Two years ago I published my original comparison video of Spotify vs Apple Music and it has become one of my most popular videos, but it was published right after Apple Music came out and a lot has changed in the last two years. Today, Apple Music and Spotify are the two most popular music streaming services and in this video I will compare both of them in a head-to-head battle to see which is the best music service and to help you make the ultimate choice of on-demand music.
Both services have the same pricing structures. They’re both $9.99/month for the all-access individual plan, $14.99/month for a family plan up to 6 people, and $4.99/month for the college student discount. So based on that, they have the exact same monthly plans. However, here are some key differences to keep in mind:
Apple Music is available in many more countries than Spotify so that’s pretty much the decision maker right there if you reside in a country that’s only supported by one of the services, you gotta go with that one. The trials are a bit different too. Apple Music’s 3-month trial is free to try while Spotify’s 3-month trial costs 99 cents. Not a huge deal but it does make it easier to try out Apple Music. Another difference is Apple Music’s secret annual plan so if you’re already an Apple Music member instead of paying $10/month which is $120/year you can switch to a $99 annual subscription which saves you $20/year by drilling down into your Apple Music subscription settings on your iPhone and choosing the 1-year option. I’ll leave the full path on how to do that in the description below. So that’s something that Spotify does not currently offer at the time of this video. I’m subscribed to the $9.99/month plan for both services, and something I noticed is that Spotify only charges me $9.99 per month, without any taxes. Apple Music charges taxes which comes to be $10.59 per month, which will vary based on where you live. But that comes to be 60 cents extra per month compared to Spotify, and hypothetically speaking over the course of 10 years that is an extra $72. Is that a huge deal? Not for most people, but if you’ve ever been to the Frugal subreddit I guarantee there are people who will say that’s why they use Spotify over Apple Music, to save that 60 cents a month baby. Shouts out to my frugal peeps out there, all love. But the biggest difference is that Spotify offers a free plan. It’s shuffle-only and has limits and ads, but it’s still a big advantage to have since Apple Music does not offer a free plan. The only thing that can be accessed for free on Apple Music is their Beats 1 radio.
At the time of this post:
Spotify offers 30 million+ songs
Apple Music offers 40 million+ songs
(Will change after time; Song availability depends on region)
Spotify lets you choose between 96Kbps, 160Kbps, and 320Kbps which is nice because you can save data when streaming and have high quality for the songs you download.
Apple Music streams at 256Kbps.
Both services offer the ability to download music and listen to it while you’re disconnected from the internet.
Spotify: 10,000 song limit in library
Apple Music: 100,000 song limit in library
Spotify is more “open” and cross-platform friendly. PC/Mac/Web, Spotify Connect lets you switch between devices seamlessly. It works with a plethora of devices like Samsung Gear, Amazon devices, Alexa integration, PlayStation, Smart TVs, Roku, and many more.
Apple Music is more of a “closed” environment like most Apple products: PC/Mac (requires iTunes; no web player), is supported on Android but works best with iOS; Seamless integration with Apple TV, Apple Watch, Apple CarPlay, and the HomePod, Apple’s new smart speaker. Supports Siri so you can say things like “Play the #1 song from 2004”. So it makes a lot of sense to go with Apple Music if you’re heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem but that’s not necessarily always the case.
Apple Music seems to land more exclusive deals with big artists where certain albums are released first to Apple Music then later to Spotify (Drake’s Views and Frank Ocean’s Blonde are examples of this). Some albums and artists choose to only be on Apple Music. Taylor Swift was the most notable example of that, but she is now back on Spotify.
Both services offer their own exclusive content. For Example, Apple Music has exclusive video shows like Planet of the Apps that are only available to Apple Music members. Spotify has things like Spotify Sessions which are studio and live recordings of a wide variety of artists.
Apple Music shows full lyrics of a song in the app itself. Spotify has an integration with Genius, which shows some of the lyrics mixed in with fun facts about the song or the meaning of certain lyrics but it doesn’t show full lyrics like Apple Music, and the Genius lyrics integration is only available for certain songs. You can use a free third party app like MusixMatch and it will recognize whatever song you’re playing on Spotify and show you the lyrics in real time which is cool, but I think Apple Music gets the nod if you want the quickest access to full lyrics of the current song playing.
Apple Music syncs your existing iTunes library pretty effortlessly. Spotify syncs your existing iTunes library too, but it’s a bit more of a complicated process and it’s not as seamlessly integrated as it is with Apple Music. So they both do it, but Apple Music does it a little better.
Radio is very subjective so here’s how I personally feel about the radio stations. Both radio stations created from artists are pretty similar, it’s kind of what you expect. However, Apple Music radio stations created from individual songs seem to be a little better than Spotify. It seems to play more new music. Spotify radio stations created from individual songs seem to play more of that artist of the song that the radio was created from. It doesn’t suggest as many new artists or songs as Apple Music.
