The days of hitting that awkward 2x button are over. The Spotify iPad app is finally here, bringing a tablet-friendly interface, Retina graphics and AirPlay
At the dawn of the app revolution Spotify was among the first to launch mobile options on multiple platforms, in a bid to encourage take-up of its Premium service. It worked. The company now has over three million paying customers, which makes it all the more surprising we had to wait over two years for a Spotify iPad app.
Sensing user frustration with awkward and untidy iPhone app upscaling and with Deezer and now Rdio looking to steal listeners away, the Swedes have acted.
Spotify for iPad: Interface
After a couple of minutes of playing with the Spotify for iPad app, you can almost forgive the company for taking so long. The UI is more like Twitter for iPad than Spotify for iPhone, thanks to a ground-up redesign that brilliantly utilises the iPad's extra screen real estate.
It works beautifully. Categories like Search, What's New, Inbox, Playlists and People (we'd like to have seen Play Queue) line the left hand-side and, from there, everything niftily fans out to through tabbed layers.
It's extremely slick, with no lag, save for the second or two it takes for multiple cover art to load. We used an iPad 2 to test, but would imagine it's even faster on the A5X-endowed new iPad 3.
We love the ability to swipe right from the 'playing now' page, to vertically browse for a different album or a related artist, playlist or even further right, back our initial search.
The screens you leave behind are all saved, so if you migrate, say, from Slipknot to System of a Down through related artists, you can swipe all the way back to Slipknot.
Rdio's app for iPad, which will challenge Spotify isn't nearly as intuitive and relies on flipping cover art to play music, while Deezer HD relies more on a single layer approach. We think Spotify bests them both. However, Spotify could learn something from the Heavy Rotation (popular), and Recommended tabs within the Rdio app.
Spotify for iPad features
Spotify has grown its catalogue to 17 million tracks, all of which are unlocked on iPad if you're willing to part with a tenner a month. All of your starred tracks and playlists are synced from the desktop app, while you'll also be able to connect through your Facebook peeps.
In that respect, anything you play instantly (and we mean instantly) appears on your Timeline. Accessing your friends' activity is a little more fiddly though, requiring you to head directly to their profile page.
This app also, unsurprisingly, supports the iPad's Retina Display, meaning crystal-clear high resolution cover art in full-screen mode.
Spotify for iPad: AirPlay
Another hugely important feature is AirPlay integration, allowing tunes to be sent to Apple TVs (which we did, seamlessly) and speakers like the B&W Zeppelin Air. This is vital for some Spotify fans on the fringes of taking up the premium option. It was for us. Deezer's equally-priced iPad app and newcomer Rdio does too.
Unfortunately, There's no mobile debut for the Spotify Apps, but perhaps this would have brought unnecessary clutter.
Spotify for iPad: Playback
Like its rivals, Spotify for iPad brings Offline Playlists to into play. This does mean creating the playlist before you can sync it with your device. Rdio just lets you sync songs, which is definitely easier.
Spotify also brings 320kbps tracks into play, though it's Extreme mode (Normal is 94kbps), which is better quality than the native iTunes music on your iPad. It's crack-cocaine for the ears, lovely and warm, but be careful if you're on a limited 3G data plan, this one's best kept for Wi-Fi.
Unlike the iPhone version, Galpess playback and Crossfading makes the journey from the desktop app. Tracks can still be scrobbled to inform Last.fm playlists too.
Spotify for iPad: Verdict
A long-time coming, but the undisputed king of music streaming in the UK, cements its status with an iPad app that's smoother, more attractive, far superior to any of its previous mobile offerings and better than its competitors.
The likes of Deezer and Rdio will be preferable to some users, but for those thinking of leaving Spotify for pastures new, this should placate the desire for a fresh start. It's not perfect and in future updates we'll surely see apps and improved ways to access your friends' activities, but it's a tremendous first effort.
Spotify for iPad availability: Available now from App Store
Spotify for iPad price: Free to download, £9.99 a month Premium account