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Apple Music vs Spotify – Which is better?

The way people buy and listen to music has been completely revolutionized since the dawn of the digital age. We’ve steadily moved away from a physical product over to music streaming services hosted online.

Streaming now accounts for over half of the revenue produced worldwide by the music industry, having passed this threshold in 2019. That figure rises to a staggering 83% in the United States.

By far, the biggest players in the business are Spotify and Apple Music. They have 155 million and 72 million premium subscribers worldwide as of 2020, respectively.

The Swedish company…

Spotify has been the industry leader since around 2008, further cementing its dominance since that time. Many rivals have come and gone. The biggest challenge to their throne now comes from Apple Music, who joined the fray back in 2015 and continue to rapidly expand their subscriber base.

So which is the best music streaming service of the two? If you haven’t already subscribed to either, we’ve analyzed the pros and cons of both in this head-to-head battle to help you decide. So, let the platform wars commence. It’s Apple Music vs Spotify in a fight to the death.

Subscription Fees

Subscription Fees

If you haven’t got the spare cash to pay for your music streaming service, Spotify can be used without paying a dime. It’s a limited service that doesn’t come close to the user experience of having a premium account. But it’s hard to complain when you’re not being charged.

Free users will have to tolerate adverts invading their listening, a restricted 160kbps data streaming rate, and no ability to download and listen offline. The number of tracks you can search and stream is also limited to 750 songs per month.

How much does Spotify cost? A premium subscription of $10 per month gives you full unrestricted, ad-free access, and an increase to 320kbps quality streaming. You’ll also be able to download your music for offline listening.

Apple Music doesn’t have a free service…

Although you don’t have to be a member to access Apple Music 1 Radio, one of the best features on the platform. New subscribers will get the first three months for nothing, and then it’s the industry standard $10 per month after that. This includes unlimited streaming and downloading.

If you can prove your student status, both companies offer a premium subscription for $5 per month. Family plans are also available for a bargain of $15 per month, which covers up to six users per household. Spotify also has a special deal for couples which costs $12.99 per month.

As Spotify has a free version of their service, and everything else is equal, this is one in the win column for them.

Winner – Spotify.

Music Library

Spotify originally gained its prominence by offering the largest library of songs by a substantial margin. How many songs on Spotify? They currently have over 50 million songs, with a reported 40,000 being added every day. They’ve managed to gain their huge market share based on this.

It’s also great for keeping you up to date with new music. Head to the “new releases” tab. Every Friday, you’ll find an updated list of all the latest albums, singles, and live sessions from your favorite artists.

Apple Music is a relative newcomer to the music streaming business. So, how many songs on Apple Music? They’ve amassed an even bigger library of 60 million songs, and they also claim to be adding an extra 40,000 per day.

Exclusive artists…

Apple has managed to sign several exclusive deals with Dr Dre, Frank Ocean, Drake, and Britney Spears, amongst others. This is down to the fact they don’t offer any kind of free service. Spotify can’t compete with this and has been known to demote those artists in their search ranking results.

Winner – Draw.

Podcast Library

One area Spotify has got Apple music beaten is in podcast streaming. They have built an impressive library of over 700,000 podcasts and counting. In 2019 they purchased Gimlet Media, the podcast producers adding their whole back catalog. They’ve also splashed the cash, signing their exclusive deals with podcasting giants like Joe Rogan.

What’s the best podcast service? The Spotify app is excellent for podcast listening, including timers and playback speed controls if you want to race through episodes. It’s become the best streaming service for podcasts, superseding Apple, where podcasts can only be found in a separate app.

Winner – Spotify.

Music Discovery and Playlists

Music Discovery and Playlists

It sure ain’t like it used to be. With so much music at your fingertips, it can be overwhelming trying to find new music to expand your library. Thankfully, Spotify has a load of great features to help you find new music that will match your musical preferences.

First and foremost…

The excellent “Discover Weekly.” This is a fabulously personalized two-hour playlist that arrives every Monday. It uses an amazingly effective algorithm. Bringing you music from artists you may never have come across.

