How We Reviewed Spotify
20 hours of research
3 services compared
3 plans to choose from
Spotify is the most popular streaming service in the world. With over 200 million active users, it has earned a large audience with its personalized playlists and free access. You can stream music, create playlists, and tune into podcasts without paying a cent. If you opt for the premium service, Spotify can be streamed on nearly any device, smart speaker, or TV. It’s also super simple to share that music with friends, or create a collaborative playlist. However, we weren’t crazy about the ease of integrating your own music nor its lack of video content. Still, Spotify is a solid streaming service that most people will be satisfied with.
On its website, Spotify claims that “it’s easy to find the right music or podcast for every moment – on your phone, your computer, your tablet and more.” This promises consumers a streaming service that will easily present all kinds of audio content.
Is it true?
Most people will find it easy to engage with intriguing content on Spotify. Michael Stover, owner of MTS Management Group/MTS Records, told us “Streaming sites like Spotify and Youtube are there for music discovery [and] promotion, a way for artists to have their music heard by an audience that wouldn’t normally listen.” Spotify’s personalized playlists will connect you with new music similar to your favorites. Because of its web player, you can listen pretty much anywhere, too.
There’s also a ton of unique content, like “Spotify Sessions,” exclusive tracks from artists made in the Spotify Studios. Sometimes it’s a unique cover — like Troye Sivan’s slowed down version of Post Malone’s “Better Now.” You’ll also find new acoustic versions of artists songs, like a revival of Owl City’s “Fireflies.”
Along with podcasts and audiobooks, you can also find poems and speeches on Spotify. And, quite bizarrely, an exclusive motion comic of the “Archie” series. There’s a lot to keep you busy on Spotify, and it’s a great value (especially because it’s free).
Social playlists, free listening, personalized playlists
Music ownership, video content, library integration
|Standout features||Personalized music Discovery
|Free trial||30 days|
|No. of tracks||50 million+|
|Offline listening||On premium plans only|
Personalized music discovery
There are many playlists that Spotify caters to you. You’ll find new songs based on your tastes and listening history added to the “Release Radar” and “Discover Weekly” playlists on a weekly basis. There are also seasonal roundups like the “Summer Rewind” playlist, a collection of your favorites songs from last summer. And at the end of the year, Spotify will collect your most listened tunes in a “Wrapped” playlist.
One of the newer personalized playlists is called Your Daily Drive — a curated morning radio playlist. It’s a mix of the songs you’ve been jamming to lately, a few songs it thinks you’ll like, and news hits from NPR, WSJ, or NYT. It’s essentially a replication of a morning radio show but created for your personal preferences.
If you like to stick to a few genres and artists, Spotify’s algorithms will keep you in your comfort zone and introduce you to music in your lane. For listeners who like to expand their horizons, you’re better off with Apple Music’s human-curated playlists.
Spotify’s free version is the biggest reason it has so many more subscribers than the competition. Listeners will have access to all of Spotify’s key features, with just a few limitations. You can only skip six songs in an hour, have to listen to ads, must listen on shuffle-only for some playlists on the mobile app, and won’t have access to offline listening. There are about 15 popular playlists including Discover Weekly, Release Radar, and Daily Mix, that will let you pick-and-play songs and skip as many as you like.
We also love the free option because if you upgrade to the premium plan and eventually cancel it, you will still have access to playlists you’ve spent years curating on the free plan. On music streaming services that only have a paid plan, you would have to resubscribe to regain access to your music library.
Spotify does a great job of connecting your music to your community. You can watch your friends’ live listening activity in a feed and tune in to their current jams. If you want to build a playlist for an event, you can make it collaborative and invite friends to add songs. When there’s a song your work bestie has to hear, you can easily share it with a Spotify link.
Nearly every device or speaker is compatible with Spotify. You can use it on iOS, Android, and Windows operating systems. It works on both Google Home and Amazon Echo smart systems, Xbox and Playstation consoles, Bose and Sonos speakers, and many more devices. You can even listen in your car via Apple Car Play or Android Auto. The list of compatible devices is extensive, and it’s unlikely you’ll encounter a situation where you can’t play Spotify.
Unlike Apple Music, you can stream Spotify on an internet browser with its web player. The web player is perfect if you ever find yourself wanting to listen to music, but can’t download the Spotify app. If you’re on a computer at school, the library, or work, you won’t have to go without your focus-friendly playlist.
