The other night I slayed a 4-mile run like it was a walk from my bedroom to the fridge.
I did it using the new, barely announced Running feature in the Spotify mobile app. I’ve been a Spotify Premium user since March 2014; it was worth the $9.99/month then, and it’s certainly worth the $9.99 now. Spotify has stepped up their UX/UI game considerably over the past 12 months, with both incremental changes and new iterations of the app and desktop client being released in a steady stream (pun intended). There is still a lot of room for improvement (the search function, the shuffle algorithm…), and not all the changes are good (I rather liked some of the Spotify Apps). But I feel like I’m getting a good value for my subscription when I can see an upward trend in usability and new features. I can remember using the free version of Spotify in 2012 and 2013 and being slightly appalled at how user-unfriendly the desktop client was. I’m guessing that improved user testing is driving many of the changes. Props to Spotify for introducing the Running feature, which is not a utility I’d necessarily expect from a music streaming service, but makes sense considering the strategy that drove them to kill third-party apps.
Spotify has been increasingly aggressive about integrating features and utilities into their products, expanding both horizontally and vertically, and eliminating the need for other music-related apps and services. For example, discontinuing Spotify Apps meant killing Musixmatch, a popular lyrics app, and adding its own lyrics feature to the desktop client. Adding the Running feature is going to make life a lot harder for Spring, a standalone music/running tempo app that I’ll not be using again. Any part of our life where music is involved, Spotify will have a way to be there. Does anyone realize that the Running feature gets us one step closer to actually having a personal theme song play as we walk down the street?
When you start Running, you can select an original suite of music (I initially chose Epic, which is reminiscent of a Michael Bay slow-mo walk, but found Tiesto’s “Burn” more rousing) and then the app will detect your tempo. The tempo seems to be fairly locked in, adjusting automatically if your pace significantly changes for a sustained period of time. Or, you can adjust it manually +/- 5 BPM increments. One suite has several “chapters” of musically similar but distinct themes. If the duration of your run exceeds the suite, it loops back to the beginning of chapter 1.
Unfortunately, Running doesn’t seem to be available to Android users (I switched from an iPhone to an HTC One three days ago and the feature is nowhere to be found). I hope that they widely release the feature, build it out, and continue to add original music from top-shelf talent. Stumbling upon the feature last week was a nice surprise, and now that it’s no longer available to me, I really miss it. That’s key to creating a product that people love and advocate for, a product that insinuates itself into people’s lives and makes itself indispensable: offering features and functions that users didn’t know they wanted/needed until they were served up.