It’s all based on your listening history and the listening history of other users who like the same artists. Therefore, when it comes to Apple Music vs Spotify in terms of finding new music you like, Spotify is already way ahead.

Monday mornings are given a real boost…

With a list of songs perfectly tailored to your tastes. Many of the songs you’ll have never heard before. They also throw in extended versions and great covers of your favorite songs.

Spotify’s “Release Radar” is another great tool. Every Friday, you receive a playlist of any new material or live sessions from your favorite artists or something similar.

Spotify creates personalized playlists…

All based around your preferred music genres and playlists to fit particular moods or activities. Got a party coming up or simply want some good workout tunes? They provide you with a myriad of curated playlists to choose from. Furthermore, they create five daily mixes, which evolve the more you use Spotify.

Likewise, you can join forces with your friends. You can use the collaborative playlists feature to build tracklists together, a nice option, especially in times like these.

Apple takes a different approach to things…

When signing up, you have the option to select your favorite artists. This is done by clicking circular icons, once for like and twice for love. You always have the option of revising your choices at a later date as your tastes evolve.

This process works well enough if using a laptop but becomes rather impractical when trying to do it on a mobile device. The more artists you click on, the more icons fill the screen, making it tricky to add new selections.

An annoying process…

However, once completed, the curated playlists that Apple sends are pretty well suited to your tastes. Apple has a dedicated team of experts who handpick playlists based on genre, artist, or even around activities like driving. They also generate mood-related lists with names like “chill” and “get-up.”

Although Apple Music playlists are well-tailored to your preferences, they lack the adventurous nature of Spotify’s algorithmic approach. Spotify’s method is unbeatable for discovering music, both old and new music you’ve never heard before and will want to hear again.

Winner – Spotify.

Downloads & Offline Usage

Downloads & Offline Usage

Apple Music is streets ahead in this department. Offering the ability to download and store up to 100,000 songs that can be used across ten different devices.

Spotify is lagging way behind. Allowing a maximum of 10,000 song downloads to be used across five separate devices. That’s still approximately 1,000 albums worth of listening. A figure that should cover most listener’s requirements. Still, it’s a little strange that they haven’t tried to close the gap on their streaming rival.

Winner – Apple Music.

Interface and User Experience

From the earliest days, Spotify set the gold standard for a clean and intuitive layout that’s accessible and very simple to use. The stylish green, grey, and black interface with its logical and clear sidebar menu are very hard to improve upon. It’s the ideal template that functions seamlessly across multiple platforms and devices.

Whether you’re an iOS or Android loyalist, using a mobile or a laptop, you’ll enjoy the same level of effective simplicity regardless. Both mobile and desktop apps, although slightly different in their layout, have a level of usability no other streaming service can match.

Spotify’s search window is worth a mention…

Just like performing a google search, it provides accurate results after just a few keystrokes. You rarely have to finish what you’re typing before the correct song or artist appears.

After an initially shaky start, Apple Music has made great strides in trying to close this gap. Although its mobile app still lags in terms of sheer usability. Everything feels a little cramped when using your phone. The desktop app, however, is a far more user-friendly experience.

While available on Android devices, Apple Music provides a much better experience when used on iOS platforms. For example, Siri voice control is fully integrated with Apple Music. If using an Apple device, you can pull songs up verbally on demand. Something you won’t be able to do on the Android version.

What about Amazon?

Both Spotify and Apple Music work in conjunction with Amazon Echo speakers, using the voice assistant Alexa to make song selections. Spotify is also integrated into Chromecast, Google’s streaming device, allowing the ability for easy home-theater streaming. In a move that’s most unlike them, Apple has also allowed Spotify onto their AppleTV platform.

For those that don’t like using apps, Spotify can also be accessed via a web player. It’s not quite as smooth an overall experience, but it adds another layer of versatility all the same. Gamers will also be happy to note that Spotify is fully integrated into both PlayStation and X-Box One consoles.

Getting the most out of Apple Music…

You need to be a paid member of the Apple ecosystem, owning several separate devices. You can use it with Android, but it just doesn’t have the same level of compatibility.

