Apple Music vs Spotify: Which Can Ride the Stream to Victory?

George Tinari

By now you’ve probably heard all the hype about Apple Music. It’s $9.99 per month with your first three months free, accessible on nearly all of your Apple devices and comes with cool features like Connect to follow artist updates and personalized recommendations. Sounds great, right?

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Which music streaming service is worthy of your subscription? | Shutterstock

Sure, but why should you switch from your current streaming service to this new one if it’s the same price? You could also be looking to sign up for music streaming for the first time and might be confused about which one is worth your monthly 10 bucks.

Let’s pit Apple Music and Spotify against each other to see which one offers the most bang for your buck. The two are similar in many ways, but also have important differences worth knowing about.

Apple Music Has More Content and Smarter Recommendations

It’s hard to determine which has a larger library of music available for streaming, but the general consensus seems to think it’s Apple. Apple is paying a bit more back to the artists and record labels, plus has more clout in the music industry with iTunes. Notably, Apple Music includes music videos too, Spotify does not.

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Taylor Swift, who notably kept her latest album off of Spotify and any streaming service for that matter, agreed to let Apple Music users stream it. Plus, I’ve personally noticed that new releases have lately landed on Apple Music ahead of Spotify.

Recommendations differs for everyone, but in my experience, Apple Music has far better recommendations for discovering new music and playlists you might enjoy. While I consider myself someone who loves all genres of music, much of my library is filled with pop and R&B from the 1990’s and 2000’s. Sure enough, clicking the For You tab in Apple Music highlights artists like Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Frank Ocean, Miguel, Justin Timberlake and others – right up my alley. Many other reviews of Apple Music seem to suggest success with the recommendations also.

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The one major downside to Apple Music is that the user interface needs improvement. On Spotify it’s ridiculously easy to find any song or album and listen on demand. Since Apple Music combines the music streaming service and recommendations with your iTunes library and playlists all in one app, it gets pretty complicated to navigate at times. (It’s also just plain ugly on iTunes for PC and Mac.)

Spotify Makes Music Social

Spotify dominates the social aspect of any music streaming service including when up against Apple Music, but before getting into that, let’s go over what Apple Music brings to the table in this regard.

The main social component of Apple Music lies within Connect. It has its own tab on iOS and in iTunes and it’s a dedicated hub for keeping up with the artists you follow.

Note: When you sign up for Apple Music and import songs from your existing iTunes library, Apple Music will automatically follow the artists you already had in your library on Connect. You can still unfollow them manually and of course follow additional artists by visiting their pages and clicking Follow.

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Here you can see posts directly from artists that may include new music videos or even new songs. You can like and comment on them just like Facebook posts or interact with other users in the comments. That, unfortunately, is about as social as Apple Music gets.

Spotify, on the other hand, just about nails the fusion of music and social. In Spotify, you can see what music your friends are listening to as they listen and opt to listen to that song yourself or even follow their playlists. You can also purposely share music for others to check out either as a broadcast or a private message to a friend.

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The best feature, however, is the ability to make collaborative playlists with friends so multiple people can join and add music to a single playlist. It’s a great way to keep collections of songs for specific events with people or maybe just mutually enjoyed music.

Spotify wins the social round, hands down.

Both Have Different Plans for Different People

Now it comes down to price. Apple Music and Spotify both cost $9.99 per month when you get through the trials – three months free on Apple Music and $0.99 for three months on Spotify – but there’s more to it.

If you want to sign up for a family plan, Apple Music is cheaper. Apple charges $14.99 for families up to six people, so that means whether you have two people or six people signed up, it’s still $14.99. Spotify charges an additional $5 per person, so two people is $14.99, but three people is already $19.99 per month.

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If you’re a student, Spotify is cheaper. Spotify offers an education discount for students at just $4.99 per month for Premium, a nice 50 percent reduction.

Spotify also has a free plan while Apple Music does not. Spotify’s free plan grants you ad-supported desktop access to its library of music and minimal access in its mobile apps (radio and shuffle play). With Apple Music, it’s all or nothing.

Winner: Spotify

This was an extremely close call, but Spotify gets the edge. After years of iteration, it’s finally nailed the design. Plus you can’t beat all of its unique features and collaborative abilities that makes using Spotify fun. The recommendations aren’t as good as Apple Music’s and it may not have the larger streaming library, but it’s more than sufficient for its millions of users.

Over time as Apple Music updates and improves, this might be worth revisiting, but for now Spotify remains the streaming champion.

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George Tinari

Written By

George Tinari

George Tinari has written about technology for over seven years: guides, how-tos, news, reviews and more. He's usually sitting in front of his laptop, eating, listening to music or singing along loudly to said music. You can also follow him on Twitter @gtinari if you need more complaints and sarcasm in your timeline.