We all have our reasons for loving (and sometimes loathing) our smartphones. For many there are multiple reasons – after all, they can do so many things. Although it’s easy to be critical of things like lag, or big bezels, or not having the highest quality camera, I think we can all agree that for the most part smartphones are pretty freaking awesome.
When I stop to think about what I appreciate about smartphones, a lot of things come to mind. When it comes to my favorite thing about them, though, I think I’d have to say that having music streaming available on my smartphone is my absolute favorite part about them; you know, aside from the fact that they connect me to people and let me call and text them, or whatever it is mobile devices were initially intended for.
But I absolutely love how music listening has evolved with the use of smartphones. Throughout all the various methods I’ve used over the years to obtain and listen to music, I have never been as happy as I am with music streaming. Let me bore you to death as I tell you exactly what I mean.
As a kid, I was able to listen to music primarily with two methods: through radio and with cassette tapes. If there was something I really liked on the radio, I would save my allowance and go out and buy the tape. Being that I was a kid and didn’t really make that much money all that often from household chores, I eventually figured out (probably from the help of my older brother, who was wise in the ways of everything at the time) that it was much cheaper for me to buy blank tapes and record the songs I liked on the radio. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure this is what skewed my perspective when it came to how much music was really worth. Why buy it if I can just get it for free?
Like most technology, cassettes eventually phased out when CDs started getting popular. I liked CDs because the quality was nice, I loved being able to skip tracks instantaneously, and - above all else - they were cool. So I started buying those for a while, but since I was still a kid I still didn’t make that much money. At the time (and maybe they still do) CDs would cost anywhere from $9.99 to $14.99, or somewhere in that range. It was an expensive hobby if you wanted to buy a lot of albums.
So, much like with cassettes, I eventually learned about free ways to get music. Programs like LimeWire, FrostWire, Kazaa, Napster, and other shady programs that you could look for pirated music on somehow ended up on my radar at the ripe age of, like, 12. Sometimes you would get lucky and all you would get was a song or an album. Other times you downloaded terrible viruses that caused you to reformat your entire hard drive because you were too cheap to actually buy the album like a "decent" human being (but on the plus side, I learned how to reformat a computer?). Either way, I would look for music, hopefully get the music, and burn CDs with them.
And then mp3 players came onto the scene. It was pretty much the same situation as it was with CDs, except you didn’t have the hassle of only having 12-13 songs available at one time. Still, music wasn’t cheap. The introduction of iTunes made things a lot better – I was very willing to pay $0.99 for an individual song that I wanted rather than purchasing an entire album, but I can’t say that I was inclined to completely quit my pirate-y ways. I still preferred to get things for free, and although iTunes did us the favor of breaking albums up so that we weren’t needlessly purchasing music we didn’t really want, it was still costly. Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me.
When I was introduced to Pandora, my pirating (or copyright infringement, I guess, but "pirating" had become the blanket term) took a sharp decline. I liked discovering new music and it was rare that I really got bored with it, but there were still times where I would rather control my music rather than listen to a radio station where I had very little control over what was playing. Being a teenager at this point (a teenager with a job, mind you, but had grown so accustomed to free music that I felt no remorse for downloading things) I still went for the free stuff like a cheap dolt.
At some point, I did start reading about how piracy was actually hurting the industry. I felt kind of bad. Even those "You wouldn't download a car," or whatever ads that played in movie theaters (which I still attended, because I could somehow justify spending $10 on watching a movie just one time than on an album I would own forever) started to get to me, albeit marginally (okay, I say marginally but it did actually freak me out a lot). I hardly downloaded anything anymore. I’ll admit, there were still times where I felt brave and did it even after I was aware of the fact that I was “part of the problem”. But that all stopped when I was introduced to Spotify.
I remember seeing Spotify running on a co-worker’s computer. I was intrigued at what “music player” he was using, and how impressed I was at his collection of music. He explained to me that it’s all part of Spotify’s service, and you just search and add it to your playlist. At this point it was also an Android app, and he told me that the service can be used on your phone, tablet, or computer. He also explained that it was free, and it only had some commercials sometimes.
So I decided to try it out. At some point I got a free 30-day trial of the premium, and from then on there was no going back. It was legal, it was extremely affordable, and it had just about every song I ever needed. It pretty much solved all of my bad habits (and morals) in one fell swoop. The combination of ease of access, copious amounts of content, and affordable monthly subscription prices made a perfect trifecta to alleviate one of the most controversial issues of this generation. Even if you're not a heathen like me and never downloaded a single song in your life, it's hard to deny the convenience of these services.
Since then, multiple competitors have shown up. I use Apple Music at the moment because of the family plan price. Soon I’m going to try Google Play All Access Music and YouTube Red, but it’s all the same concept. I love having instant access to millions of songs, and I love that you can use offline listening. The whole process is just so much simpler than what I used to do, and it’s well worth the $10 or so that it costs to have it readily available to me. No shadiness, no viruses, no problems.
As an avid music listener, I am so grateful that streaming music services have not only been invented, but also adapted to work on our smartphones. It’s amazing to me to think that such a simple solution could solve so many problems.
And that's why music streaming is arguably my favorite feature of smartphones.