8 Oct 2019
Spotify is great for social listeners that don’t buy music and trust Spotify to serve up what’s popular or what the algorithms say they like. Spotify Connect’s ability to hand off your queue between practically any device is also invaluable.
- Great selection
- Better sound quality than Apple Music
- Best-in-class playback handoff between devices
- Best streaming bundle for students
- 10,000 song library limit is easy to hit
- No cloud integration for purchased or uploaded music
- Inferior support experience, especially on Android
Apple Music may have been relatively late to the streaming scene, but the service has made some considerable progress, especially on Android in the last few months. Even if your phone doesn’t have an apple on the back, Apple Music can work quite well on it.
- Wider music selection with Apple Music Exclusives
- Better UI with Light/Dark theme options
- Easier library management and purchased music integration
- Features are still late to Android
- Algorithms aren’t as good as Spotify’s
- Browsing is a little more difficult
Music makes my world go round, and if it makes yours go round, too, then you know exactly how important it is to have a streaming service you can trust to serve up the tunes you need on all of your devices. Apple Music’s made some progress, but they’re still not quite ready to dethrone Spotify.
Sound quality and device limitations
Spotify Premium offers audio streaming qualities up to 320 kbps on “Extreme quality” and up to 256 kbps while playing on Chromecast, while Apple Music streams at 256 kbps. However, in real world experience, unless you’re truly an audiophile snob — in which case, why aren’t you using TIDAL? — both services sound great when being played back via phone speakers, Bluetooth headphones, and streaming to connected speakers.
|Wear OS app||✔️||❌|
|Android TV app||✔️||❌|
|Android Auto app||✔️||✔️|
|Web client||✔️||In Beta|
|Chromecast compatibility||✔️||In Beta|
|Google Assistant compatibility||✔️||❌|
|Max audio quality||320 kbps||256 kbps|
|Device limits||Only for offline (5 devices)||10 devices|
|Offline limits||5 devices 10,000 songs||10 devices|
Speaking of connected speakers, Apple Music has finally added Chromecast support to the beta version of the Apple Music Android app, which eliminates one of the bigger problems the service had for Android users. It’s also launched a web player in beta — bringing Apple Music to Chromebooks and work computers you couldn’t install iTunes on — and added an Android Auto app for us to enjoy our tunes safely and easily while driving.
Apple Music still isn’t available through Google Assistant’s music service tie-in, and until it is, Spotify still has the edge on both device limits and cross-device playback. Spotify Connect connects to a wider variety of speakers and devices than any other music service on the planet, and remains the only service that integrates with Google, Amazon, Apple, and Sonos smart speakers.
Spotify’s five-device limit may sound smaller than Apple’s 10-device limit, but since Apple Music’s device limit applies to all device authorizations and Spotify’s only applies to devices you download music on, it’s far easier to hit Apple’s device limit than Spotify’s. Apple Music does have a small edge in that if you’ve got a phone with lots of storage, you can download more than 10,000 songs, which is Spotify’s size limit for both downloads and library.
Library and features
Both Apple Music and Spotify have over 50 million songs available to their users to stream, but Apple Music has a better selection of artists and songs, especially when it comes to more niche genres like musicals and J-Pop. Spotify has more indie content, but Apple has leveraged the power iTunes amassed as the first and most-used digital music store of the 2000s, and it shows.
Apple Music’s song limit is 100,000 songs, ten times larger than Spotfy’s 10,000. Apple Music also doesn’t count any purchased songs added to your library through iTunes Match towards that 100,000 song limit, which is a great advantage for listeners who still buy music that doesn’t end up in streaming catalogs (like me).
|Songs available||50 million+||50 million+|
|Library limit||10,000 songs||100,000 songs|
|Playlist size limits||10,000 songs||100,000 songs|
|Lyrics||Genius Lyrics (display on device and Chromecast)||✔️|
|Gapless playback||Crossfade only (and not when casting)||Album and platform-dependent|
|App theming||Dark theme|
|White and dark themes|
|Support quality||More new features|
Very slow to fix bugs on Android
|Slower to add new features|
Getting better at Android bug fixes
Spotify’s automatic stations and suggested songs seem to be slightly more accurate in their predictions than Apple Music’s, though both still fail to nail my tastes half as well as YouTube Music does. Discovery and Browsing in general are better on Spotify, but if you tend to listen to music you already like more than new content, Apple Music makes it easier to seek out and manage music in your library than Spotify does.
When it comes to interfaces and UI, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, but I have to confess that Apple Music’s UI has grown on me considerably since the addition of a Dark theme option and the adoption of bottom tab navigation, something Spotify’s had for years. I appreciate that the bottom tabs on Apple Music put Library on the left rather than the right since I tend to one-hand my phone in my left hand while holding drinks or bags, but the Home tab from Spotify is something that For You just doesn’t replace well.
Apple Music’s Now Playing layout is also far cleaner than Spotify’s, and the extra space between the playback controls and the seek bar help avoid the accidental skips and seeks while trying to pause or rewind. Apple Music’s sing-along style of lyric display tops Spotify’s card-based style, with Apple also having lyrics for a far wider selection of songs. However, Spotify’s ability to select multiple songs in the Now Playing queue to add to a playlist or remove is nice compared to the one at a time management system on Apple Music, although Apple Music’s animations and UI for moving between the queue and Now Playing are much smoother.
Plans and pricing
Spotify Premium for Family and Apple Music’s family plans are both $15 per month and give up to six users their own premium subscription account. Everyone on a Spotify family plan has to live at the same address, and you can’t change addresses once it starts; if you move, you have either go to individual plans or delete your accounts and start over. Apple Music’s plan lacks these restrictions, and Apple Music also has an annual billing option for individual plans that lets you save $20 a year.
|Trial period||3 months (Individual and Student)|
1 month (Duo and Family)
|Yearly price||Monthly only||$99|
Includes Hulu and SHOWTIME
|Personal library integration||Local mp3 integration||iTunes Match|
If you’re in college, though, Spotify Student is what you want, hands down. It bundles Spotify Premium, Hulu (ad-supported), and Showtime for $5 per month, which is way better than just getting Apple Music for $5 per month. The only student bundle that even comes close to competing with Spotify Student is YouTube Premium’s student discount, but to most users right now YouTube Music is simply too unpolished for everyday use.
Spotify does have a free, ad-supported tier of service while Apple Music requires a paid subscription for all users, but Spotify’s free tier is pretty annoying to use since you’re stuck on shuffle all the time. Spotify recently bumped the trial period for students and individual Premium accounts to match Apple Music’s three month trial, but if you’re on a family plan, your trial is still only 30 days.
It’s also worth noting that for many countries, Apple Music is your only option if Spotify hasn’t made it there yet, but both are far more widely available than the rest of the streaming services on the market.
Making great strides
Apple is finally starting to make sense for Android users.
Even six months ago, Apple Music didn’t make a whole lot of sense for users who weren’t at least partially using Apple hardware. With the beta additions of Chromecast support and web players, Apple Music finally becomes an actual competitor for Android users.
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Ara Wagoner is a Writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes Google Play Music with a stick. When she’s not writing help and how-to’s, she’s off dreaming about Disney and singing show tunes. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.