A few months ago, Sony brought good news to its music-loving PlayStation users — the company was officially discontinuing its failed Music Unlimited streaming service and was instead partnering with the biggest player in the streaming music space, Spotify. As of today, that changeover is officially complete: Music Unlimited is dead, and Spotify users can now log into the service on either the PS3 or PS4. It’s an exclusive deal, as well — Spotify won’t be coming to the Xbox One any time soon. Ahead of its launch, we had a chance to get a demo of Spotify running on the PS4 and learn a lot more about how Sony’s new music service of choice works on its consoles.
The first time you launch the Spotify app on your PlayStation console, you’re met with the expected sign up or log in screen. Existing Spotify users can enter their credentials or log in with Facebook, or they can use the Spotify Connect feature from a smartphone or tablet. The latter is a pretty slick way to get set up — assuming your PS console and phone are on the same wireless network, you’ll see an option to connect to the console right in the app. Once you connect, all your credentials will be set up on the console and you can start playing music there. If you’re not a Spotify customer, you can sign up for a premium membership and bill it straight through your PlayStation Network account, but having premium isn’t a requirement.
The interface should be familiar to PlayStation and Spotify users alike
Once you’re logged in, you’re presented with an interface that’s equal part familiar to PlayStation and Spotify users alike. By default, you’re dropped into Spotify’s main "browse" section, which lets you find curated playlists that the service is highlighting on a particular day (like "TGIF" or "commuter flow"), as well as the extensive genre- and mood-based playlist sub-categories. The iconography is purely Spotify and will be immediately familiar to anyone who has used the service a bit, but the app design more closely mirrors Sony’s PS4 interface. It’s pretty simple and straightforward; it doesn’t take many steps to get straight into playing music. And any song you come across can be added to your collection with one click of a button.
Unfortunately, the other main section of Spotify’s app for PlayStation is pretty cut-back compared to what’s available in the company’s other apps. In the "your music" feed, you’ll see every playlist in your account as well as a long scroll of every single song you’ve added to your collection. But there’s no way to browse through your favorite artists or albums that you’ve saved to your collection. That’s less ideal if you’re more focused on specific albums rather than playlists, but Spotify was quick to point out that every single song and album on the service is available — you’ll just have to use the search feature to find them.
All of Spotify's vast catalog is available, you'll just need search to access it all
If you have specific albums or songs in mind, there’s another option for finding them beyond search. The Spotify Connect feature means that you can just use your phone or tablet to control playback or quickly browse your music in a way that might be more immediately familiar. That’s not to say that the PlayStation app is confusing — playlists are easily and quickly accessible — it’s just harder to get straight to a specific album. Fortunately, Spotify says it’s going to keep on improving the app and adding new features over time.
The PS4 in particular has one useful feature that makes perfect sense for a gaming console — you can play music in the background as you play games. It’s quite simple — just start up your music, head back to the main PS4 interface, and start up your game. Once you’re up and running you can hold down the PS button to pull up the console’s menu and pause or adjust the volume of your tunes. The one big catch is that games aren’t smart enough to realize that you’re playing music from another app, so the Spotify music mixes in with in-game music. You’ll need to dive into the game’s menu screen to turn down the in-game music and sound effects to get everything squared away.
It would be great if the system could recognize that you’re playing audio from another source and adjust accordingly, but most games have pretty flexible music controls that should let you get things balanced properly without too much trouble. PS3 owners are out of luck on this front, however — you can only do this with the PS4. It’s also worth noting that PS Vita users are entirely out of luck here, as well. Music Unlimited worked on Sony’s portable device, but right now there aren't any plans to bring Spotify to the Vita.
Overall, Spotify for the PlayStation works just as you’d hope — while it doesn’t have every navigation feature found in the main apps, you can still get at all your playlists and every song in the service’s vast catalog. And there’s no question it’ll be a better option that Music Unlimited was — 60 million people have Spotify accounts and they’ll be able to use them on the PlayStation as of today, even if they aren’t paying for them. That’s a lot more than were ever using Music Unlimited. Between this and the newly launched PlayStation Vue streaming TV service, Sony is definitely making a move to bolster the PS4’s media capabilities. The company found a lot of success by playing up the system’s pure gaming prowess, but it’s slowly becoming an entertainment center that can match up with the Xbox One, as well.