Spotify and Apple Music are, popularity-wise, two of the leading music streaming platforms in the world today. Between them, they have over 200 million subscribers (144m on Spotify to 60m on Apple, at the last count). That’s a lot of listeners, so they must be doing something right!
Here we compare the two giants of music streaming to help you decide which one’s for you. Despite our fighting talk in the title, this is unbiased and nuanced, as both services have their pros and cons that make them better or worse for different users.
Here’s our Spotify vs. Apple Music breakdown.
Spotify – $9.99/month ($4.99 for students) | free ad-supported tier
If you’re a student and like your TV, then Spotify could be the way to go, because for that mere $4.99 a month, you also get Hulu and Showtime subscriptions.
The free tier is a great way to get a feel for Spotify. There are quite a few restrictions, however. You can only listen to whatever you want on a computer. On mobile platforms, you’ll only be able to listen to your playlists on shuffle and will generally be limited with what you can listen to. There are no downloads on the free tier, either. Still, free is free, which is more than can be said of Apple Music!
You can share with up to six family members under the $15 Family Plan.
Apple Music: $9.99 ($4.99 for students) | No free tier
This service has the same prices as Spotify but without the free tier. Students still get some extra perks with temporary access to Apple TV+, but it’s only a limited-time offer.
As with Spotify, for $15 a month, you can upgrade to the Family plan, which will let you share Apple Music between up to six family members.
Streaming and Sound Quality
Spotify Premium streams at a quality of 320kbps, while the free version is 160kbps. That’s a clear edge over the 256kbps of the Apple Music output.
But to casual listeners, the difference probably won’t be audible, and there’s a strong argument that Apple Music’s sound quality still manages to be higher than Spotify’s because it uses the AAC codec instead of Spotify Premium’s Ogg Vorbis.
The biggest advantage of the Swedish-based music platform is its now-legendary recommendation algorithm, which does a great job of directing you to interesting artists (some local, some obscure) that are related to the music you listen to.
Spotify’s bigger uptake feeds well into its sharing features, which make it easy to collaborate on playlists with friends and share your favorite tunes. The Spotify Web Player is a great option for browser-based users, too. It doesn’t always work like it should, but we have a bunch of tips to fix that.
At the time of writing, there are around 50 million songs on Spotify.
With over 60 million songs, Apple Music wins the pure numbers game, though in reality, both contain more than enough music for a lifetime. Apple Music lacks the sharing and social depth of Spotify, and its recommendation algorithms don’t compare to Spotify either.
Instead, Apple Music is more focused around the individual user. Library management is a great feature, making it much easier to integrate your library of downloaded music from years ago into the streaming service. It essentially converts your entire digital library into the Apple Music UI and does it very nicely.
It goes without saying that Apple Music syncs seamlessly between Apple devices, which is great if you’re in that ecosystem. If, however, you own an Android phone and a Windows PC, then you won’t get much out of this fancy integration.
The homepage of Spotify’s app shows the stuff you’re actively listening to, rather than sending you straight to recommendations. There’s a focus around swiping left and right in contrast to Apple Music’s more vertical design, which is a nice intuitive alternative to simply scrolling and tapping the options you want.
Both Apple Music and Spotify make it easy to search for music. Ever-focused around sending you down rabbit-holes of Discovery, Spotify does a great job of offering suggestions under the search bar, with a huge number of different categories filled with recommended music based on genre, mood and so on.
Apple Music’s search also has categories, but they’re more generic, and once you tap through, it redirects you to “What’s hot” in that category rather than your personal tastes. In that way, it feels a bit more commercial and a bit less bespoke.
The winner of this war depends on your circumstances. Pricing is pretty much the same, so you need to ask yourself what you want from a service.
Do you like discovering new bands and artists all the time and being redirected to interesting stuff based on your interests? Spotify is for you.
Or do you know what you like and already have a digital music library that you want to integrate into an elegant streaming app? Then Apple Music wins out. iPhone and Mac owners will also definitely appreciate the seamless syncing between devices.
After checking out how Spotify pits against Apple Music, if you still prefer to download music rather than stream, then check out our list of free music download apps for Android. We also have a guide on turning off your iCloud Music Library if you don’t want everything syncing all the time.