Apple Music vs. Spotify

Which Service Is Better?

Apple Music icon and Spotify icon crashing into each other and expelling colorful dust
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Spotify faces a strong competitor in Apple Music. Both services are leaders in the crowded music-streaming arena. We reviewed each service's pricing, music selection, user experience, and other features to help you decide which streaming music service is best for you.

Overall Findings

Spotify and Apple Music, both giants in the music streaming business, are available for iPhones and Android phones and tablets, as well as iPads, iPod touch devices, and Macs and PCs. Apple Music is also available on Apple TV, Apple Watch, and in cars with CarPlay. Spotify is also available on game consoles, speakers, TVs, smartwatches, and in many cars. The prices of the two services are similar, and their music libraries are both vast.

Spotify

  • Offers Premium and free plans.

  • Allows music downloads for offline listening.

  • Easy to use.

Apple Music

  • Enormous music library.

  • Monthly and annual plans.

  • Available for Apple and Android mobile devices and computers.

Price: Almost Identical for Both Services

Spotify

  • 90-day free trial for Premium.

  • $9.99/month for individuals, $14.99/month for a family plan, $4.99/month for students.

  • Free, ad-supported option.

Apple Music

  • 90-day free trial.

  • $9.99/month for individuals, $14.99/month for a family plan, $4.99/month for students.

  • $99 annual plan.

Spotify Premium and Apple Music are both ad-free and the same price, following a trial period of 90 days for either service. Spotify offers a free tier, but it plays ads every few songs. Apple Music doesn't have a free tier. The only price difference is the $99/year Apple Music option, which brings the individual plan cost down to $8.25/month for listeners who are willing to pay for a year upfront.

Catalog Size: Apple Has a Larger Music Catalog

Spotify

  • More than 50 million songs.

Apple Music

  • About 60 million songs.

A significant differentiating factor for listeners is the availability and selection of songs to stream. The size of a service's music library is crucial when comparing services.

Both services provide similar catalogs and offer content exclusive to their subscribers. Apple reports its catalog holds about 60 million songs, while Spotify claims more than 50 million songs while touting the addition of another 20,000 songs to its library daily. All the major artists are represented on both music services—including Taylor Swift, who feuded with Spotify for years but is back on the music service.

Ease of Use: Spotify Is More Flexible

Spotify

  • Easier to use than Apple Music.

  • Presents related artists accurately.

Apple Music

  • Expert-driven recommendations.

Along with price and music selection, you should consider the ease of use and overall experience of a service when making your choice. Spotify has the better user experience—for now.

Spotify is easier to use than Apple Music. You can open Spotify and start listening to music quickly without much experience. Apple Music is a bit of a tangle of menus and inconsistent behavior across devices. Changes to how music syncing works when using Apple Music and iCloud result in some considerable frustration for listeners who are used to managing the music on their devices. However, Spotify's free tier presents annoyances caused by the interruption of ads. 

A music service should help you discover new music you'll love. On this front, the competition is a tie. Spotify is reasonably good at presenting related artists, but some recommendations are dead ends. Apple, on the other hand, hasn't integrated discovery as well, so finding new music on your own on a mobile device isn't as easy as it should be. However, its expert-driven recommendations are promising; given time and development, they should mature with the service.

Key Features

There are other areas where each service shines—or dims—when compared.

  • Offline playback: Both services offer the ability to download music with their paid plans.
  • Collaborative playlists: Spotify lets you work with other people to create playlists, while playlists are strictly solo in Apple Music.
  • Integration with existing music file libraries: Apple shines here. Downloaded Apple Music songs are saved in the Music app where they are indistinguishable from other tracks. With Spotify, they're separate and can't easily be combined.
  • Radio: Both offer it, but with Beats 1, Apple's curated station, Apple stands out.
  • Audio Quality: Spotify streams at up to 320 kbps, while Apple Music is 256 kbps. However, the difference here is unlikely to be noticeable, except perhaps in the slightly larger consumption of data plan allowance for 320 kbps music if streamed over your cellular network.
  • Streaming: Both services stream music, music videos, exclusive offerings, and other audio content.

Final Verdict

Apple has a huge music catalog and integrates seamlessly with other music libraries, but it's not as easy to use. Spotify is simple to use, has an enormous subscriber community, and delivers a better user experience. However, it has a slightly smaller music library, and it doesn't easily integrate with other music libraries.

If you're an Apple user with lots of music in your library, Apple Music offers a great experience. If you already use Spotify and are happy, Apple Music isn't good enough to contemplate a switch.

Spotify has a slight edge now, but these two premium music services are neck-and-neck in quality and value. The choice may come down to personal preference.

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