Apple Music vs Spotify comparison

Apple Music is the latest music streaming service. Apple hopes to capitalise on its already sizeable hold over the music download market. It won’t be easy though, as the likes of Google Music, Deezer, and Spotify are already very popular, with the latter proving a worldwide success (In fact you can see how we rated them in our guide to the Best Music Streaming Services in 2015). We'll compare Apple Music with arguably the best of the bunch - Spotify - to find out how the two differ in price, audio quality, catalogue and features. 

Apple Music vs Spotify: Price

Like pretty much every other music streaming service out there, Spotify and Apple Music technically both offer free and premium accounts. It must be said though that free on Apple Music means almost nothing. Aside from the Connect part of the service, where artists (or more likely their PR companies) post photos, notes, or maybe even rough cuts of songs, the only free thing available is Beats 1, a new global, 24-hr radio station that features real DJs and an interesting mixture of tracks. To access the real content you’ll need to either sign up to a Single membership plan (£9.99 per month) or the rather more tempting Family membership (£14.99) which gives access to the service for up to six people via Apple’s Family Sharing feature in iOS 8.

This has one user as the main account holder, who then invites other members of the ‘family’ to share the account. One advantage to this is that you can create children’s accounts so your little ones can join in the fun. Be aware though that this requires a credit card to set up. For a more detailed guide to the workings of the service you can read our 'How to use Apple Music' guide.  

Full membership gives you access to the entire Apple iTunes library of content, which you can either stream or download to your device. If you want to try Apple Music now there is a very generous three month free trial available, which gives you complete access to the premium features. At the moment the service is restricted to iOS devices, but an Android client is already on its way and will be released in the Autumn.

Apple Music V Spotify

Spotify offers a little more to the free tier, as you can listen to music on your desktop PC, create playlists and share them with friends, while also stream music to your mobile device. There are a few conditions of course. Ads appear every few songs, and on mobile you can only listen to songs streamed in shuffle mode and at a lesser quality than the premium mode. They still sound perfectly fine to our ears.

Moving up to the Premium £9.99 membership you instantly dispense with the ads, gain the ability to download music to your device, listen whichever way you want, and all in 320kbps quality. There are a few other membership options available, with a sliding scale of family packages that start at £14.99 for you and one other, with an additional £5 per member up to a maximum of five including yourself. Basically it’s a normal Premium membership, with 50 per cent reduction for anyone who wants to share it with you. It’s obviously a lot more expensive than Apple’s Family plan, and we’ll be interested to see if this changes in the coming months.

One unique account option for Spotify though is the Student account, which offers a full Premium account for £4.99 a month through NUS Extra or Unidays. These accounts only last a year, but that’s still a great deal. Of course there is the free 30-day trial available to all new users, giving you a chance to test drive the Premium features before you part with your cash.

Read: Spotify Free vs Spotify Premium.

So Spotify is better for those on a budget while Apple Music represents better value for money for families. See below for a price comparison table.

 

Regular

Premium

Family package

Student discount

Apple Music

£9.99

-

£14.99

(up to 6)

-

Spotify

Free

£9.99

£29.99 (up to 5)

£4.99

Apple Music V Spotify

 

Apple Music vs Spotify: Audio quality

As standard, Spotify streams music to your ears at 160kb/s but Premium jumps the quality to 320kb/s. Apple Music sits in between those two figures at 256kb/s. Most people will be happy with the quality of Apple Music, it has to be said.

See also: Spotify vs Google Music comparison review.

Apple Music vs Spotify: Catalogue and features

As you might expect, Apple Music offers the iTunes library available to stream which includes more than 30 million tracks. Spotify hasn't been around that long in comparison but also offers more than 30 million songs. In most cases whatever you’re looking for can be found on the platform. One notable exception is Taylor Swift, who recently pulled her latest album 1989 from Spotify, but left it available on Apple Music. Whether this is a trend that will continue is hard to say, but for the vast majority of content the two services are the same.

