If you're going to stream music (which, let's be honest — how else are you getting your music these days? CDs?), you probably are already familiar with the two music streaming giants: Spotify and Apple Music.
If you're signing up for a streaming service for the first time or wondering if you should switch streaming services, here's everything you need to know about both Spotify and Apple Music.
This will help you make the best decision for yourself, whether your primary concern is audio quality, price or anything in-between.
Spotify vs. Apple Music: Price
Both Spotify and Apple Music are relatively affordable: $10 per month each, making it well worth the cost if you frequently stream music. Everyday entertainment is worth less than a dollar a day.
Both subscriptions offer family plans starting at $15 per month, which you can share with up to five of your family members or friends. There is also a smaller, two-person duo plan available on Spotify Premium for $13.
Are you a student on a budget? You can opt for the regular subscription at half the price — $5 per month. Students who purchase a two-person duo plan on Spotify, though, get additional perks, like access to Hulu and Showtime.
Both services offer free, three-month trial periods.
In terms of price, you could say that Spotify and Apple Music are nearly neck and neck… but hold up — there's one crucial thing Spotify offers that Apple Music does not: a free tier. Spotify extends a free version of its service where you can stream all your favorite tunes, with a few limitations.
If you choose to go the free route, Spotify will force you to listen to some ads on occasion and, unless you're listening on a laptop or desktop computer, you'll only be able to skip five or fewer songs per hour. If you're okay with this and want to go with the cheapest music streaming service offered, Spotify is a clear winner.
Outside of that, if you don't mind paying a minimal monthly fee, Apple Music and Spotify are, indeed, just about the same.
Spotify vs. Apple Music: Music Selection
If you're not necessarily looking for one particular type of music or podcast, and you want the most variety you can get for your money, you may want to strongly consider the best contender for the overall music selection: Apple Music.
Sure, Spotify does have more than 50 million songs, and it's constantly adding new music from both trending and lesser-known artists, but Apple has Spotify beat. With Apple Music, you have access to over 60 million songs and counting.
Both platforms release their own "special" and "exclusive" albums and songs. Apple Music has a history of acquiring exclusive rights to popular artists' albums, while Spotify's exclusive albums are usually re-recordings known as Spotify Sessions.
Spotify vs. Apple Music: Integration with Your Already-Owned Music
Already have plenty of music downloaded or uploaded onto your computer, phone or other devices? You'll be able to easily access it all with Apple Music. Just give the platform a search, and you can easily find what you're looking for, no fumbling around with extra tabs required — which is what Spotify requires you to do.
Additionally, subscribers can access music stored in the iCloud or on iTunes and integrate it with Apple Music. Spotify requires you to upload songs from local files only, with no in-cloud integration.
This might not be a huge deal for you if you don't have an expansive music library of your own, but for some users, the extra steps required to find your own music on the platform can be a pain.
Spotify vs. Apple Music: Streaming Quality
If you're an audiophile, streaming and audio quality probably matters a great deal to you.
Spotify's web player streams at 128 kbps on the free version and 256 kbps on the premium version, while the mobile app can stream at up to 320 kbps (you also have the option to adjust the bitrate on the app). The desktop download streams at 160 kbps on the free version and 320 kbps on the premium version.
Apple Music streams at 256 kbps across the board.
But what does all that mean if you're not a serious audiophile? Nothing. The average listener can't tell the difference at all.
Spotify vs. Apple Music: Podcasts
Here's where Spotify beats Apple Music, hands down, no questions asked. Spotify offers lots of different podcasts right within the app, so you can easily switch between music and podcasts. Apple Music doesn't even offer podcasts at all.
At the moment, Spotify offers more than 700,000 different podcasts.
One incredibly cool feature with Spotify? You can download podcasts for listening offline, an excellent perk for when you're driving in areas that don't have great cell service or when you're on a long flight. You can also download playlists in a similar manner, but there's a limit of 10,000 songs on up to five devices (Apple Music allows you to download 100,000 songs across 10 devices, but again, no podcasts).
Spotify vs. Apple Music: Music Discovery and Finding New Music
One of the joys of using any streaming service is stumbling upon new music or a new artist that quickly becomes one of your favorites. So how do these two services stack up when it comes to providing you with great recommendations on new songs that you're likely to love?
Spotify does a nice job of this by providing you with a weekly "Discover Weekly" playlist of songs it thinks you'll like, as well as by recommending curated songs for your playlists, as well as similar artists whenever you're browsing a specific artist's page.
Spotify also provides curated playlists and a "daily mix" based on your listening habits, though those playlists usually incorporate music you've already heard or listened to on your own.
Apple Music slightly lacks in this area, as its recommendations all come in the form of "stations" put together by actual humans versus a more accurate algorithm.