If you look for long enough, you’ll uncover a hidden world on Spotify. Buried in the “Browse” section you’ll find a “Word” genre at the very bottom of the page. Inside is a whole suite of listening rabbit holes. You can tune in to audiobooks like “Great Gatsby,” “War of the Worlds,” or “Pride and Prejudice.” Or listen to poetry and speeches, like from a playlist called “Poetry: In Their Own Voices” that features over 70 poems by women read by the authors. There are also podcasts, short stories, and vintage radio dramas. During late October nights, you can play scary stories by Alfred Hitchcock or Edgar Allan Poe. Probably the most surprising discovery was a selection of language-learning playlists. You can listen to Italian, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Russian, Arabic, Portuguese, and Irish language tracks. They’re a bit kitschy, but that’s part of the charm. It’s a lot like the old school language cassette tapes. The “Learn Chinese” album cover even says “Learn in Your Car.”
Poor library integration
If you already own music and want to integrate it with your streaming library, we’d recommend a different streaming service. Spotify allows you to upload your local files to the desktop app, but it won’t travel across platforms (to the web play or mobile app) and doesn't integrate with your regular library or playlists. Spotify users have been complaining about this since 2014, and Spotify still has it filed in a “Not Right Now” idea pile. You also can’t purchase any songs or albums through Spotify.
Lack of video content
Spotify has focused all its attention on music streaming, which means you won’t find much in the way of video. You may encounter the occasional video snippet that plays in the background of the song as artwork, but it won’t be the full music video. If you do discover a music video or obscure documentary, it’ll play in vertical format (an internet taboo.) When compared to music streaming services like Apple Music and YouTube Premium, Spotify’s video selection is disappointing. On competing platforms, you can find music videos, artist documentaries, and talk show bits.
Abandons old playlists
Don’t fall too hard for a playlist on Spotify, as the service often neglects to update older playlists. It’s “Underground Hits” playlist hasn’t been updated for over a year, despite the 500,000+ people who follow the playlist — a bad look for a roundup of “hits.” Workout favorite, “Get Your Body Right” hasn’t been updated since 2015, both “Easy Acoustic” and “Family Road Trip” haven’t seen fresh tunes in over a year. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind stagnant playlists, this might not be a dealbreaker, but it’s probably a concern if you get sick of hearing the same songs over and over again.
Spotify vs. Apple Music
The starkest difference between Apple Music and Spotify is that you have to pay to use Apple Music’s services. There is no free version of Apple Music, but it does offer a very long 90-day free trial. There are fewer personalized playlists on Apple Music, but we preferred its human-curated mix tapes anyway. You’re more likely to encounter new music outside of your comfort zone with Apple Music, while Spotify will feed you songs it knows you’ll like (and sometimes might get sick of). Apple Music has a wide array of unique content like a “Carpool Karaoke” series, an “Up Next” new artist documentary series, and Beats 1 live radio station. You can also easily upload your own music and organize your library on Apple Music. Casual listeners will probably prefer Spotify, but audiophiles will love Apple Music.
Spotify vs. Tidal
If you’re into high-fidelity music streaming and hip-hop music, Tidal is the service for you. Owned by Jay Z, Tidal is the only place you can stream the entire discography of both Jay Z and Beyonce. You can also hear early releases from hip hop artists, like Kanye West. Tidal offers a $20 per month “HiFi” streaming plan that lets you stream music at the level it's recorded in the studio, however, you’d need some impressive equipment, and keen ears, to really notice the difference. Investing in Tidal services is best suited for those who are really into music and audio technology.
Can you keep the songs you download from Spotify?
No. Downloading music from Spotify only allows you to tune in when you’re offline and not using WiFi. The files aren’t actually saved for use if you aren’t using the Spotify app. If you cancel your premium subscription, those downloaded songs will be invalid.
Is Spotify Premium worth it?
Maybe! If you stream music constantly and like to listen on smart devices, you’ll benefit from Spotify Premium’s features. Casual listeners who don’t mind the occasional ad will be perfectly happy with Spotify’s free service. Michael Stover, owner of MTS Management Group/MTS Records, advised us, “If you listen to a lot of music, and you like to discover new artists before purchasing a whole download or CD, then spending $10 [a month] is probably worth it.”
How much data does Spotify use?
Every time you stream, download, or upload you are using data to transmit that information. Home internet and cell phone plans typically have data caps, and your speeds will drop if you exceed that limit. At its highest quality (on the premium membership), Spotify will consume 2.4 MB per minute of music played. So if you’re listening non-stop at work for six hours, you’ll use about 1 GB of data. That’s not much data at all, especially compared to streaming Netflix (which takes 3 GB for just an hour of HD streaming). Unless you’ve got your tunes playing 24/7 all month long, you probably won’t need to worry about data while streaming Spotify.