so that you still have a reason to pay for a Spotify subscription. One of the goals of the free service is to eventually convert users to ad-free subscription plans as Spotify seeks to improve on its current 20 percent switch rate of users coming from the free desktop/laptop service to a paid plan. In any case, Spotify and the music labels will be able to share revenue from ads, so it’s a win-win situation for all involved.

Rival services following suit

In October, rival service Rdio relaunched its ‘Stations’ service to offer mobile users in the US, Canada, and Australia free streaming music, notably ad free. Rdio also hopes that users who enjoy the free service will be tempted to hand over a few bucks each month for a more feature-rich experience.

Pandora and Apple’s recently launched iTunes Radio also offer free, ad-supported options, though they are now a lot more limited than Spotify, at least on tablets.

Sweden-based Spotify currently has around 6 million paying subscribers and a global active user base of some 20 million. You can download it on the iOS App Store and Google Play. We’re looking into whether Windows Phone users will enjoy these new features.

Finally, if you’ve read this far, we’ll give you one more good piece of news. Led Zeppelin’s catalogue is now available on Spotify.

Originally published as a rumor by Trevor Mogg on Dec. 5. Rewritten by Jeff on Dec. 11

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