iPhone App Wars: Spotify versus iTunes?
So the excitement continues to mount as a demo video emerges of a Spotify application for the iPhone.
There's little doubt that Spotify would be an awesome addition to the iPhone's repertoire, but some commentators think that Apple will block it because it competes with iTunes.
Let's pit Spotify against iTunes and see if, once the fighting's over, they can't coexist on the iPhone.
Round 1: Audio Quality
Both services offer high quality audio. Spotify uses the Ogg Vorbis q5 codec at around 160Kbps while iTunes uses up to 256kbps LC-AAC.
I may be shot down by those who say the Ogg Vorbis codec is superior, but I'd say that iTunes wins on what can be purchased and downloaded from the iTunes store. In addition, of course, anyone buying CDs can rip them in a far superior lossless format.
Round 1 winner: iTunes
Round 2: Song Availability
Both services claim an increasing number of artists and labels, but at present I'd give iTunes the win on more commercial, mainstream music while Spotify is more likely to win on independent music.
This is a movable feast, of course. Labels and artists could come and go from either service.
Round 2 winner: Saved by the bell
Round 3: Network and Bandwidth
Spotify requires a decent connection. Wi-Fi will give the best service, while 3G is supposed to work well but may cause dropouts.
The downside of Spotify is that, to listen constantly, you'll be using a fair amount of bandwidth. This may end up going against the fair use policy of the mobile network. Only time will tell on this one.
iTunes, by contrast, is only using bandwidth when sampling or purchasing songs from the iTunes store.
Round 3 winner: iTunes
Round 4: Battery Life
Actively streaming music over Wi-Fi or 3G is going to drain the battery far faster than listening to music on iTunes.
Round 4 winner: iTunes
Round 5: Streaming versus buying
This is going to come down to personal preference. Despite some people saying that the age of buying music is coming to an end in favour of "all you can eat" streaming or downloads, I still want to own music that I really like.
Naturally, iTunes wins here, though Spotify gives you the opportunity to purchase music from a variety of partners if you so choose.
Sure, I might be able to listen to my favourite track on Spotify today, but what happens if I'm out of network range, or the track disappears? With iTunes, once I've bought it, it's mine. DRM free of course.
Round 5 winner: Saved by the bell
Round 6: Background music
Spotify, like any other third-party application, will not currently work in the background. This means that, unlike iTunes, it's not possible to play music while using any other application.
This may not matter if you're simply using the iPhone like a jukebox, but if you want to play games or access email or the web at the same time, forget it.
iTunes on the iPhone doesn't suffer from this.
Round 6 winner: iTunes
Round 7: The Apple effect
The best thing for Apple to do would be to license Spotify for the iPhone but strike a deal whereby iTunes is the sole partner for purchasing music.
Round 7 winner: iTunes
Am I biased towards iTunes? It has certainly won or drawn all of the rounds.
No. I like Spotify and I think it can do well on the iPhone. I personally would never use it as my primary music engine while on the move, because it uses too many resources and I either have to pay to use it or suffer advertising. However, if Apple is smart, it can benefit from allowing Spotify on to the platform and still make money, both from those who don't "do" streaming, and those who want to buy music they've heard.
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