Which Music Streaming Service: Spotify vs. Apple Music?

Spotify is the undisputed king of on-demand streaming music. The Swedish-born service helped pioneer the current market and has tens of millions more paying subscribers than the competition, not to mention countless millions more free users. But Apple Music, known for its high-level exclusive releases and full integration into Apple’s popular iOS ecosystem, is hot on its heels, making the question of which is better even more important than ever.

Price and subscription options

Both Spotify vs apple music offers a free three-month trial period for their premium services, which normally cost $10, £10 or AU$12 a month. It costs $5 for students or $15 for family plans. With the premium version, you can stream any song from the catalog on-demand, plus listen to songs offline.

And if you’re a student, you’ll get access to Hulu and Showtime (ad-supported) as part of your Premium subscription. Spotify is also the only one of the two music services with a free, ad-supported tier, so even if you don’t want to pay for the premium version you can still listen. The caveat (aside from the interruptions) is that many albums and playlists require you to listen in shuffle mode rather than sequential play and there’s a limit of six skips per hour. Apple Music only lets free users stream Beats1 Radio, or you can listen to songs from your iTunes library.

Libraries and Offline Listening

All paid Apple Music and Spotify plans to give you access to a huge catalog of songs when you sign up. Apple Music boasts 50 million songs in its catalog, while Spotify subscribers have the pick of “over 35 million” songs, so regardless of which one has the most content, both allow you to build up a large collection of music.

However, when it comes to offline listening, there are limits. Apple Music users can download a maximum of 100,000 songs to their library, and using Apple’s iCloud Music Library feature these can be synced across devices signed in to the same Apple ID. Spotify Premium members can download up to 10,000 songs on each of up to 5 different devices, but this number doesn’t include saved playlists.

Offline listening on the services covers songs, video content, concerts and artist exclusives. In addition, Spotify subscribers have access to audiobooks and podcasts, and the company is known to be investing heavily in its podcasts offering, so users can expect a lot more content in this department soon.

So who is the winner?

I don’t think there’s a clear victor in the value competition between Spotify Premium and Apple Music. All things being equal, I’d go with Spotify; I’ve already got years of playlists built up, the recommendation engine is better, and community playlists are a lot of fun.

That said, there’s a clear case for Apple Music. If you’re the kind of person who has spent the past decade or more building up a massive music library on iTunes, there’s a ton of value in the iCloud syncing feature. You could have all of your favorite music as well as anything you don’t own that’s on the streaming service, all on one device.

From an ethical perspective, it doesn’t seem like either of them is particularly great for artists. Pretty much every major streaming service has come under fire for severely underpaying artists. If that matters at all to you, it might be best to just buy your music. But if streaming is the way to go, Spotify is probably the better option for someone who is starting from scratch.