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Spotify Premium vs Google Play Music

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Ever since Google offered a 90 day trial to their all access music streaming I’ve been hooked. Any song, downloaded for the bus and car on my phone, instantly. Album art and all. For me the days of pirating music are over. But the market is heating up with Google, Spotify, Pandora and Beats Music all serious contenders to be the streaming king of this new digital age.

“Every new generation of music service steals from the last generation’s customers. Apple stole Amazon’s best CD buyers, and Spotify has now stolen those same customers from Apple – or at least the same sorts of people.”

Guardian Web

But which services to choose? 

I’ve experienced both Spotify Premium and Google Play extensively and my simple conclusion is that despite being less popular, Google Play Music is superior. The downside is that there is no free trial unlike Spotify which provides an ad-supported service which can be upgraded to high quality streaming, ad-free and mobile spotify. The automation of music downloads on mobile and the clean vibrant look are the little features that make Google Music my winner.

Quality

Both services provide great sound and I couldn’t notice a difference in music quality between the two. I would say that the desktop version of Spotify for Windows is not as high quality as when it is played in chrome on the Spotify Web Player.

Make sure you enable “High Quality Streaming” in the client for better sound. Google Play will stream you the best available quality for your internet connection speed automatically.

Downloads

Both services allow you download songs for when you’re out and about off wifi connections. I felt Google solution was very quick at downloading and also good at managing the amount disk space of songs you have downloaded. Spotify wasn’t as automatic and I had to open the app often before it would start downloading the updated playlist whereas Google Play Downloads as soon as you hit wifi. Spotify does allow you to select what quality you would like to stream and download at when on mobile which is something Google Music doesn’t provide. This means you can choose a lower quality to take up less space on your device.

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Mobile

Google has the better android app however Spotify are consistent across platforms in UI and this battle really comes down to personal preference. The IOS Spotify and Google Play Apps are also both good. Neither service has one superior feature that deems it to be better but Google Play music does allow better sorting of music within playlists. You can drag to reorder very easily whereas with Spotify you must sort by certain parameters. Both do a fantastic job due to recent app store updates.

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Desktop

Spotify provides a desktop client native to windows whereas Google Music can only be accessed through the web browser. This isn’t an issue as I found the web browser to be better which streaming music from Google and Spotify Web player. If you are someone who want a lot of control as to how you play your music you may find Spotify to be the better solution. I personally like the web browser approach as I spend most of my time in the browser anyway.

Conclusion 

Spotify has a better ecosystem, more ways to listen to music (client, web and mobile) but the experience isn’t quite as pleasant as the vibrant Google Play Music experience. Less efficient download system and an inferior radio service for finding new music is what drags Spotify behind.

With both services running about $13NZD (10USD) a month, whichever one you choose it will change the way you interact with music forever so don’t sweat the small stuff and just take the 30 free trials that both services provide.

New Blog and Two Week Challenge!

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Hello Readers!

Welcome to my new blog! I’m a student from Wellington, New Zealand who enjoys tennis, football and web design. I’ve got some plans up in the mix, for instance I plan to write a post a day for the next two weeks.

Have a Happy Easter!

Solutions to Spotify uploading excessive internet data

Spotify Featured Image

UPDATE: Spotify is transitioning away from P2P music streaming as their audience moves increasingly to mobile and tablet. I have also since upgraded to unlimited internet and have returned to the Windows Client.

Fixing my favourite music streaming service

A few weeks ago ago I noticed a massive spike in my internet uploads on my ISP’s usage meter website, which is an issue here in New Zealand where we have very limiting data caps. Uploads were upwards of 5 GB a day!?

My initial thinking was that someone had broken into my secure wifi network (which is relatively easy!) and was downloading illegally. After multiple password changes and network checks on Wireshark I concluded that my wifi network was still secure and that the problem was coming from a computer or device I was using personally. I would later determine Spotify to be that problem.

