Spotify Takes the Stage on Apple's iPad

Edward C. Baig, USA TODAY
Photo by: Jon Aslund

Spotify users have wanted it for a while, and finally the popular global music service is delivering a native iPad app that makes it easy to search, browse and play tracks from a catalog of more than 17 million on-demand songs.

The new app, which after a 30-day free trial requires you to sign up for Spotify's $9.99 a month premium service to continue using, was set to go live Wednesday morning.

I've gotten an early peek, which finds Spotify playing catch-up against rivals such as Rdio, which already has a native iPad app.

Spotify takes advantage of the iPad's stunning Retina display, most evident on the album cover art displayed in a full-screen "Now Playing" view.

In the What's New section, you can check out recommended music, trending playlists and top tracks, what your friends are listening to and more.

You can search for tracks, albums, artists and playlists from a single view. Type just a single letter and suggestions appear right away. For example, when I typed "F" a thumbnail image of Frank Sinatra showed up on top as a "best match," with thumbnail suggestions of other artists (Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Frederic Chopin, etc.) appearing just below. When I tapped the Aretha picture in this example, a panel slid in from the right side of the display revealing the first few lines from her bio, some of her top hits and the artists related to her.

When I tapped one of those artists, Nina Simone, a similar panel slid into view with her information, with the Aretha panel moving to the left of the screen. You can continue to display or peel back these overlapping panels. There is the danger that this can get out of hand, with one panel on top of another on top of another, but this approach worked for me. I like how you get a quick progression of artists, the people who influenced them and quick access to many of the songs you'll almost certainly want to play on the spot.

Spotify has also added "gapless playback" and "crossfade " features that you can turn on or off in settings. Also in settings, you can choose the quality of the stream that the music is playing at: "normal" (about 94 kbits/s), "high" (160 kbits/s) and "extreme" (320 kbits/s).

And Spotify through the app supports Apple's AirPlay technology for playing music on compatible iOS devices and speaker systems.