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Spotify is currently the most popular music-streaming service in the world. From its launch in Sweden back in 2008, the service has amassed over 140 million users, 50 million of which are paying subscribers. It offers users two ways of getting their music fix: either with a free, ad-supported subscription that includes only basic streaming functionality or with a premium subscription that gets rid of the ads and unlocks extra features like on-demand mobile playback and downloading songs for listening offline.
As the force behind the rise of music streaming, Spotify established many of the features that are now standard throughout the industry:
Rather than manually searching for your favourite tunes every time you open Spotify, you can build playlists for quick access to your go-to tracks or to suit specific occasions like house parties or for when you just need to chill out. You can then share these playlists with other users and even collaborate with your friends to create comprehensive compilations.
Spotify provides a number of tools for discovering new music. You can "follow" your friends on Spotify to see what they're listening to or follow artists directly to keep up-to-date with their latest releases. You can also make use of Spotify's recommendation engine to discover new tracks and artists it thinks you'll like based on what you've listened to in the past.
The most popular way of going about this is through the "Discover Weekly" playlist, a collection of two hours' worth of music selected from Spotify's library according to your listening habits. This playlist refreshes with new music every week and is an effective means of expanding your musical palate.
Recently, Spotify also added a "Daily Mix" playlist to its discovery toolkit. This playlist functions similarly to Discover Weekly, but refills with new music every day.
Though free users have to be online at all times to stream music from Spotify, premium subscribers can download tracks to their devices for listening wherever and whenever they want, regardless of whether they're connected to the Internet. Offline play allows you to download up to 3,333 songs at once to a single device, with support for up to three devices and a total of 9,999 songs. The only catch is that you need to connect Spotify to the Internet at least once every 30 days so that Spotify can verify your Premium subscription is still active. If you don't, you won't be able to listen to those songs offline until you do.
Thanks to partnerships with Genius and Soundhound, Spotify has added support for displaying lyrics on its mobile app while listening to select songs. Certain tracks will even include additional information on the creation of those lyrics, providing deeper insight into the stories and meaning behind the words being sung.
Despite its claim to fame as the most popular music-streaming service, Spotify's library isn't quite as comprehensive as those of its competitors like Apple Music or Tidal. Still, its catalogue is home to over 35 million tracks, with big-name artists like Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Ed Sheeran and Katy Perry headlining the roster.
If you've bought your fair share of CDs and MP3s over the years, you can also use Spotify to play any existing music files stored on your chosen device. This saves you from having to manage multiple music libraries and media players.
Spotify supports an extensive range of devices, from phones and computers to smart watches and car stereos.
On a PC or Mac, you can stream with Spotify either by using the Spotify web player or by downloading the desktop app. For listening to music on-the-go, you can download the iOS app for iPhones, iPads or iPod Touches running iOS 8.0 or later; or you can grab the Android app for Android smartphones and tablets.
LG, Samsung and Philips smart TVs can also access Spotify through an app available on their respective app stores. Alternatively, you can stream to any TV through Google Chromecast using either the iOS or Android mobile app. Finally, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 owners can download their own version of the Spotify app through PlayStation music.
In addition to the above devices, Spotify can stream to a number of Wi-Fi-enabled devices through Spotify Connect. Spotify maintains a list of Spotify-Connect-compatible devices on its website, including a range of smart watches, Wi-Fi speakers, streaming boxes, and even a few modern cars. Unfortunately, Spotify Connect is only available to paid Spotify subscribers.
One last thing you'll want to remember: for as many devices as Spotify supports, it'll only let you stream music to one device at a time. If you start playing a song on a second device, the first one will automatically stop streaming.
The Good Guys
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Spotify offers two main tiers of subscription: Spotify Free and Spotify Premium.
A free Spotify subscription gets you access to all 35 million+ tracks available on Spotify, with the main drawback being the inclusion of ads that play between every couple of songs. Free users are able to create and share playlists, follow friends and discover new music on all compatible devices.
Using Spotify on-the-go comes with a few restrictions for free users, however. You can't select one particular song to play through the mobile app; instead, you must pick a playlist, an album or an artist and select shuffle play, which will serve up the tracks in a random order. Additionally, you can only skip up to six tracks per hour.
For $11.99 a month, Spotify Premium removes all the ads from the free version of Spotify and improves the sound quality to a maximum bitrate of 320kbps. With a Premium subscription, you can also download songs and play them offline. When playing music on your mobile device, you won't have to worry about shuffle play or skip restrictions; you can play any song on-demand and change tracks as often as you like.
Spotify also offers two alternative Premium subscriptions: Spotify Premium for Family, and Spotify Premium for students. The Family option gets you all the same perks as Premium with the ability to add up to six family members (they must all reside at the same address) to the one subscription, all for $17.99 per month. For musically-inclined households, it's an easy way to save a decent chunk of change.
The last option, Spotify for students, is simply a discounted rate of $5.99 a month for users enrolled at a valid educational institution. Once Spotify has verified that you are an active student, you'll be able to enjoy the discounted rate for a maximum of four years provided you are still an eligible student for that entire period.
If you haven't tried Spotify Premium before, you can sign up for a 30-day trial of the service on the Spotify website. Just bear in mind that you'll need to provide your payment details at sign-up, and you'll be automatically charged the going Spotify Premium rate if you don't cancel your trial before the 30 days are up.
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