Apple have shied away from subscription and streaming for a long time, but Spotify have copied all the best bits of iTunes so it now offers better iPhone syncing than the Apple product. Will iTunes now copy the best bits of Spotify? It’s a sibling rivalry – the digital music equivalent of the brothers Milliband…
Subscription services have come and gone as Apple’s iTunes has gone from strength to strength. But Spotify have developed a compelling service copying iTunes in providing a simple and intuitive client and a very comprehensive music catalogue – and to cap it all, offering it all in a free (advertising supported) option too. In the “next generation” Spotify service, two major features were added: social and local.
The former is essentially integration with Facebook which pulls in your current friends (if they’ve linked Spotify to their accounts too) and offers familiar features such as feeds and recommendations. It’s simple, but not only is it more sophisticated than Apple’s limited Facebook/Twitter recommendations options in the iTMS, it has far higher utility because if you have Spotify already you can listen to the full tracks and playlists your friends are subscribing to and recommending with no purchase and no risk (for example, if you’ve got Spotify you could listen to my playlist of commercial tracks from Doctor Who or House, M.D.). If iTunes wants to get more social, it’s going to be hard to resist the subscription model for much longer.
But the feature that must really have made Apple sit up and take notice is the local feature, the effect of which is to make possible wireless syncing of your iTunes library to iPhone. This is because Spotify brings in all of your local tracks, and if you have the mobile app (I don’t yet, because I haven’t bothered to sign up for the premium subscription) when you’re on the same wifi network you can make a playlist containing your local tracks (or a mixture of local and Spotify tracks) available for off-line listening. Presto!
Spotify is almost ready to persuade me to give up iTunes altogether. But there are a few things it lacks (smart playlists, podcasts and audiobooks) and sadly the wifi syncing feature that’s available on the phone isn’t available to other computers on the network (i.e. local files on one network machine cannot be streamed to others). So Apple has an opportunity here to make a comeback, and here are the three things I want from the next generation iTunes:
- Streaming/subscription service with social features
- Let me access music on any of my computers registered to iTunes from anywhere, including streaming it to my iPhone
- Let me wirelessly sync files to my iPhone for offline listening
And if anyone will (finally) offer me the facility to annotate playlists, I’ll be ecstatic!