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Troubleshooting

I downloaded internet data network monitoring software NetBalancer (There is similar software for Mac) and used the free trial period to determine that Spotify was indeed uploading massive amounts of data. On the first night of installation alone, I saw that 1GB was uploaded in a hour and a half from Spotify on Windows through my internet connection.

NetBalancer

NetBalancer Interface shows uploads and download amounts and lets you limit applications access to your connection – Free Trial

The Cause

I looked into the issue and found that other users had been experiencing the same problems. The cause is Spotify relying on its uses to distribute it’s extensive music library content around the globe via P2P networking. Spotify uses your internet connection to upload songs direct to other users and you in turn download from other users. While this enables fast song downloads, it is a bit deceptive as Spotify doesn’t look like your usual torrenting software. Furthermore, Spotify doesn’t obviously notify you your connection is being used.  You can find information about in the Spotify Terms of Services, but who reads that.

Even premium users who pay for Spotify, are forfeiting their internet connections.

The Solution(s)

Web Player

The best solution to this problem I have found is to use the web client of Spotify which does not use your internet connection to upload songs. The visual aesthetics are generally the same, however it does not have the comprehensiveness of the Windows client in terms of how easy and integrated it is to use. For instance, you have to navigate to the tab in your browser to pause tracks when previously I could hover over the program in my taskbar to pause. One thing I found while using the web player is that I don’t seem to get any ads! Not sure if this is a temporary bug but I’ll enjoy it while it’s around. It may be a bug, but it doesn’t bug me.

Spotify Web Player

Spotify Web Player

Indie Tracks

One recommendation from other users on Spotify forums is to only stream tracks that are not popular as less users will be potentially needing to download them from you at any given time. For less popular tracks Spotify uses their server network for distribution more often and so you won’t need to upload yourself. This was not practical in my situation as I do listen to popular tracks including the top tracks in New Zealand.

Cache

In Spotify options there is the ability to limit the cache size where songs are stored on your computer so they can be uploaded to other users. The default value is set at around 10% of hard drive space but you can reduce the cache size or delete it completely. By deleting the cache, you won’t upload any songs at all. The disadvantage of this is that you have to download songs every time you want to listen to them (they won’t be stored on your computer), including your most frequently played songs. As you might be playing the same songs often, this solution could become counter productive as you would be downloading the same songs over and over.

Mobile

The mobile versions of Spotify on Android and iPhone do not upload tracks. There are drawbacks here as well such as needing a premium subscription to access specific songs not on shuffle and reduced functionality.

Firewall and Limiting

I tried artificially limiting the upload speed of Spotify in NetBalancer to reduce data transfer but this resulted in a slower playing experience, tracks took longer to start and Spotify continued to upload at a rate too high for my liking. Some other users have used advanced firewall solutions to stop P2P via Spotify, but for me using the web interface works and is easy enough for me not to need to go through the hassle.

Conclusion

None of these solutions actually fix the underlying problem of stopping the client version of Spotify from uploading files. You can’t stop uploads completely from Spotify as then the client can’t tell the server what sony you want to download. I recommend the web player for its similarity to the native client. I initially didn’t like it but it grows on you and as I have no ads at the moment I actually like it more.

I was thinking about upgrading to premium, but this is a secretive/concealed move by Spotify to make users distribute their tracks unknowingly on their connections and it doesn’t exactly make me trust them. Technical users will understand how Spotify works, but what about the millions who don’t know their internet is being hijacked. Now that internet in New Zealand is finally transitioning towards unlimited internet, Spotify uploading won’t be an issue and I will use the native client.

Ultimately, it was too a discovery late to save myself from the ISP’s fees, I went over my cap significantly.

That still annoys me Spotify.

 

I have attached a Radio New Zealand podcast which covered the issue of Spotify uploads in New Zealand:http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/twu/twu-20140322-1245-spotify_bandwidth-048.mp3

Hello world!

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Thumbs up and hello, welcome to my new blog!

I’m a 16 year old student from Wellington, New Zealand who currently attends Wellington College.

Find out about me.

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Cheers

Tim