Spotify Free vs. Premium: Should You Upgrade?

Spotify on mobile
Spotify on mobile

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Explore the differences between Spotify Free and Premium with this detailed guide.

Many believe that Spotify Free is a good way to enjoy music without needing a Premium subscription.

But while limitations like ads and restricted features can easily be huge dealbreakers, is that enough reason to subscribe to Spotify Premium?

This guide weighs the pros and cons of both Spotify Free and Premium to help you decide if Spotify Premium’s additional benefits justify the cost and make it a valuable choice.

Spotify Free vs Premium: Which Suits You Better?

FeaturesSpotify FreeSpotify Premium
CostFree$10.99 for Premium Individual
$14.99 for Premium Duo
$16.99 for Premium Family
AdsVisual and audio adsAd-free listening
Music libraryFull access, but you might have to wait two weeks for new releases occasionallyFull access, with advanced releases
Playback controlsLimited to shuffle mode on mobileOn-demand playback on all devices
Discovery featuresFull accessFull access
Offline listeningYou can only download podcasts on mobileFull access
Sound qualityup to 160kbit/sup to 320kbit/s
Social featuresFriend activity, Collaborative playlists, Share featuresFriend activity, Collaborative playlists, share features, Group sessions
Additional featuresSpotify Wrapped, Lyrics, Play local filesSpotify Wrapped, Lyrics, Play local files, AI DJ

With Spotify Free, you’ll likely find the experience similar to listening to the radio in several ways:

  • You get a mix of pre-selected songs.
  • You can’t choose what song comes up next.
  • You have to endure ads in-between songs.

But unlike radio, you’ll have a degree of control by ‘hiding’ songs you don’t like from a playlist. You’ll also get a more personalized experience from the many playlists under the ‘Made For You’ hub.

So, even with Spotify Premium winning in almost all categories, if you are a passive listener who’s satisfied with a few selections of mainstream hits or someone who simply enjoys having music in the background, Spotify Free should do just fine for you.

That said, if you’re a music fanatic or just someone who’s annoyed at ads, the Spotify Premium benefits are worth the investment.

To give you more idea, let’s dive into the specific differences between the two options.

Spotify Premium Is Free From Ads

Spotify Premium offers an ad-free listening experience, ensuring uninterrupted enjoyment of your music.

This also means you’ll save on data usage and help conserve your device’s battery life.

If you value data privacy, you can opt out of personalized ads in Spotify’s Privacy Settings by disabling “Process my personal data for tailored ads.”

In contrast, Spotify Free comes with interruptions. On the desktop app, ads pop up after skipping around 14 songs. On the mobile app, you encounter full-screen ads when switching playlists or after a few songs.

Unfortunately, these ads are unskippable, so you’ll have to listen to them before your next song plays.

Distinguishing Between Spotify Free & Premium’s Sound Quality Is Hard

Audio quality settings on Spotify Premium.
Audio quality settings on Spotify Premium.

Spotify Free users get four levels of audio quality on both desktop and mobile apps:

  • Automatic: Dependent on a network connection
  • Low: 24 kbit/s
  • Normal: 96 kbit/s
  • High: 160 kbit/s

On the other hand, Spotify Premium subscribers get an added Very High setting, which streams at 320 kbit/s.

Both Free and Premium users get the same audio quality for podcasts at approximately 96 kbit/s on all devices and 128 kbit/s on the web player.

But unless you’re focusing on the details of the music or listening through an audiophile-grade setup, the difference between ‘High’ and ‘Very High’ isn’t really all that noticeable.

Spotify announced a HiFi feature, but as of my last update check, it had not been released.

You Can Download Songs for Offline Listening With Spotify Premium

With Spotify Premium, you can download songs and podcasts for offline listening on up to five different devices. There are also no limits on the number of downloads, making it convenient for users with ample storage.

Meanwhile, Spotify Free cannot download songs for offline listening, requiring a continuous internet connection for music streaming. While you can download podcasts, it doesn’t match the convenience of Spotify Premium’s offline music downloads.

You can explore third-party apps to download Spotify songs for free, but you’ll have to be careful as some may breach Spotify’s terms and conditions.

Spotify Premium Adds More Playback Options

With Spotify Premium, you enjoy unlimited skips and full on-demand playback on mobile and desktop, giving you complete control over your music.

In contrast, Spotify Free offers limited features, such as shuffle mode on mobile with a cap of 6 skips per hour. Although you can hide specific songs in selected playlists, it doesn’t offer the same flexibility as Spotify Premium.

This only applies to mobile users, though. Desktop users can enjoy on-demand listening for both Spotify Free and Premium.

The skip limit doesn’t apply to auto-generated mixes, which you can find in the app’s ‘Made for You’ section.

You Have Access to All Music and Podcasts on Both Spotify Free and Premium

The difference is that Premium users may get early access to new music releases or exclusive content, whereas Free users will have to wait a couple of weeks.

