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Spotify boasts about 83 million paying subscribers these days, making it the No. 1 music streaming service in the world. But like its competition, Spotify has both a paid version and a free one.

This summer, Spotify opened up the free version by adding a set of playlists whose songs you could play in any order, instead of having to listen in sequence, though it's still supported by ad breaks every few songs. And it turns out that the company isn't done handing out new perks for free users.

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Now, Spotify is going a step further by adding Connect-enabled speakers to the free pile. Meaning, if your speaker is compatible with Spotify Connect, you no longer need a subscription to stream tunes from your phone to the device.

Casting your music to other devices around you via Wi-Fi has been a core part of the Spotify subscription, in addition to being able to download tracks and access higher tiers of audio quality, so this is quite a big change.

Before this, free users had to use Bluetooth if they want to listen to Spotify on an external speaker. Bluetooth suffers from inferior audio quality, though, because it's optimized for power efficiency instead of signal quality. It can also be quite a pain to link a Bluetooth device to your phone -- a process known as pairing -- and the system is notorious for unexpectedly dropped connections.

(This is incidentally why many Android phone users dislike the trend of missing headphone jacks, because it forces them into a second-tier audio space, often while also paying up to $1,000 for their purportedly first-tier phone.)

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According to The Verge, however, this update requires the speaker manufacturer to update their device to a new version of the Spotify software developer kit (SDK), so not everyone will necessarily get this new perk.

Also be aware that Spotify Connect isn't just limited to speakers. The company has an entire website dedicated to listing the hundreds of devices that can stream the app's audio, from cars to TVs to game consoles. These days, you probably have a handful of options already in your home or vehicle that you may not be aware of -- via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or both.

It just remains to be seen which of those options will get the update to Spotify's new SDK that's required to make the new system work for non-subscribers.

Takeaways

  • Spotify is opening up its Connect service to non-subscribers. Connect lets you stream Spotify over Wi-Fi, instead of being limited to Bluetooth.
  • Spotify has a website dedicated to all the different devices that have Connect support.

See also

Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.