This morning, streaming music service Spotify announced that its iPhone and iPod touch app is finally live on Apple's App Store, while simultaneously revealing that the Android version of the app is also now available.
It's Spotify's first leap onto handsets: previously it's only been available as a desktop application. There's huge anticipation around its mobile plans, but what's the big deal? Let us explain the key things you need to know about Spotify on mobile:
1. It's all about the streaming music, man
Spotify's mobile app gives you full access to all the music from the desktop version, streaming to your phone over 3G or Wi-Fi (the latter only, for iPod touch). You can search for artists or tracks and listen to them there and then, or add them to playlists on the fly. Any playlist changes you make in the mobile version are instantly reflected in the desktop app, and vice versa. It all works spiffingly, and the audio quality is good too. Android users get the bonus of being able to run the app in 'background' mode, which isn't allowed on iPhone
2. It's solved the tube/plane problem
There is no shortage of streaming music apps for iPhone, and to a lesser extent for Android. But the time they all fall down is when you have no mobile reception: on a tube train or plane being two commonly-cited examples. No network equals no streaming. But Spotify's app nails that problem by letting you cache your playlists on the device, so they're available when offline. You can store unlimited playlists, but a total of 3,333 tracks in total. Job done.
3. You need to be a paying customer
Spotify's mobile apps aren't available to users of the free, advertising-funded desktop version, which is the vast majority of Spotify's users. For the mobile apps to work, you have to be a Premium customer, paying £9.99 a month. The company is hoping the features above will persuade users to upgrade, along with benefits in the desktop version like better audio quality and pre-release album exclusives.
4. It could be an alternative to buying music
Ever since Spotify launched, people have hailed it as an iTunes-killer - if you could stream any music you wanted legally for free, why would you need to buy it? To which the sensible retort has always been: "Because I want to listen to my music on the go, too". The mobile apps provide an answer to that, as long as you have an iPhone, iPod touch or Android handset, of course. We'll now find out if that tenner-a-month for unlimited access to music really does compete with iTunes and other music stores. We suspect that some people will go Spotify-only, but a lot more will continue to buy music too, either because they want to own stuff by bands they love, or because it's not available on Spotify (*cough* Beatles).
5. It's coming to more handsets in the future
There are a lot of iPhones, iPod touches and Android handsets in the world, but they're just a small fraction of the overall number of phones. However, the first signs that Spotify was going mobile came earlier this year with job ads for iPhone, Android and Nokia's Series 60 platform. That means it's not unreasonable to expect the mobile app to be available for a variety of Nokia smartphones at some point in the near future - which should mean a big increase in the number of people who can access it.