Spotify is updating its app to address a long-standing user complaint with music playback, but it’s asking customers to pay for the fix. Company announced today it finally introduces a separate play button and a shuffle button at the top of the playlists of albums to make it easier to play the music the way you want. This replaces the combined button available earlier, which was inconsistent across platforms and frustrating to use. However, streamers may be disappointed to find that what should be an app update in favor of better usability is strangely sold to them as a reason to upgrade to Spotify’s paid tier – the company says the new button is only offered to Spotify Premium subscribers.
This seems like a bizarre choice, as customer complaints had correctly identified an issue with the overall design of the Spotify app’s interface and the user experience. As one review posted on Spotify’s community forums last year noticed, the button provided was even different in all Spotify apps. On mobile, playlists had the combined Shuffle/Play button, but on desktop, the button was just a regular play button. This was confusing for users switching between platforms, the post noted. The user suggested that Spotify simply offer two separate buttons so people could choose how they want to stream music, rather than having to tap the Now Playing screen to toggle Shuffle mode on or off.
The post received 647 upvotes and pages of comments from others who agreed. It wasn’t the only complaint of this nature on the forum site. Others have posted similar requests for separate Play and Shuffle buttons or even different solutions to the same problem. For example, one person asked Spotify to allow users to configure which button appeared in the app to make it a choice of the user.
Spotify has been working on this issue for a while now. the first introduced the Shuffle/Play icon in 2020 to reduce streaming to just a click, it said, and last year made Play Button the default button on all albums for Spotify Premium users (on Adele’s request, as you may remember). With this upgrade, the play button remains the default and Shuffle becomes a separate option in the Spotify mobile experience.
While it may be a minor change to the app, it’s literally: just one button – it is clearly a feature that in the minds of the users needed a solution, not a premium offering. For example, other major music streaming apps, such as Apple Music and Amazon Music, already have separate Play and Shuffle buttons.
It’s unusual for app makers to charge for something like a different button, especially when the reason for the change is because users were unhappy with the app’s functionality and design. A somewhat related example could be Twitter’s subscription service, Twitter Blue, which allows users to customize the bottom bar of the app with buttons of their choice. But in that case, the option is more about personal preference and quick access to favorite features – not usability. Even without paying, Twitter’s features are still easily accessible in the main navigation on the left side of the app.
Spotify tells us that the idea of charging for the button has to do with how it perceives the benefits of a Premium subscription. At its core, Premium users pay for the option to listen to any song they want, on demand. The button is a bit of an extension of that, as it allows users to listen on-demand any way they want.