In terms of features both offer apps for mobiles but it's worth noting that Apple Music won't launch on Apple TV or Android until autumn this year. Headline features of Apple Music include the 'For You' section which will provide recommendations, the 'Beats 1' radio station which will be broadcast from New York and London featuring Zane Lowe and Siri integration so you can ask ridiculous things like "play the top songs from 1990". You can also save music to your device for offline listening and Apple has mentioned nothing about a limit on this.

Spotify's major feature is that you don't have to pay if you don't want to and it's already available on most platforms (see below). It has radio stations although they generated and you can download music for offline listening (up to 3,333 tracks on up to three devices with a Premium subscription).

Apple Music vs Spotify: Which platforms can I use?

At the moment Apple Music is only available on iOS, Mac, and PC, but an Android client is due in the Autumn.

Spotify on the other hand is on pretty much everything - PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Playstation Music, Web, Roku, Blackberry, and even Linux gets a client.

Apple Music vs Spotify: User interface

Visually, the two services are easy to distinguish as Spotify adopts a dark theme, dominated by black backgrounds and muted tones, whereas Apple Music is a sea of white. Navigation feels more natural on Spotify, as you have access to the main menu with a simple swipe in from the left wherever you are. Apple Music uses a selection of icons along the bottom of the screen to move between the various areas of the service. This is fine, and makes it relatively easy to learn your way around, but you can find yourself a few selections deep at times without it being obvious how to return to previous choices.

Both services offer playlists as a way to discover new music, based on either your purchases, existing playlists, or tracks you’ve marked as favourites. As you’d expect they both have sections for new releases, charts, or genres. The Apple Music New section is very similar to what you might have seen on the front page of iTunes, while Spotify has a simpler, more basic page that eschews singles in favour of albums. Where Spotify really shines here is in how it prioritises playlists and the excellent Genres and Mood section, which include collections for workouts, concentration, sleep, dinner parties, what’s trending on the service, plus there is also the new Spotify Running feature on the iPhone which uses the device's motion detectors to calculate the speed of your run and match that with music of the same tempo. Overall the playlist selections are a great way to find new music, simply and quickly. Of course on both platforms you can add any song you like to an existing or new playlist, then share these with friends. As Spotify has been around for a lot longer the social side feels far more mature than Apple Music, but we expect to see that balance out when more people have had a chance to use the newer service.

Apple Music V Spotify

One quirky feature we liked was the ability to turn your phone into a remote control for your PC or Mac on Spotify. In the settings is a feature called Connect, which automatically detects when Spotify is in use on a nearby device. As you can only use one device at a time (on either service) the phone simply converts to a controller, allowing you to navigate the service, line up tracks, skip to the next, that sort of thing. By contrast when we tried the same with Apple Music we found that one device just stopped the other instead of working with it. Another compatibility aspect to note, is that while Spotify has support for nearly all speaker systems, Apple Music is currently unavailable on Sonos. This will be rectified by the end of the year, but at the moment there is no official support. So if Sonos is your system of choice, you might want to delay that three month free trial until Apple Music is available on the platform.

Apple Music: Specs

  • 30 million tracks
  • 1 Beat radio
  • 320kbps
  • 30 million tracks
  • 1 Beat radio
  • 320kbps

OUR VERDICT

Music streaming is maturing nicely, and the wealth of choice available to customers at the moment is truly impressive. Apple Music has made a good start, with enough content to satisfy even the most picky audiophile. We liked Beats 1, although we’re not sure how long it will be before the novelty wears off. The app is clean, reasonably easy to move around in, and offers enough new and tailored music to keep you coming back for more. The excellent value Family plan is the real draw, especially is you have teenagers in the house and a few iOS devices, plus the three month trial is a nice touch. If we had to choose one platform though it would be Spotify. We like the interface, with its easy access to key features, and it generally feels more developed. The playlists are excellent and plentiful, with the social media component adding a deeper dimension. Cross platform support gives it a real edge, even though Apple Music will appear on Android at some point in the next few months. In the single membership plan it seems to us that you get better value, but Spotify can’t compete with the excellent family plan that Apple offers, and we fear this might be a significant feature in the battle for hearts and wallets. For now though we still think Spotify is the superior platform, but of course you can decide for yourself by signing up to those free trials.

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