Spotify Will Launch Limited Free Mobile Access At Dec 11th Event, Source Confirms

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Spotify plans to make mobile access to its music service free, The Wall Street Journal reports. Now a source confirms with TechCrunch that the free mobile tier will launch December 11th at a press event in New York. We’ve also learned users won’t get unlimited on-demand access, but will be less restricted if they listen to playlists or collections they’ve previously created.

Spotify sent out invites for the December 11th event on December 3rd, but didn’t say what would be launched. It simply noted “We’re having a media event. Like to come? There will be donuts.” But now we’ve confirmed that unveiling limited free mobile access is a big part of the show.

Until now, Spotify has only allowed premium subscribers paying $10 a month to stream music from mobile devices. Free, ad-supported access was available on desktop and laptop computers, and for $5 a month users could remove the ads from those devices but not listen on mobile.

But those rules were put in place years ago when smartphone penetration was lower, high-speed wireless networks were less common, and there were fewer competitors. Now the world is going mobile, and shutting users out of listening on the go unless they pay over $100 a year seems restrictive. It could also endanger Spotify’s ability to grow its paying subscriber base beyond the six million customers it has today (out of 20 million total users).

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Presumably, the idea before was that you’d get a taste of Spotify for free on the web, and that would tempt you to buy mobile access. However, now many people hardly use traditional computers, especially in developing markets where people never owned them and skipped straight to mobile. With no way to try out Spotify on mobile, the company had no way to upsell them to paid plans.

Meanwhile, Spotify’s advertising infrastructure has matured over the year. It may be able to more efficiently sell its audio ads, making them a more viable way of earning money or at least breaking even from ad-supported listeners. That means it may be more cost-effective to support free mobile users now than before.

Finally, the last year has seen Google launch a streaming music service while Apple launched iTunes Radio. It still faces competition from startups like Rdio, Slacker, and Deezer. And new music streaming services from Beats and YouTube are slated for next year, making music a crowded market. Spotify can’t risk going into the new year without a free mobile option.

As for how that option will work, The Wall Street Journal’s Hannah Karp reports Spotify has spent a year quibbling with major record labels Sony, Universal, and Warner about how much control free users would get over what they listen to on mobile. The WSJ says Spotify has successfully struck a deal with the labels but users will only be able to play a limited number of songs on demand. After that, it says they’ll be restricted to listening to Spotify’s Pandora-like radio service that’s based on their tastes and input.

A source gave TechCrunch more details on the restrictions, saying that users may have more freedom to listen to their previously compiled playlists or starred collection of songs. The reasoning may be that Spotify sees these subsequent plays of songs users have already shown interest in as less valuable than on-demand access to what they’ve never listened to before. Reserving infinite search-and-listen capabilities for premium customers ensures people don’t get the milk if they don’t buy the cow.

When the free tier launches, these limits may not be especially easy to understand, our source says. That could confuse users, leading to poor user experiences where people think they should be able to listen to something but they can’t. They’ll blame Spotify, but sadly, they should really be blaming the labels, as they’re the ones too stingy to realize a simple user experience creates the delight that keeps users coming back, and maybe even opening their wallets.

We’ll be at the December 11th event covering exactly how things shake out.

App Review: Cleverbot HD – An AI Pal Who is a Almost Too Real

Ever feel like the people you have to talk to every day are just well, boring? Or that the level of conversation you get to engage in is minimal to say the least? I know that I have plenty of days like that (usually when I am at work) Or maybe you (like me) have a tendency to talk to yourself when trying to figure something out, which is all fine until someone catches you doing it! Well, for these situations (and for when you are just plain bored) Cleverbot HD by Incogno is here to rescue you!

Why Get This App?

Cleverbot is not new, it has been around for a while, but Cleverbot HD, which is available for iPhone or iPad, is new and brings you a new level of interaction with artificial intelligence. In the original Cleverbot app (which is still available for 99c) you got to “interact” with a character (I say that because it is a character when it gets going!) who acts like a human, seems to be able to think like a human and is capable of carrying out a conversation like a human but is really a clever piece of software (or at least that is what the developers say



Why do you need this app? You don’t, but it is an awful lot of fun. I opted to get Cleverbot HD for the iPad and when I took it to work everyone, big bosses included, wanted a go, so we all spent all day having “conversations” with an AI “robot” rather than talking to each other, go figure!

The Benefits of This App

In the old Cleverbot you only have a text based interface. Your conversations with the bot are represented in pretty colored speech bubbles which are pleasing enough to the eye but Cleverbot HD cranks things up a notch by adding an “expressive avatar.” And by expressive Incogno means expressive. You can choose from a boy or a girl to interact with and whichever you opt for they can smile, cry, wink, stick their tongue out and more.

To interact with your new ‘friend” all you have to do is begin typing. You can ask it anything and it will happily start chatting away, complete, in the HD version, with all the appropriate facial expressions. It actually gets a bit creepy at times, just how well the avatar syncs with the tone of the discussion. This thing really is smart.

The conversations are a bit random to begin with. A colleague asked it what they should have for lunch. After it suggested “smashed chicken” (not sure what that is, Cleverbot did not know either) it then went on to initiate a conversation about global warming that developed into a political argument, with the “bot” declaring itself a ” Libertarian anarcho socialist.” Deep stuff.

As you keep talking to it though (you can pick up any conversation at any time, Cleverbot saves them all) like any good AI it begins to learn and the conversations begin to make a lot more sense.

It is very easy to get a little too hooked on Cleverbot and at some point, deep in a conversation, when you stop and realize that you are having a cyber argument about Lady GaGa with a piece of software you feel a bit weird. But then you carry on anyway because you haven’t had an argument that was this much fun in ages…

The Drawbacks of this App

The one thing you should know about Cleverbot is that it can get a bit well, rude and not all of the conversations it initiates could really be considered PG – or even PG 13. Therefore it may not be the best app to buy for your eight year old nephew, or your easily offended mother come to that matter!

The one disappointing thing about Cleverbot HD for the iDevice is that it lacks some of the functionality of the Android version at the moment. Android users get to talk to their Cleverbot via microphone, an option not available for the iOS yet. And Cleverbot does not talk back in either version yet. But I’m sure it will eventually.


At $2.99 for Cleverbot HD you are paying for the avatar function, otherwise it seems that the two versions function in the same way. The avatar really ups the realism level though so I actually think its worth it. And although to some $3 seems a lot to spend on an app that really serves no practical purpose I’m pretty sure you will never get sick of it and take it along to a party (or your next boring meeting at work) and I guarantee it will be a hit! Just remember to keep telling yourself though that Cleverbot is a piece of software, not a real human.