Spotify is testing the ability to turn off its best feature and it could be brilliant

Spotify Car Thing
(Image credit: Spotify)

Spotify, the music streamer that continues to prove hugely popular among both iPhone and Android users, is reportedly testing a new feature that actually disables an existing one. Yes, you read that right.

Not only is the new feature the ability to turn another feature off, but that feature is actually one of the very best things about Spotify. Perhaps the reason that some people use Spotify over competing music streaming services like Apple Music and others.

That feature is personalized recommendations, something that uses magic and rainbows (probably not magic and rainbows) to make recommendations for new music based on the songs, albums, and playlists that you listen to already. It's mighty impressive and it, by all accounts, works way better than anything that the competition has been able to muster in all the years they've been trying to catch up.

So all of that being said, the concept of a new feature being all about turning that stuff off might seem strange to you. But you'd be wrong because it could actually be amazing and one of the best features to come to Spotify in years. Let me explain.

So what does this feature do, exactly?

CarPlay setup in 2020 Nissan Qashqai

(Image credit: Future/Lloyd Coombes)

Before I explain why this news is so exciting, I have to explain what the news actually is. According to a MacRumors report, Spotify is now testing a tweak that will turn off personalized recommendations — the system that uses the magic and rainbows (still probably not magic and rainbows) to help recommend songs to music fans around the world. Little is known about this change, or how it will actually work, but MacRumors says that beta code found by Aaron Perris suggests that changes are afoot.

Before someone emails me to explain how Spotify's recommendation engine performs its recommendation wonders, a quick explainer on how it really works. Although it would be better if it was magic and rainbows. In short, Spotify pays attention to everything you listen to including the songs, genres, and other data points, and then feeds that into an AI-powered system that makes recommendations based on all the information it was given. The result is custom playlists that are full of music adjacent to songs you're familiar with but are actually new. The result of that is new music for you and more listening minutes for Spotify.

So we can all agree that the personalized recommendation system is pretty great. So why would you want to turn it off?

I'm glad you asked.

Kids. You'd want to turn it off if you have kids

OK, so let me set the scene. As a former Apple Music subscriber who recently relented and switched to Spotify like the rest of my family. I'm also the one who normally plugs my iPhone 15 Pro Max into the car when we're out and about and yes, I have two kids.

As anyone with kids will know, their musical tastes don't necessarily align with mine. And it's their songs we listen to when we're out and about, of course. That means that Spotify's recommendation fairy dust gets sprinkled on more Boy With Uke than I'd like to admit, and not the Fleetwood Mac that I'd like to listen to.

You can see where this is going, can't you?

Apple Music is about to gain a new feature in iOS 17.2 that will allow listening history to be disabled based on the Focus Mode applied at the time, which in my example would be the Driving one.  That way Apple Music won't use music played while driving to inform its own recommendation system, and I'm very hopeful that's the route that Spotify is taking here. Because oh boy, my custom recommendations are taking a hammering.

My fear is that Spotify's new feature will work in much the same way but that it'll make me tap a button each and every time I want to enable and disable the personalized recommendations and that'll suck. Mainly because I'll probably just forget to turn it back on afterward!

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Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.