Apple Music has Beats 1 radio which is a popular feature that users love, but they also have these really cool on-demand radio stations from certain artists so you can listen to music and also listen to commentary like a normal radio show.
Even though I think Apple Music radio is better, I do prefer Spotify’s interface with Radio stations because you can see the list of songs that it’s going to play next. On Apple Music you can only see the next song.
Playlists are also subjective, but in my experience Spotify has a better selection and layout of hand-curated playlists along with algorithm-based playlists. Both services have a large number of playlists based on things like Mood and Feel, or Genre but I think Spotify really gets Playlists right since they have way more experience with it. But the two big advantages of Spotify playlists are Daily Mixes and Discover Weekly.
Daily Mixes are custom playlists of songs that you have listened to a lot with some new songs thrown in and they’re automatically updated for you multiple times per week. So it’s a great way to listen to a specific genre of songs that you know you already like. Discover Weekly, in my opinion, is the best way to discover new music that you’ve never heard before that you’re almost guaranteed to like. It’s automatically updated every Monday and it’s something that I can throw on and listen to any time and I’ll almost always end up saving a song to my library form the result of discovering it on my Discover Weekly playlist.
For some reason Apple as a company just doesn’t do Social very well. The only social aspect of Apple Music is the Connect feature that lets you follow your favorite artists. Spotify has way better Social features. For example you can create, share and follow playlists made from any Spotify user who makes them public which makes their playlist selection way more extensive than Apple Music. For example: if you search Productivity on Apple Music it doesn’t give any results for hand-made productivity playlists, but if you search Productivity on Spotify there are tons of playlists, some made by Spotify, but most created and shared by Spotify users. Another great Spotify feature is Collaborative Playlists which lets you and your friends add songs to the same playlist. So Spotify has the advantage when it comes to playlists.
I’m using an iPhone 7 so that’s what I’ll be basing the app experience on. Both app layouts are very similar, with the menu at the bottom and the player bar on top of that then the main window above that. Apple Music menu items consist of Library, For You, Browse, Radio, and Search. Spotify has Home, Browse, Search, Radio, and Library. So they have pretty much the same exact options because we can assume Apple’s For You section is the same as Spotify’s Home section.
I think the Spotify app has a better design and layout than Apple Music. I prefer Spotify’s dark theme, and their overall design is friendly allowing more items on the screen compared to Apple Music which seems to like to showcase individual selections that almost take up the entire screen. I like how Spotify shows the number of monthly listeners for an artist, just for the fact I can gauge to see how well known an artist is in comparison to other artists in the same genre. It’s not a game changing feature but I do like it, and I do wish Apple Music had something similar or maybe even display the average rating for albums like it does on the iTunes app.
One thing I wish Spotify did was display the Featured Artist on songs. It’s weird because some songs have that info, but most songs do not display who the featured artist if the song has one. It’s really annoying. Apple Music seems to always show the featured artist info on the song that’s playing which is what Spotify should do.
When you search on Spotify, the search suggestions are split into different categories like Songs, Artists, Albums, Playlists, Podcasts, and even Profiles instead of one big list of suggestions like on Apple Music. Some people might not like this, but I think it’s way better than Apple Music’s search design and Spotify’s search algorithm does a good job at suggesting some of your most visited songs, albums, and artists. And with Spotify you’re saving a step because when you tap on a song in the search suggestions it starts playing it. On Apple Music to start playing the song, you have to tap the search result and then tap the song to play it. It’s just an extra step that you have to do.
Both apps allow you to edit the queue of the current songs or playlist that you’re listening to which is good, but neither app has a functionality that I’ve been wanting for years. I really want to be able to tap the Artist name of the current song that’s playing and have it take me directly to the Artist page. Right now on both apps, you have to tap the album first, then go to the Artist. Not a huge deal but it would definitely be a convenient feature to have. As many things that I loge about Spotify, their Shuffle sucks. It’s really bad. When I want to shuffle my music library I want a completely random order, but Spotify’s shuffle algorithm is skewed and tends to play more songs by artists that you listen to a lot or have a lot of songs saved by them. Apple does their Shuffle the way it’s supposed to be, completely random or at least way more random than Spotify.
Spotify does have some functionalities that I’ve grown to love that Apple Music doesn’t have. For example on Spotify you can hold down on a song and it will preview the song. Spotify also has convenient ways to add songs to the queue or save to your library by swiping left or right on any song respectively. It’s these little details that make Spotify’s user experience better than Apple Music in my opinion.
So after all that, which is the best music streaming service right now? Spotify or Apple Music? Well, for me, I’m going to stick with Spotify as my premium music streaming service. Even though I’m pretty invested in the Apple ecosystem, at the end of the day I prefer Spotify’s features and user experience more than Apple Music. Does that mean Apple Music is not right for you? Of course not, this is a very subjective decision and my best advice for you would be to sign up for the trial versions of both services and try them out yourself.