The Good, The Bad, The Less Ugly: Taking Spotify's New Redesign For a Test Drive

Spotify released a major design update on Wednesday, its first since the service launched in 2006—well, for some users. I couldn't get my desktop app to update at all, so I tested out the mobile and browser versions instead.

I actually deleted Spotify's mobile app a few months ago in an effort to free up memory because I never used it. I found the app slow, buggy and clunky. I much preferred the cleaner, sleeker Rdio, whose mobile, desktop and browser apps worked seamlessly for me. Spotify felt less dynamic and slow next to Rdio's crisp white background and emphasis on album art. This update, more than anything, may have narrowed some of those differences.

Spotify's new interface is stylish, with simplified navigation, different fonts, larger images that pop and lots of black space. It's a darker, sexier, Spotify that the company is branding as its "back to black," moving away from its stricktly green and gray palette

If you want to save an album on Spotify, you no longer have to drag it into a playlist. You can now save music to a new feature called "Your Music", very similar to Rdio's "Collection." Your Music lets the user save and organize music. However, the popular song starring feature has now been replaced by a plus sign to save a song to your collection.

The browse tab is much cleaner and now divided between a playlist overview, top lists, genre and mood based playlists, new releases and news. It appears Spotify has increased its number of programmed playlists, with genre and mood playlists like Pop, Party, Chill and Classical, all around 80 songs each.

The service does not recommend playlists just for you in the Discover tab, as Beats Music does in it's Just For You section, but Browse does offer playlist suggestions based on some contextual filters. I got a selection of playlists for my "Wednesday afternoon", including mood booster, workday pop and office detox lists.

The discover tab remains largely unchanged besides adjusting the tiles to all be the same size.The lack of an update to artist pages was a bit disappointing. The design is slightly different but I still wish I could sort albums by date, name and popularity like I can on Rdio and Beats. Similarly, I wish I could sort the new releases page by date as well.

But it is exciting to see Spotify play around with how to display music, and a nice reminder that music doesn't necessarily have to always be formatted in a spreadsheet. Here is the thing about app updates: they are almost always unsettling at first, but we quickly forget what existed before. I couldn't tell you what Facebook looked like when I first signed up. I'm sure this new "back to black" Spotify will feel natural in a few weeks. I might even keep the Spotify app on my phone this time.