Spotify gets praise for a lot of things, but user experience design is typically not one of them. It's not that its desktop and mobile applications are hideous. They're perfectly functional, but few would describe them as beautiful or especially enticing to use.
However, with its new iPad app, the music subscription service signals a new direction in terms of how its apps look and feel. It's a much-welcomed shift.
Spotify for iPad bears virtually no resemblance to the service's iPhone app, nor does it draw much influence from the desktop version. This is a good thing. Instead, the team has designed the new app from the ground up, specifically for the tablet form factor. Along the way, they politely borrow conventions from some of the best existing music players like Rdio and Apple's own native Music app for the iPad.
As you get deeper into the app - say, via a search or as you're digging through your playlists - Spotify for iPad uses the kind of flyover panels that work so well on the tablet form factor. Think Twitter for iPad.
Newly released albums are displayed in a way that makes effective use of a Coverflow-style UI, which works better on a touchscreen than in probably any other context.
The app is not perfect. The social features could be stronger, but then again that's true of Spotify generally. We'd also love to see iPad access to some of the third-party HTML5 apps that are available on the desktop. Some of those apps would have a hard time squeezing onto the screen of a smartphone, but the iPad is perfect for the desktop-sized designs put together by the likes of Spotify partners such as Last.fm, Pitchfork, Moodagent and TuneWiki. Hopefully those are on the way.
The end result turns one's tablet into the modern equivalent of a boom box, but with unlimited music. The speaker on newer iPads is good enough to let you get away with tapping the play button and sitting the device down on a table. At parties, Spotify for iPad can serve as a sort of universal jukebox if the device is hooked up to the right speakers.
All things considered, it's a worthy download for Spotify users, and hopefully it's a sign of things to come.