Spotify also lets you purchase audiobooks. Since these cost extra, you must pay for audiobooks regardless of whether you’re on a Free or Premium plan.

Almost Everything Is Identical on Discovery Features

Both Spotify Free and Premium offer similar music discovery features, including playlists like ‘Discover Weekly‘ and ‘Release Radar‘ that update weekly. There’s no difference in content or update frequency between these plans.

You also get New Music Friday and Daily Mix playlists on both plans, with ‘Made For You‘ playlists with songs based on your listening preferences. These playlists evolve with your activity, but new users may need to listen more before seeing them.

Additionally, when you create a new playlist, Spotify automatically recommends similar songs based on what’s already there, regardless of whether you’re a Free or Premium user. You can also merge two or more playlists into one no matter your subscription plan.

The only difference in discovery features is theEnhance‘ playlist feature, which is exclusive to Premium users. This feature recommends a new song to be added to your playlist for every two songs you play.

However, you’ll probably have Spotify minimized in the background when listening to music. Even when you stay in Spotify’s interface, you likely won’t be interacting with it, at least not every two songs.

In the end, not having it might not be much of a dealbreaker.

A Premium account also reduces the chances of unwanted tracks being added to your playlists.

Additional Features on Spotify Free & Premium

Spotify Free has ads and shuffle play. Spotify Premium has no ads, lets you download songs, and you can pick any song you want. But aside from that, here are a few special features you can enjoy:

  • Social Features: Spotify offers social features for both Free and Premium users, including friend activity feeds and collaborative playlists. But, Premium users can host Group Sessions with friends worldwide.
  • Spotify Lyrics: This provides real-time song lyrics while listening to music, and is available for both Spotify Free and Premium users.
    For more details, check the guide on how to view, edit and share spotify lyrics.
  • Spotify Wrapped: Available for both Free and Premium subscribers, this annual feature offers Spotify Free and Premium users a personalized summary of their music listening habits, including top songs, artists, and genres, for the year.
  • Android Auto & CarPlay: Android Auto and CarPlay integrate smartphones with vehicles, providing safer app access while driving, which is accessible on both platforms for both Free and Premium users.
  • Social Media Integration: Both Spotify Free and Premium users can share music on platforms like Tinder and Instagram.
  • Spotify DJ: Spotify Premium users can enjoy the new AI DJ, which is a like a live radio feature but are more personalized to your listening habits and includes entertaining commentaries.
Both Spotify’s Free and Premium subscriptions let you create an unlimited number of playlists, so feel free to build a massive library with either plan.

How to Change Your Spotify Subscription

You can easily change your Spotify subscription by going to your account settings. Here’s how:

How to switch from Spotify Free to Premium

  1. Go to your account settings via the Spotify app. Then, look for the Subscription or Change Plan option.
  2. Select the Premium plan you want.
  3. Choose a payment mode then enter your payment details.
  4. Click Continue Purchase or Buy Now to complete the subscription process.
For more detailed instructions check the guide on how to get spotify premium.

How to switch from Spotify Premium to Free

  1. On Spotify’s website, log in to your Spotify account, then click on your profile name in the top right corner, and choose Account from the menu.
  2. In your account settings, find Your plan, then click CHANGE PLAN next to Spotify Free.
  3. Spotify will ask you to confirm your switch to the Free plan. If you’re certain, click Switch to Free.
  4. Spotify will send you an email confirming your switch to the Free plan.
For more information, check the guide on how to cancel your Spotify Premium subscription.

FAQs on Spotify Free vs. Premium

Is Spotify Free really free?

With Spotify free, you won’t be shelling out cash, but you’ll hear ads every few tracks. This means you pay with time, not money.

Is Spotify free forever without Premium?

Yes, Spotify is unlikely to discontinue the free plan, given its business model. However, the Premium trial lasts only three months. You must cancel your Premium plan before the free trial ends to avoid any charges.

Explore the full guide on how to delete your Spotify account.

What is the cheapest way to get Spotify?

The most affordable Spotify option is the Free subscription, despite limitations. However, if you wish to save but enjoy Premium offers, Premium plans like Student, Duo, and Family offer some discounts.

Spotify’s rates also vary depending on the country. So, if you’re traveling or using a VPN, you can sign up from a country with cheaper rates.

💬 Conversation: 5 comments

  1. This review really gave me the low down on all of the Spotify applications and their respective merits and drawbacks. Thank you.

  2. I first tried 3 months free Spotify. After that you have given me music and advertising. You are taken 109 Swedish Crones from my bank Handelsbanken every month. But I get music and advertising that schould be free from costs. It is so wrong for me to pay that. You must take this away from me, to become free. Please answer this text and take the costs from me.

  3. Too bad you didn’t write this article after the latest update. I canceled paid premium subscription. It really sucks now unless you like a tik tok style format

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