Spotify, on the other hand, is user-friendly regardless of whether you’re an android or iOS user. It’s this universal, multiplatform usability that makes it the better overall user experience.

Winner – Spotify.

Social Media Integration

Social Media Integration

This is a big factor in the Apple Music vs Spotify discussion. You can connect your Facebook and Spotify accounts. Allowing you to track what your friends are listening to, share playlists, and post song links. There’s a friend activity tracker on the right of the laptop interface that keeps you posted with regular updates.

Apple has no such integration. Only allowing you to add fellow Apple Music users as friends. Their icons will pop up occasionally, showing what albums they are currently playing. That’s it.

If you’re the kind of person that enjoys sharing your listening preferences and seeing what other people like, Spotify is the better choice.

Winner – Spotify.

Cloud Capabilities

One of the best features of Apple Music is the iCloud Music Library. This gives you complete access to your library of iTunes that you bought. And any music that you downloaded directly from Apple music. This can be done from anywhere, regardless of whether the device you’re using has the songs stored on it.

This is an extremely handy feature, one which Spotify has yet to develop. A clear win for Apple Music.

Winner – Apple Music.

Radio Options

Radio Options

Spotify hasn’t incorporated what you might think of as a “traditional radio experience” into their service. Instead, they use their algorithmic approach to create playlists based on a particular artist or even an individual song. It works as well as you’d imagine, but it’s a bit of a stretch calling it “radio.”

Apple Music has gone for the genuine experience involving actual humans. Their Apple Music 1 channel is similar to an old-school radio station. It comes complete with regular programming and a whole host of in-house DJs such as Zane Lowe spinning the decks.

Famous musicians often pop up for guest slots…

Playing the songs that inspired them to make music and tracks they’re currently into. It makes fascinating listening if you catch someone you’re a fan of.

They also have several genre-based stations that run non-stop. If you just want to listen to Hip-Hop, Country, or classical, you’ll find a station dedicated to those sounds. Radio used to be such a big part of people’s lives. So, it’s good to see Apple Music giving it the nod it deserves.

Winner – Apple Music.

Want the Best Apple Music or Spotify Experience?

For starters, ditch the factory earbuds that came with either your Android or iOS mobile device. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Lightning Headphones for iPhone & iPad, the Best iPhone Earbuds, the Best Airpods Alternative, the Best Headphones for Music, and the Best Bass Earbuds you can buy in 2021.

Also, take a look at our comprehensive reviews of the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Wired Earbuds, the Best Headphones with Volume Control, the Best Headphones with Google Assistant, and of course, our Apple Airpods Pro review for more ways to improve your Spotify or Apple Music experience.

Apple Music vs Spotify – The Final Verdict

This one went the distance. So it’s off to the scorecard where all three judges award a narrow points win to the reigning champ Spotify.

Apple MusicSpotify
Subscription Fees+
Music Library++
Podcast Library+
Music Discovery & Playlists+
Interface & User Experience+
Offline Usage & Downloads+
Cloud Capabilities+
Social Media Integration+
Radio Options+
Total46

Both streaming services have their pros and cons. But when it comes to intuitive usability across multiple platforms and the fact they offer users a free, albeit restricted version, Spotify takes the crown by the smallest of margins.

Apple Music’s slightly clunky mobile interface doesn’t do justice to the impressive library of content. If they can address this issue, and make the user experience as good for Android users as it is for iOS owners, then they will have a service that can challenge Spotify for the title.

Until next time, let the music move you.

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About Joseph L. Hollen

Joseph is a session musician, writer, and filmmaker from south Florida. He has recorded a number of albums and made numerous short films, as well as contributing music to shorts and commercials. 

He doesn't get as much time to practice and play as he used to, but still manages (just about!) to fulfill all his session requests. According to Joseph, it just gets harder as you get older; you rely on what you learned decades ago and can play without thinking. Thankfully that's what is what most producers still want from him.

He is a devout gear hear and has been collecting musical instruments all his life. As his wife, Jill, keeps on saying, "You're very good at buying nice instruments, but terrible at selling them!".

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