Spotify's new Android app beta was released to the world this morning, bringing a number of long-awaited updates including a new, sharper skin with Android 4.0's Holo design language and an interface that makes it far easier to discover new music. We've downloaded the new version of the app and had a look around, and we're very impressed by what we see.

The most immediately obvious difference is the aforementioned new skin. It's much cleaner than older versions, loads almost instantly, and is faster to navigate with none of the stutter and lag that was present in previous Android versions. All menu options have been moved into a sidebar, making the interface far tidier, and the now playing popup takes up the entire bar at the bottom. This new design is more informative, showing you at a glance what album is playing, with a pause/play toggle persistent on screen at all times. Tapping anywhere else in the bar gives you full playback controls, high-resolution album artwork, and the ability to star tracks.

So much faster than previous versions

One element that has also seen a welcome redesign is the playlist screen. Rather than following the same order as your playlists on the desktop client, the mobile app now surfaces your offline playlists (now known as "Downloaded") to the top, making it easier to find the music that you're likely to listen to most often. Mid-download, playlists now show a percentage completion rather than a progress bar, though this still seems to jump track-by-track rather than showing the average completion of each download.

Searching has been overhauled, too — bring up the sidebar and search for a track, artist, or album, and you're given a list of suggestions categorized into each type, much like on the desktop app. It's a big step up from older versions where each was sorted into tabs, and makes finding what you're looking for much simpler.

Spotify Social is now more integral to the mobile app than before. From the sidebar you can access your friends to see what they've been listening to lately, their favorite tracks, and shared playlists. You can also easily share tracks and albums with friends. Spotify's said that this is far from the finished app, though — before release it plans to add in folders and scrobbling via Last.fm. If you'd like to give the beta a try, you can grab it from the Spotify Preview page.