Spotify has pushed out the much-anticipated iOS 13 update to its music streaming app, opening up support for asking Siri to play songs, and with it, the streaming service is also making its debut on Apple’s set-top box.
Spotify has been at odds with Apple for several months now, filing an antitrust complaint in Europe last spring, alleging that it was being stifled by Apple. Although some of Spotify’s complaints seemed a bit unreasonable, one of the more valid points the music streaming giant made was that Apple’s implementation of Siri had given Apple Music an unfair advantage, since other streaming services didn’t have access to Siri.
A report earlier this summer suggested that Apple and Spotify were in talks about letting Spotify make use of Siri, although it sounds like this wasn’t so much of a negotiation between the companies as a collaboration to help Spotify take advantage of new capabilities that were coming to iOS 13 anyway.
Whether or not it was done in response to Spotify’s original concerns, Apple had already announced back in June that it was opening up SiriKit in iOS 13, a change that would allow any developer of a music, podcast, radio, or audiobook app to add support for Siri to let their users call up content by voice. Although SiriKit has existed since iOS 10, Apple has taken its usual phased approach to extending the service, slowly adding new capabilities with each major new iOS release, so support for audio playback apps was probably due this year anyway.
‘Hey Siri, Play Spotify’
Spotify betas began to appear last month debuting the new Siri capabilities, allowing users to ask Apple’s digital assistant to play songs, albums, and playlists from the streaming platform. As of today, the new Spotify app has left beta and is now available to all on the App Store.
Early testers have reported that the capabilities worked well, although not surprisingly users need to actually specify Spotify by name when making requests, otherwise they’ll go to Apple Music instead. It’s worth noting that this isn’t a specific dig at Spotify, however, as Apple still treats its own apps as default across the board — asking Siri to send a message will use the built-in Messages app, placing a call will use the built in Phone app, and asking Siri to set a reminder will go to the built-in Reminders app, unless the user specifically asks Siri to “use” another app such as Whatsapp, Skype, or Things.
While some of this could soon change, since Apple is said to be working on a refresh that would allow users to default to other apps, the initial stages seem to be focused only on messaging and calling apps, so it might be some time before you’ll be able to make Spotify your default music app.
As long as you add “with Spotify” or “from Spotify” to the end of your requests, however, the Siri integration works just as well as it does for Apple Music, and even provides full support for CarPlay, allowing for hands-free control of Spotify while driving. Like any other Siri request, Spotify can also be called up via the “Hey Siri” feature on Apple’s new AirPods as well.
While Spotify’s release notes also suggest that requests can be made through HomePod, it specifically says “HomePod via Airplay” which suggests that it may simply be a matter of telling an iPhone or iPad to play to a HomePod, using a Siri command such as “in the dining room.”
Making requests directly to the HomePod could still be coming, however. SiriKit support for music apps is an iOS 13 feature, and Apple hasn’t released iOS 13 for its smart speaker yet, which remains on iOS 12.4. It may just start working when the HomePod iOS 13 update is released, although we’ve seen no specific information on when that will be coming beyond “later this fall.”
The new version also adds support for another new iOS 13 feature: Low Data Mode. According to the release notes, Spotify will respect the system-wide low data mode setting, automatically activating its “Data Saver” music streaming mode in this case. This will cause it to stream songs at a much lower bit-rate over cellular data connections.
Spotify on the Big Screen
The bigger surprise in all of this is that Spotify is also coming to the Apple TV, with a new tvOS app rolling out today. This will let users browse and search their Spotify libraries and playlists directly on the big screen, with a user interface that looks similar to Apple Music. It’s less clear right now if Siri support will also extend to the Apple TV.
While it hasn’t yet appeared in the tvOS App Store everywhere, it’s specifically mentioned in the release notes for the iOS version of Spotify, which also suggest that it’s a single universal app, meaning that it should install on your Apple TV automatically if you have the “automatically install apps” option enabled on your Apple TV, although you may still need to install it manually if you’ve already updated it on your iPhone and iPad.