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Spotify’s Gustav Soderstrom talks up the new features that the company’s free music service will be offering users.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Spotify on Tuesday announced an overhaul of its mobile app that boosts the freebies, unlocking features that used to be available only to paying customers. 

While users of the free version of the music-streaming service, its main gateway to recruiting subscribers, currently are locked into shuffled songs, Spotify is opening up more on-demand mobile music. Users of the free service will be able to listen on-demand to 15 of Spotify’s most popular playlists, including your personalized Discover Weekly mix and blockbuster hip-hop list Rap Caviar. In total, the pick-and-play lists represents about 750 tracks or 40 hours of on-demand music. 

Gustav Soderstrom, Spotify’s chief R&D officer, said that the new mobile app reduces data consumption by 75 percent by introducing a “data saver” toggle setting.

And the new version of the app, unveiled at a press event in New York, also introduces “assisted playlisting.” Spotify will suggest similar songs as you create a playlist — you can listen to a snippet and add it if you like. Playlisting is popular on Spotify, with more than 2 billion playlists having been created on the service.

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Spotify is the world’s biggest streaming service. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Dashing the hopes of some observers, Spotify didn’t unveil any hardware Tuesday.

Spotify has grown into the world’s biggest streaming music service, driving a larger, cultural shift in how we play and pay for music. After decades of buying music outright, as we did in the era of CDs and digital downloads, we’re increasingly paying flat fees for all-you-can-access tunes. With Spotify leading the charge, that shift has revived the music industry after 15 years of atrophy.

Spotify’s free tier already set it apart from its subscription music competitors, and beefing up its free listening to give users more options and control should be a meaningful tool to win new subscribers. 

Spotify competes for paying subscribers with Apple Music, Pandora, Google Play Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Tidal, Deezer, iHeart and others. With 71 million paying members, Spotify is the biggest streaming music service in the world. Apple Music, its closest rival, has 40 million subscribers.

Earlier this month, it became a publicly traded company, trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol SPOT. On Tuesday morning its shares were down nearly 2 percent to around $155.26.

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