Spotify’s experimental voice control feature is an excellent end run around Siri

Spotify is testing a voice search feature that lets users more quickly access their favorite artists, tracks, albums, and playlists. The feature, which appears based on a 2017 experiment involving a “driving mode,” has begun appearing inside the iOS app for a small number of users. I got early access to the test and tested out the feature set. In short, it’s an excellent step forward for navigation in app that has historically required too much tapping and typing to get where you’re going.

Spotify confirmed the test but didn’t want to talk about it. “We’re always working on improving the Spotify experience for our users, but we don’t have any information to share at this time,” the company said.

To access the new voice search feature, you tap the magnifying glass icon at the center of the bottom row of tabs. If you have it, you’ll see a microphone icon inside a white bubble in the lower-right hand corner of the screen.

Tap it and you’ll get a brief walkthrough of the search feature, which is currently available only in English. After giving Spotify access to your phone’s microphone, you can tap the mic icon and speak your command. If Spotify understands you, it will begin playing the song, artist, album, or playlist you want.

I spent the past hour spitting queries at the microphone, with mostly accurate results. I queued up the Gold School and Top Hits Today playlists, artist radio stations for Radiohead and Wilco, and the magnificent strains of “Despacito.” It all happened as quickly as Siri does the same thing on a HomePod.

So far, voice control appears limited to finding music inside inside Spotify’s vast catalog. Ask it “Who are the Beatles?” and it will simply start playing a Beatles playlist without telling you anything about the band. And I did encounter some errors. I created a playlist for songs I found on Spotify that I call “Spotifinds,” and when I searched for it the very confused app asked me if maybe I was searching for “Spotify memes.” (I am now!)

But I’ll take it. Apple has done its best to cripple the Spotify experience on iOS, preventing the company from building an integration with Siri or from working natively with its HomePod smart speaker. In such a world, building voice control directly into the app was Spotify’s best option. And while the feature is officially still an experiment, the early version works well enough to make it a core part of my music listening.


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