Spotify is updating its app to address an outdated user complaint about playing music — but it’s asking customers to pay for a fix. The company announced today that it will, finally, introduce a separate play button and shuffle button at the top of album playlists to make it easier to play music the way you want it. This will replace the previously available built-in button, which was inconsistent across platforms and awkward to use. However, viewers may be disappointed to learn that what should be an app update in favor of better usability is selling oddly 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 an odd choice given that customer complaints have correctly identified an issue with the overall design of Spotify’s app interface and user experience. As noted by one review posted last year on the Spotify community forums, the button shown was different across Spotify apps. On mobile, playlists have a built-in Shuffle/Play button, but on the desktop, the button was just a regular play button. The post noted that this was confusing for users who switched platforms. The user suggested that Spotify simply offer two separate buttons so people can choose how they want to stream music, rather than having to tap on the Now Playing screen to enable or disable Shuffle mode.
The post received 647 votes and pages of comments from others who agreed. It wasn’t the only complaint of this kind on the forum site. Others have posted similar requests for separate Play and Shuffle buttons or even different solutions to the same issue. For example, someone asked Spotify to allow users to configure the button that appears in the app to make it the user’s choice.
Spotify has been working on this problem for a while now. It first introduced the Shuffle/Play icon in 2020 to reduce streaming to just one click, she said, and last year made the play button the default on all albums for Spotify Premium users (at Adele’s request, as you might remember). With this upgrade, the play button will remain the default, and Shuffle will be a separate option across the Spotify mobile experience.
While it can be said that it is a slight change in the application – it is literally just a button – It’s clearly a feature that needed fixing in users’ minds and not a premium offering. Other major music streaming apps, such as Apple Music and Amazon Music, already include separate Play and Shuffle buttons, for example.
It’s not uncommon for app makers to charge for something like a different button, especially when the reason for the change is that users were unhappy with the app’s functionality and design. One somewhat relevant example is Twitter’s subscription service, Twitter Blue, which allows users to customize the app’s bottom bar with buttons of their choice. But in this case, the choice is more about personal preference and quick access to favorite features — not usability. Even without paying, it’s still easy to access Twitter features in the main navigation bar on the left side of the app.
Spotify tells us that the idea of charging a button has something to do with how it perceives the benefits associated with a premium subscription. In essence, Premium users pay for the option to listen to any song they want on demand. The button is somewhat of an extension of that, as it allows users to choose to listen on demand any way they want.