Spotify is getting into the hardware game. The company is teaming up with a slew of great audio companies to bake Spotify right into Wi-Fi connected speakers. And it's not just speakers — the new system makes juggling your tunes between your phone, tablet and computer a piece of cake too. Here's the facile music experience you've been waiting for at a price you can actually afford.
Spotify Connect allows you to seamlessly pull music playback from one device to another. In its most basic use case, it's just a simple way to transfer your streaming music session between devices that are running Spotify. Even if these transitions are happening right in front of you, the handshake is actually happening in the cloud.
So, for example, when you get to work, you don't need to stop the playback on your phone and then start playback from your computer. Instead, you can just fire up your computer and grab the active session from your phone with a click.
Beyond devices actually running Spotify, you'll be able to transfer playback to compatible speaker products. In practice, this works like AirPlay or Bluetooth, except instead of beaming music from your phone to a speaker, the speaker actually pulls the content down directly from Spotify over your Wi-Fi internet connection. (Your phone's battery will be very happy about this.)
From there, your phone, or tablet, or computer or whatever turns into the remote. Once you've paired a speaker with Spotify one time, you never need to pair devices again. Any device that's logged into your account is an instant remote. That's a really nice touch.
Spotify Connect is launching with a bunch of brands on board: Argon, Bang & Olufsen, Denon, Marantz, Philips, Pioneer, Revo, Teufel and Yamaha. It will all come with the Spotify branding below, and you can expect to see hardware as early as October. Spotify says the app update should roll out across platforms before then in the order of iOS, Android, desktop and then browser. Spotify says that old Wi-Fi hardware is upgradeable, but it's up to the manufacturers to decide what gets an update.
We had the opportunity to try Spotify Connect at the company's New York offices using a firmware upgraded version of the Pioneer AirPlay speaker we loved last year. The transitions from one device to another are so smooth that you almost can't detect a lapse in the music, although, in situations where the Internet is slow, it could take longer depending on your internet connection.
The demo also highlights the variety of possible use cases for Spotify Connect. You can use it to simply use your phone as a remote for your laptop, or you can leave an iPad on the coffee table so that a group of people can take turns playing songs.
The ease of the experience reminds me a bit of Sonos — except that it bends more to your preferences and budget. The initial range of products range from the Pioneer speaker above ($US200) to B&O's ostentatious A9 ($US2600). And because it's not Sonos, you can get away without paying the Sonos overhead costs. In theory, you don't even need to buy any of the hardware — just buy an iPod Touch, plug it into the gear you've already got , and use your phone as a remote. (Speaking of which, one thing that's noticeably missing is a product like the Sonos Connect: a little Spotify Wi-Fi base-station that lets you convert your existing stereo into a cloud-powered sound system.)
Spotify says more partnerships are on the way, and you should expect to see more very soon because the company is offering the technology and licence to manufacturers from free. There's no reason anything with a Wi-Fi chip shouldn't be compatible. By Christmas, we'll have a better idea of how wide the product ecosystem will be. Let's hope this goes huge.