Spotify Adds Radio, Mobile Apps Slowly Get Better

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Jared Newman /

Spotify’s mobile apps are disappointments for a long list of reasons, but the streaming music service is slowly fixing some of what’s broken or missing.

The latest addition is streaming radio, which is now available on Spotify for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Similar to Pandora, Spotify’s radio service can create streaming music stations based on artists and genres, and it can also generate stations from playlists and songs. Users can gives a thumbs up or thumbs down to songs, and the app automatically sends “liked” tracks to a single playlist for future reference.

Radio isn’t just a feature for Spotify’s premium users. It’s also the first and only way to use Spotify’s mobile apps for free–with ads, of course. Users of the $10 per month Spotify Premium get ad-free radio on iOS devices, along with millions of songs on-demand. (A Spotify representative wouldn’t say when radio will come to Android devices.)

Sadly, Spotify’s radio feature doesn’t provide any granular controls beyond thumbs up and thumbs down. With Slacker Radio, for instance, you can fine-tune stations by year and song popularity, and with MOG, you get a sliding scale to control how many similar artists appear in the mix.

Back in March, I aired some grievances with Spotify’s mobile apps. Although Spotify desktop is great on desktop PCs–and has helped catapult the service to mainstream success–the mobile apps were missing a lot of key features, such as a proper play queue, iPad optimization and support for all the cool music apps that appear in the desktop version. Since then, Spotify has released an iPad app, and has overhauled its Android app to improve navigation. Now, radio’s joining the mix as well.

I still have gripes about Spotify that will keep me from using the premium service regularly. The play queue is buried behind too many user interface layers, and there’s no way to rearrange or delete songs. Even in playlists, you still can’t change the order of individual songs. My biggest complaint with Spotify’s mobile apps remains: You can’t organize starred tracks by song, artist or album, so all you get is one big, messy list.

In other words, I’m a bit worried that Spotify is focused on flashy new features instead of functionality. That’s to be expected from a service whose business model hinges on converting freeloaders into premium users, but the little quibbles do add up.¬†Spotify should be convincing people that its on-demand streaming service is good enough to replace iTunes or Google Play Music, but the overall experience isn’t there yet, even as neat new features pile up.

(MORE: Video: Wherein Songs Are Skipped by Chucking Stuff at a Poster on the Wall)