With a base of 159m users, Spotify is the world’s most popular music streaming service. But until last week it was not counting SA consumers among those user numbers — unless you had used a workaround like a VPN service, or had access to a payment option in a supported region. Fortunately, the need for those shenanigans is over.

South Africans can download the app for free for both iOS and Android, or access the service via a browser on Spotify.com. There is also support for various devices, such as game consoles.

The service comes in two "flavours": The free option is rather limited and serves ads between songs to cover the costs.

The premium subscription costs R60/month, and is blissfully ad-free. You can also try before you buy, with a 30-day trial. Streaming, of course, means data use — so bear that in mind when assessing costs.


Cool factor 5/5
Usability 5/5
Value for money 3/5

Spotify does let you download tracks for offline listening in the app, and you can choose your music quality for both streaming and download. Spotify’s default setting for data streaming in SA is a thrifty 24KB/s — clearly a strategic nod to how it intends to gain market share in SA.

Now the fun stuff: Spotify doesn’t have the biggest music catalogue of the music streaming services (Google Play beats it by a solid 5m, Apple Music by 10m), but with 30m+ tracks to choose from, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. Unless you’re wholly committed to your indie-underground-thrash-metal niche, Spotify has the big hits, and all the genres covered. You can browse by mood or genre; search by artists, albums, playlists and songs; go straight to new releases; or dive in deep via "discover".

At the top of this category, at the time of writing, Spotify offered me "Top hits SA", "Chillout lounge" and even "Beste hits". Yes, Spotify has incorporated a bunch of local artists in time for the SA launch. So Afrikaans, iGqom and Maskandi artists — among others — are available via the platform. The real power of this service, some argue, is in the recommendation engine that, anecdotally, seems to provide remarkably on-point recommendations based on what you like.