Spotify vs. Apple Music: User Experience
Regardless of which streaming service you go with, both are pretty easy to use, whether you're using them on a laptop or desktop app, on a mobile app or even your watches.
As you listen, both will show you lyrics to the song you're listening to, which is a nice touch. Still, they differ in that Spotify will play an animation or short video while you're listening on mobile, while Apple Music will allow you to search lyrics to find a song.
Both play music in the background while you use Google or Apple Maps on mobile devices. Spotify will also work while you use Waze. Both are available on iOS and Android (so you're not tethered to your iPhone with Apple Music) and on the desktop in an internet browser. Both can stream to just about any Bluetooth-enabled speaker.
Apple Music works with the Apple HomePod and Alex devices, whereas Spotify works with Alexa devices and Google Smart Home devices. You can also stream Spotify via gaming consoles like your Xbox or PlayStation.
Spotify vs. Apple Music: Sharing and Social Options
Both platforms allow various ways for you to interact with others, both within and outside of the platform.
On Spotify, you can follow other Spotify users and see what they're listening to at the moment. You can also share your playlists, or just favorite songs and albums, with friends via a link or specific social media platforms. Spotify additionally offers the platform's cool "Wrapped" feature that you've probably seen so many of your friends sharing on their social media, which shows you what you listened to the most over the course of the last year.
On Apple Music, you can similarly follow other users, but you have to upload a contacts list or connect your Facebook account to the platform to do so.
Both Apple Music and Spotify allow you to follow your favorite artists and get extra info on upcoming tours, merchandise and more.
But What About Other Alternatives?
But Spotify and Apple Music aren't the only music streaming platforms out there. What are some of your other options?
Prime Music (Plus Other Amazon Options)
If you're an Amazon Prime member, you automatically enjoy access to Prime Music, an ad-free, on-demand music listening service. You get access to 2 million songs, which is not very many compared to Spotify and Apple Music. Still, if you already have an Amazon Prime subscription, it's worth looking into Prime Music just to see if you prefer their platform. It is free (with an Amazon Prime subscription), after all.
However, there are two offshoots of Prime Music that allow you to upgrade your experience: Amazon Music Unlimited and Amazon Music HD.
Amazon Music Unlimited costs $8 per month if you're already an Amazon Prime member. The service is available to non-Prime members, too, though, at $10 per month. As with Spotify and Apple Music, family plans are available, and you get a three-month trial period. Amazon Music Unlimited offers more than 60 million songs, and it works very well with any Alexa device in your home. The one downside? Your account will only work on one device.
Amazon Music HD is more expensive (but not by a lot), and you get what you pay for with this service. Prime members pay $13 per month, while non-Prime members pay $13 per month. Family plans and three-month trials are available. You get access to Amazon Music Unlimited's 60 million songs, but the real value is in the high-quality audio. You can stream songs at 850 kbps, a sound quality leaps and bounds above what Spotify and Apple Music offer.
YouTube is so much more than a mere video streaming platform these days. Beyond the YouTube website, there is YouTube Red and YouTube TV. You can also sign up for YouTube Music, a free music streaming service if you're willing to listen to ads, a $10-per-month service if you're not.
Like Spotify and Apple Music, YouTube Music also offers a family plan and discounts for college students. Google Home smart speakers are automatically programmed to use YouTube Music.
There's also a separate subscription, YouTube Premium, at $12 per month, which gives you access to YouTube Music and ad-free YouTube watching, plus admittance to some extra videos that aren't available to the average YouTube viewer.
The OG music streaming platform, Pandora has done its best to keep up with the times. Pandora is still free with ads, but then is also available at $5 per month without ads; however, that $5 per month only gets you a radio-style listening experience. For on-demand music, you'll need to pay $10 per month. Family plans, trial periods and discounts for college students and military personnel are available.
A newer player, Tidal offers 70 million-plus songs, and subscriptions are available in three tiers. There's a free version that allows you to play channels, but no on-demand music or skipping is allowed. Another level at $10 per month will enable you to play songs at 320 kbps. But the highest tier, at $20 per month, is really for the audiophile, as you can play tracks at up to 9,216 kbps.
Spotify vs. Apple Music: Which is the Best Music Streaming Service?
So, how do these two leading streaming services compare?
- A free version
- A higher audio quality
- More personalized music recommendations
Apple Music offers:
- A larger music selection
- Better integration with your own music collection
Both options offer you an enjoyable user experience, easy compatibility with your Bluetooth speakers and smart home devices and easy ways to share the listening experience with friends and fellow users.
If you're the average music listener, you'll likely enjoy Spotify more than Apple Music. If, however, you have an extensive music collection and you want access to more music and exclusive artist tracks, you'll want to go with Apple Music.
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