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Offline mode on Spotify sucks out loud and on purpose

Ever since the Walkman days, music lovers have taken their music anywhere and everywhere they could. We take our music out for a run, we bring music into the shower, and we always bring music when we travel, be it by plane, train, or automobile. And since we bring our music where our internet sometimes cannot follow, that means that offline modes for our music apps are important. Offline for Spotify is an abomination, and call me crazy, but I believe it's intentional.

Let's begin with what you have to do to turn on Offline mode. Turning on Offline mode is a three-tap process at a minimum. From the home tab of Spotify:

  1. Tap Your Library.
  2. Tap Settings (the gear icon in the top right corner).
  3. Tap Offline mode to toggle it on.

And to turn it back off, you have to come back to the settings, as opposed to apps like Google Play Music, where Downloaded Only mode can be activated directly from the hamburger menu and can be disabled simply tapping the Downloaded Only banner at the top of the most screen in the app. You can't trigger Offline mode for Spotify in Android Auto, so if you want to only listen to downloaded music in the car, you have to turn it on before you plug up in the car.

With Offline mode enabled, three of the five tabs of the Spotify app won't work. Radio doesn't work without internet, because radio stations can't be saved for offline playback. Browse doesn't work without internet because you can't choose to download what you haven't seen yet. The home tab doesn't work without internet because ... I actually don't get this one. At the very least, the Home tab could show your recently played and some recommendations from your downloaded music in the Home tab, but no, the tab is just disabled.

This leaves you with the Search tab, where you can listen to recent searches that you've downloaded, and My Library. Even in My Library, though, things aren't made any easier in Offline mode, because you still see your whole library. If you go to Albums trying to see what albums you can listen to offline, be prepared to hunt for those little green downloaded icons underneath the album names, because albums with zero offline songs are still down in your Albums list. Same with Playlists; a playlist with zero songs downloaded for offline still shows in your Playlists list. The Songs list isn't much better, because rather than hiding all non-downloaded songs, your Songs list is the same as the online version, except most of the songs in it are greyed out.

If you're trying to find something to listen to quickly in Offline mode, it better be something in Recently Played, or else you'll be digging through the filter settings in each section of your library for Downloads, a filter that won't automatically turn on and off with Offline mode the way most apps handle offline mode. This is compounded by the fact that even though Spotify caches while it streams, that cache can't be played offline the way other music apps do: you have to explicitly tap Download for every album and playlist you want to listen to offline.

For most users, it's just easier to leave Offline mode off and just pick an album or playlist that you know has already been downloaded for when you're trying not to blow your data cap. And that is exactly the point of this exercise in frustration: Spotify doesn't want you to use Offline mode.

If you're using Offline mode, you can't listen to any radio stations or non-downloaded playlists, meaning you aren't listening to anything new and you aren't being dazzled by Spotify's algorithms. Spotify may lull people into subscribing with their large library and low student pricing, but the way it keeps those subscribers is by wowing them with great new music every time they start a Playlist Radio station or tune in time after time to Discover Weekly. Spotify needs you to keep Offline mode turned off so that it can keep serving up its best features, and so Offline mode being a hobbled mess may be less of a bug and more of a feature.

Offline is offputting

Do you even bother turning on Offline mode in Spotify, or do you just try and avoid any un-downloaded content while you're out and about in the world? Have you just tossed your data concerns to the wins and decided to not care about offline for Spotify? Or do you download so much of your library that finding something to listen to offline isn't finding a needle in a haystack?

