Spotify iPad app hands-on

It's here. After all the rumors, leaks and false alarms, Sweden's top music streaming service is finally ready for the big(ger) screen. Spotify has landed on the iPad, and not surprisingly, the new app is a no-brainer of a download for anyone currently in possession of a premium account and an Apple tablet, -- that much we can say right off the bat. But how well did the company harness the capabilities of the magical device, and is the whole thing worth the wait? We got some fingers-on with the app -- follow along after the break.

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Let's kick things off here by stating, definitively, that the iPad version of Spotify isn't simply a scaled up part of its smartphone sibling. After all, the tablet brings a lot more than just added screen real estate, it offers up potential for an entirely different usage experience. And in their defense, Spotify's developers don't seem to have spent all of this time resting on their music streaming laurels -- they've been developing an app that does a good job harnessing what the tablet has to offer, with artwork, touch functionality and discovery at its center.

As with others versions of the service, the iPad app asks you to sign in with either your Spotify or Facebook account info. Once in, you're greeted by the What's New page. A spokesperson made it clear that discovery is really at the center of usage here, and that much is clear upon signing in, a big, touch-friendly carousel of Recommended music taking up nearly half the page. Recommendations have long been a bit of a contentious topic amongst Spotify users. On the site's US launch, we commented that the service is really recommended for music fans who know what they're looking for. Spotify improved things a bit on that front, with the addition of third-party apps like Last.fm to the desktop version. Without those in play here, recommendations are still a bit lacking -- we can't really saw we're enthralled by what Spotify's offering.

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Thankfully, there are a number of over ways to discover new music through the service. For starters, there's the fact that the rest of this front page is devoted to things like new releases, trending playlists and top tracks. And, of course, there's the social aspect -- if you're not the sort who's always on the ball so far as discovering new music is concerned, you're pretty lost if you're not utilizing the app's social functionality -- which is where the Facebook log-in comes in handy. The What's New Page will also offer up top tracks and playlists among friends. The Inbox and People buttons in the left column also help out with the friendly music discovery.

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Clicking the latter will bring up a page with large images of your connected Facebook pals. Pick one of them, and a half-screen panel will pop up, showing off your friend's top tracks and artists. These panels are the key to the app's usability -- click on one of your friend's favorite artists, for example, and that panel with shift left, as a new one pops up. You can swipe back and forth through these panels, allowing for a quick and easy way to find your way back as you go further and further down the music discovery rabbit hole. It's an easy path to take on the app, with bios and links to similar artists pretty much everywhere. It's not exactly a tailored recommendation, but once you hit on an artist you like, it's pretty easy to imagine a an hour or two being swallowed in this manner.

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But fear not -- when your current track is always accessible via the anchored persistent play that lives on the bottom, featuring an album thumbnail, status bar, play button and track forward / back controls. Added controls are all over the place here, too. Tap on the album thumbnail, for example, and you'll get a pop up that lets you star tracks, add them to playlists , share them, shuffle and repeat. Click on an artist's name and you'll get a brief description (you can tap that for a full-page bio), related artists and their top tracks. Tellingly, Spotify doesn't make complete discographies easily accessible in this matter. The app really seems focused on casual discovery, rather than the career spanning listening habits of more devoted music fans. They'll be better off sticking to the desktop app -- or at least starring music on their for later listening on the iPad or iPhone.

Clicking the settings button at the bottom of the left side brings up a number of options. Here you can toggle to offline mode, add the crossfade and gapless playback recently added to the desktop version, turn private sessions on and off and fiddle with Last.fm scrobbling and Facebook sharing. You can also fiddling with the sounds quality of streaming tracks, which now go all the way up to a hearty 320Kbps. The search feature, meanwhile, borrows predictive functionality from the desktop version, so you theoretically won't have to type in full artist and track names, as the app guesses at what you're looking for, based on popularity and your own listening habits. "B" brought up Chris Brown, "Be" brought up Beyonce, "Bea" brought up the Beach Boys and "Beas" brought up the Beastie Boys. Okay, we'll give you the second two, Spotify -- the first two, on the other hand...

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Spotify's got an extremely usable app on its hands, with the iPad version, harnessing some of the services best features and utilizing the iPad's hardware. Navigation is great, thanks to the swipeable half panes and the use of large album art is a nice nod to those who miss the aesthetics of physical media. For power users, however, the iPad app should be regarded as a supplement to, rather than replacement for its desktop-bound counter part. The app is available via iTunes this week for interested parties. More info can be found in the press release below.

Show full PR text

Say Hello to Spotify for iPad

Today we're extremely proud to present our native iPad app in all its green-hued glory. Features include:

Retina graphics for iPad - dazzling display, razor sharp images, richer colors
Even easier to browse and explore Spotify's entire 17 million* song catalogue
New 'Now Playing' full-screen view with high-definition cover art
Search for playlists, users and music - all from the same view
Check out what's hot and find trending playlists & songs amongst your friends
Inbox grouped by user for easy searching
Gapless playback and crossfade
AirPlay integration

Enjoying all the world's music instantly on your iPad has never been easier. And with the brand new full-screen view and AirPlay integration, Spotify and your iPad are perfect for each other, both as your pumped-up living room stereo and your lean, green music machine when you're on the move.

For up-and-coming UK singer-songwriter/producer Labrinth, the new Spotify for iPad app is perfect for touring: "My iPad's always with me on the road so being able to access whatever music I'm feeling right at that moment - either classic or fresh tracks - and then share those with my fans is a big deal," he said. "As an artist I love the way my music is presented so slickly. Artwork is really important to me, and in Spotify's iPad app it's like it's popping off the screen."

Click here to check out the Spotify for iPad video on YouTube. You'll find the full-range of hi-res videos, screenshots and images here.

Spotify Premium subscribers can head over to the App Store to get their hands on the new Spotify iPad app. Non-subscribers can sign up to our 30-day Spotify Premium free trial to check out the app today! www.spotify.com/freetrial