Let me get this out of the way, I have a Spotify UK account and used to access it with a VPN a long time ago. I stopped using it because it felt like effort, and tricking services about your location eventually got annoying. When Spotify launched in South Africa last week, I converted my account to a local one, and redeemed a three-month code I was given at the media event for Premium access.
COST AND FEATURES
Pricing is on par with Google Play Music and Apple Music with Premium priced at R59 a month. Here are the differences:
- Stream from anywhere
- Discover new music
- Play, create, and edit your own playlists
- Let Spotify pick the tunes with Radio
- High-quality audio
- Access offline playlists
- Play Spotify through a speaker/TV/car
- No ad interruption; unlimited skips
Both options give users the same access to the library of 35 million plus songs (Apple Music and Google Play Music have over 40m songs).
I change phones almost every year and eventually got a point where I don’t carry over my entire music library. It’s sitting somewhere on a PC, but I have access to Apple Music, offline play, and my custom playlists which sit on iCloud. Enter Spotify.
With Spotify, getting started was simple. Spotify is known for its curated playlists (both from Spotify itself and users around the world), which also makes discovering new music easier. There are over 2 billion playlists on Spotify! It’s basically the Netflix of music streaming (they are the number one music streaming service in the world with 71m paying subscribers for good reason). It’s also already topping the charts on Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store (both listed as one of the top 5 free apps).
I began searching for my favourite artists and loaded the Spotify curated playlists, instead of loading albums, and then recreating custom playlists. I cannot stress how much time this has saved me. I don’t care about having every single album from my favourite artist on my phone anymore. Gone are the days when I used to buy digital albums, then save them on my phone along with my mp3 collection. Downloading my favourite artists’ (and a bunch of other artists) ‘essentials’ playlist regardless of who created them has made me realise that’s all I need, including finding cool new stuff and other fun playlists.
Ironically at the time when my device has the most storage (256GB), I don’t really care to keep ALL THE CONTENT anymore. I have not yet cancelled my Apple Music subscription but I also pay for additional iCloud storage so everything on my phone is always backed up (at midnight). Although I believe Apple should give us extra free cloud storage, it’s cheap anyway, but this is a separate subject for another day. I’m more about minimalism these days, with everything.
AUDIO QUALITY AND DATA
Due to having uncapped fibre at home, I totally went “extreme” with quality settings for my offline playlists. Normal is approximately 96 kbit/s; High is 160 kbit/s and Extreme is 320 kbit/s. I do love me good quality audio. Don’t worry, it is set to normal by default and you can turn off downloading content over cellular if you’re worried how much data it will use. And speaking about data…
At the launch event, Spotify SA says if you are streaming directly from the site, it will be on 24kbit/s and will use 10.8MB of data an hour. This is good to know if you want to use the free version of Spotify since there are no “offline” options. We will have to keep an eye out if Spotify will be partnering with any network to zero rate data streaming, kind of like what Telkom has on its LIT packages for various services.
The app itself is better than Apple Music (but that’s setting the bar low), with four basic tabs: Home, Browse, Search, Your Library. I wish it were easier to access the Settings menu though, which is under Your Library. You can also choose which devices to play to, I’ve connected mine to a Bluetooth speaker in my lounge. It also supports AirPlay. It does not yet work with Alexa because *cough* I got that app from the US App Store, which doesn’t work with an SA Spotify acc yet (if anyone reading this has a workaround let me know, I tried some stuff to no avail). What it can do is play music over Bluetooth and not via voice command.
The Browse tab lets you find chart toppers, new releases, podcasts, discover, and concerts. For concerts, input a location to see what’s happening in your city. Johannesburg has a bunch of stuff listed already. It also has locally relevant artists, content, playlists etc, which was important for the South African launch. You can also browse by genre and mood, of course.
Spotify has been around since 2008, and due to its early start, it has over 150 hardware partners, like all devices (mobile, tablet, desktop), speakers (Amazon, Bluetooth), cars (BMW, MINI, Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo, Ford SYNC), gaming consoles (Xbox and PlayStation), and others (Samsung wearables, Android Auto, AirPlay, Chromecast).
I, for one, am super thrilled it is supported by MINI through MINI Connected. I also got to use it on the newly launched BMW X2 in South Africa last week via CarPlay. I love it when technology just works without having to buy anything extra. It also has Waze integration.
I am enjoying Spotify a great deal because it was easy to setup and get going, and it works in my car. I suspect I will cancel my Apple Music subs sooner rather than later but I am going to keep an eye on what Apple will offer in terms of original content TV shows like Carpool Karaoke, AND they do have a larger catalogue of over 40 millions songs + tend to get launch album exclusives. With Apple Music I also couldn’t run my two iTunes accounts concurrently (US and SA) because with offline iCloud playlists, it would lock me out for 90 days if I switch.
If you are in a household with no other family members, it makes sense to go with Spotify for R59/pm but if you are on an existing family plan with Apple Music or Google Play Music at R90 for five accounts, there’s no reason to switch over and pay more. Either way, I suggest you try Premium for free for 30 days because what works for me may not necessarily work for you.
Main image credit: Shutterstock