Spotify is updating its app to address a long-standing user complaint with music playback – but is telling customers to pay to fix it. The company announced today that it’s finally introducing a separate play button and shuffle button at the top of album playlists to make it easier to play the music the way you want it. This replaces the previously available combo button, which was inconsistent and frustrating across platforms. However, streamers might be disappointed to find out that what should be an app update for the sake of a better user experience is being oddly sold to them as a reason to upgrade to Spotify’s paid tier – the company says the new button just Spotify Premium is offered to subscribers.
This seems like a bizarre choice considering customer complaints had correctly identified an issue with the overall design of the Spotify app’s UI and its user experience. As noted by a review posted on Spotify’s community forums last year, the button offered was even different across 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 pointed out. The user suggested that Spotify simply offer two separate buttons so people can choose how they want to stream music instead of 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 appears in the app to make it the user’s choice.
Spotify has been working on this issue for a while. It first introduced the shuffle/play icon in 2020 to reduce streaming to just one click, it said, and last year made the play button the default button on all albums for Spotify Premium users (optional). by Adele, as you may remember). With this upgrade, the play button will remain the standard, and shuffle will be a separate option for the Spotify mobile experience.
While arguably a minor change to the app, it is literal just one button – It is clearly a feature that had to be fixed in the minds of users and not a premium offering. For example, other major music streaming apps like Apple Music and Amazon Music already include 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 that users were dissatisfied with the app’s functionality and design. A similar example could be 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 option is more about personal preference and quick access to preferred 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 associated with a premium subscription. At its core, premium users pay for the option to listen to any song on demand. The button is sort of an extension of that as it allows users to choose to listen in any way they want when needed.