Spotify has announced a handy little upgrade for its iPhone users – a new widget that lets you jump straight into the app from your lock screen. But while that's a nice little quality-of-life upgrade, it's also a reminder of the many unfixed issues that are still keeping me at Apple Music.
The friction between Spotify and Apple is no secret – the big green streaming giant even launched a website called Time to Play Fair that listed Apple's apparently anti-competitive practices. So getting any new features on iOS, even a lock screen widget, is something to celebrate.
To install Spotify's new widget, just make sure you're on iOS 16 and have updated to the latest version of the Spotify app. Then do a long-press on your lock screen, tap the Customize button, tap Lock Screen, Add Widgets, and scroll down to the Spotify option. You'll now be able to open Spotify without unlocking your phone first.
Unfortunately, that's all it offers – there's no live or glanceable info, so it's effectively just a shortcut. And as someone who recently moved from Spotify to Apple Music, there are some other features and fixes that are clearly more urgent.
The Spotify wishlist
It's pretty clear that Spotify's current strategy is more, rather than better. It wants more listeners to be able to listen to Spotify for longer in an ever-increasing number of places. Its new built-in player within Strava is an example of that, and this new iPhone widget effectively acts as a little permanent nudge to keep listening to Spotify.
There's nothing particularly wrong with that strategy. But there are at least three features that a significant minority of its long-term users would like a lot more, if it's ever going to retake top spot in our list of the best music streaming services.
Firstly, there's support for AirPlay 2. Spotify has been promising to add in-app support for Apple's wireless streaming format to its iPhone and iPad apps for over 18 months, but it still hasn't materialized.
You can use Spotify with the first version of AirPlay, or use Spotify Connect instead, though AirPlay 2 would still be preferable for devices like the Apple HomePod. Talking of which, there's also still no native Spotify support for the Apple HomePod 2 or Apple HomePod Mini – and it doesn't sound like that's coming soon either.
Spotify recently told Bloomberg's Mark Gurman that there hasn’t been a “significant volume” of complaints about the absence of HomePod support, even though a thread about the topic on the streaming service's forums has over 6,000 likes.
Lastly, there's the long-promised, but still-missing, Spotify HiFi. In theory, this will eventually bring a Lossless and High-Res music option to the streaming service, but we're not convinced Spotify HiFi is ever going to arrive. Spotify is simply more interested in getting you to listen for longer and in more places, and its new iPhone widget is another example of that.
Spotify's direction would be more palatable if it was simply open and clear about it, rather than continuing to promise features like AirPlay 2 and Spotify HiFi without ever delivering them.
There's no doubt that its music recommendation engine remains the best around, and that's why I had to think long and hard about eventually switching from Spotify to Apple Music. But its move towards being more of an audio app, rather than a music one, plus its continuing friction with Apple, convinced me to make the move.
Perhaps the arrival of a new iPhone lock screen widget suggests there it hasn't completely closed the door on working more seamlessly with Apple tech. And maybe we will one day see the arrival of AirPlay 2 and HomePod support.
But for now, Spotify's new TikTok-style homescreen and lack of features like High-Res music and spatial audio could lead to more of longstanding supporters jumping ship.