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

28 Comments
  • This feels like an unnecessary rant... Yeah it does sucks but not the way you are making it feel like. There are definitely room for improvement, what I think they need to fix is how to access offline mode. But I do remember it was easier awhile back so maybe it is intentional. It would be nice if they would show only offline albums and playlist but when in offline mode, there is a green icon that tells you what playlist or album is downloaded. Anything else are more than welcome improvement but not that big of a deal... IMO
  • Thanks for this. I stop reading about 1/4 way in. Guess some people are more inconvenienced than others. I have been having a great experience with offline mode. Especially on my Gear Fit 2 when I just leave my phone at home and download what I need and go work out.
  • I have not experienced any problems finding ONLY downloaded albums/playlists. At the very top of those screens (you may have to swipe down to see it) there is a field named "Filter". Tap to the right of that and click on "Downloads". Only the content you've downloaded will appear, nothing else. Takes three seconds and I'm good for a long car ride.
  • +1. I filter for my downloaded playlists and never have to bother with Offline mode. Not sure why anyone would find this difficult.
  • You hit it on the head right there: "never have to use offline mode". Spotify discourages people from turning it on because it's harderto steer them towards their tentpole features when they're offline. And yes, you can filter by Downloaded, but you have to turn that on and off independent of offline mode, which should be able to turn it on for you long because WHY would you want to look at parts of your library you can't listen to?
  • I used Offline mode for the first time this week and I agree with some of your gripes but it's fine for me.
    I don't really care about discovering new music that much, I just made a playlist with my favorites (at this time) and I listen to that. My Recently Played usually includes what I want to listen to anyway.
  • I really don't get what the problem is here. If you have a Spotify subscription you can just download the music you like, hell, you can even save it to your SD card. With the prices of microsd cards nowadays I really don't see why you wouldn't save all your music offline.
  • I think you're missing the point. Yes, downloading music is easy. Using the actual app in offline mode is a pain.
  • How is it a pain when it specifically tells you that you ONLY have access to downloaded music and podcast only?
  • Trying to read some of these complaints gave me a headache. I mean it is really that hard to filter downloaded music and search through that? You don't have to dig through recently played to find downloaded music. It specifically says "when you go offline, you'll only be to play the music and podcast you've downloaded" It's not designed to work with the internet on. That's why it's OFFLINE mode.
  • Look at the offline mode on an app like Play Music or Play Movies. When you turn it on, the parts of the app that need internet become inaccessible, the home screen reorganizes to show what you can hear offline, and any tab of My Library automatically sorts to what is available to listen to. For offline mode on Spotify, the app doesn't do any of that, and you have to manually turn on and off the downloads filter yourself.
  • Sounds like a personal issue. I know to use offline mode only for music and music downloaded only. To each their own. Hasn't bother me yet.
  • ^^^ Agreed... Bob
  • In Android 7.0+, there is a toggle in the quick settings so you can turn offline on and off. I can see you have Pixel, so there is no complain in that.
  • God, they made that a Quick Setting but couldn't just make it easier to turn it on and off in the app itself?
  • You mean, going into something called, Quick Setting, is not quick enough? LOL
  • And when I turn my radio off I can't listen to music. I unplug the CD player and there's no music! Inconceivable!
  • I use Spotify, but RARELY use offline mode since I installed Datally on my Galaxy S8. I have close to 2500 songs downloaded on about a dozen play lists and that works for me when I'm out of the house. I don't care much for playlist radio or daily mix since it has a tendency to only play popular songs from the same artists. If Spotify were to enable me to combine 2 daily mixes at the same time or 2 playlist radio artists then that would be more useful.
  • Wow. This seems like the dumbest rant ever. For one you implied that playlists like Discover Weekly can't be downloaded. They can. There is really no need to turn on offline mode. Ever. You should know what you have downloaded. I have half of my 40 or so playlists downloaded. If I don't want to use data I just listen to those. If I am on a plane I don't bother to turn it on either. This seems like a rather pedantic post. No one is making you use this feature. Now, could improvements be made. Always. All, and I mean all media consumption apps that have a download mode should work the same way Vudu does. When you are in Airplane mode with no data connection you can only access the part of the app where you have downloaded your movies/episodes. This would simply things. Until then, it isn't that hard to listen to only music that has the green down arrow.
  • Ara, I think we're the only two that use some weird version of the app, because I agree 100% with you, and the majority of folks here are just fine with it. I have almost 40 GB of downloaded music and it's a pain to use offline as easy as other services.
  • Make that 3 of us. I guess I got the weird version too. I tried the 3 months for .99$ deal and hated the app exactly for the reasons mentioned in the article. Couldn't wait till the 3 months were over. I went back to Google play music right after.
  • It's not that big of an issue. I have several playlists I listen to on shuffle in my car pretty often, I make sure to download these. If there's a specific album I want to listen to in the car, I download it before I head out. Not that hard.
  • What are you talking about? There is a Spotify offline toggle right in my notifications tray. Easy swipe and tap. I don't even need to open the app!
  • I think this is a valid complaint. If you have ever used Google Play Music or Apple Music, they both switch to offline mode and only show you what is available automatically. That is very convenient and just a consistent design atheistic that Spotify seems to be ignoring. I don't understand defending any company to simply ignore something that can be improved and attacking the author. Glad it works for some but after using the other services, Spotify's DESIGN is not the best and up until the app was revamped a few years back, I would not use it.
  • I've been going back to and away from Spotify throughout the years. The last straw was lower volume than other media (at least on Bluetooth, where I cranked the volume up only to have waze yell at me).
  • I have never enabled offline mode, I just get to my library and select the playlists with the green arrow, meaning they were already downloaded. I never download more than 3 playlists so I don't need to hunt nor filter within the app.
  • Well at least there is a Spotify offline mode on the phone.
    Offline for Android Wear is no where in sight, which is an epic fail for Spotify. This is the reason I'm gonna leave Spotify after being a paying customer since the service launched. Hello Google Play Music!
  • Android Central should label their opinion, editorials, or rants near the title of the article. It gives the article more context instead of giving the impression the author had to write something/anything to meet their quota.