Last Updated on December 8, 2020 by Jason
You might have already noticed that there are many different music streaming services out there to listen to music through these days. However, the three biggest are Google Play Music, Apple music, and Spotify. Right now, each of these services compete with one another on a pretty equal playing field. However, you only need to subscribe to one of them.
In this article, we take a look at each one respectively, and consider the quality of the audio, the price, additional features, and their music library to work out which one we think is ultimately the best.
You might agree with us when we say the price is the biggest determining factor when it comes to signing up for a music streaming service. The issue with this review is that Apple music, Google Play Music, and Spotify pretty much charge the same amount.
Spotify offers a number of different price points. The first is of course free but comes with ads. Secondly, they have a student subscription that is going to set you back $4.99 a month, an individual subscription coming in third that will cost you $9.99 and coming in fourth is a family subscription for $14.99.
When it comes to the free option, as well as hearing ads, you have a limited number of skips, and you won’t be able to download songs that you can listen to offline.
With any of the premium packages, you gain unlimited access to Spotify’s catalog, which is of course ad-free. You also have the ability to download tracks to listen to offline on any of your devices. Spotify lets its users sign up for a recurring monthly subscription, or you can just go through it one month at a time. You can even pay for a full year upfront as well. The only thing to consider with this is it isn’t going to save you any money.
With the family package at $14.99 a month, you get all of Spotify’s premium features for six connected accounts, although each user needs to be located at the same place, so you need to make sure that your home addresses on all six accounts align.
If you are a college student right now, you can get 50% off their most expensive subscription, along with access to Showtime and Hulu. Spotify uses an identification process to make sure that you’re eligible for this, and limits their student subscriptions to a maximum of four years.
Apple Music comes with three similar paid plans. Their student subscription is $4.99 a month, their individual subscription is $9.99 a month, and their family subscription is $14.99 a month. Instead of offering a free package, Apple Music offers their users a free trial for three months.
Once you have completed the free trial, you will need to start paying for their subscription, but you won’t ever have to deal with any ads or additional limitations.
Apple’s paid pricing is exactly what you might have predicted. For $9.99 a month, you have access to their complete library, on any of your devices, as well as being able to download songs to listen to offline.
Their family plan is similar to Spotify’s, so for $14.99, six people including yourself can gain unlimited access to Apple music. The only thing with this one is that you will need to link your Apple ID accounts up within the same family sharing group.
Their student subscription is $4.99. This is only for college students, and they have an identification process to verify that you are eligible for it. They limit their student discount to just 48 months, which is half of what you will get with Spotify.
Google Play Music
Google Play Music only offers its users two paid packages; $9.99 for an individual subscription or $14.99 for a family subscription. What’s different about Google Play Music is what it offers for free. You can’t stream anything from Google’s music catalog, but you can upload 50,000 of your own songs that you can stream on any device.
Subscribing to Google Play Music gives you all the benefits of the other services, including unlimited access to Google’s catalog, being able to download music on to any of your devices, and a completely ad-free experience. You can even opt for a free trial for 30 days to test it out.
Their family subscription links up six accounts, and you will need to live in the same country and be part of the same Google family group. Google Play Music doesn’t offer its users a student discount.
If you are just an individual signing up to listen to music, then all three services are going to charge you the same. However, Apple music gives you the first three months for free, which is worth noting. Family subscriptions are the same, with slightly logistical differences on how they ask you to link your accounts.
If you are a student, then we highly recommend you go for Spotify, as the discount lasts for twice as long as Apple music. If you’re not someone who is worried about limitations like ads, Spotify is the best option.
One thing worth noting when trying to decide which music streaming service to go for is that not all music files are created equal. Let’s take a look at the audio quality of the three streaming services we are reviewing.
Spotify by default streams its tracks at 160 kbps, and if you sign up for the premium subscription, you can opt to stream their music at 320 kbps. This is usually the point where it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between a compressed file and its original.
Apple music is known for streaming its songs at 256 kbps, and they switch to a lower audio quality by default when you use cellular data. If you’re listening to Apple music through earphones or computer speakers, you might be able to tell a difference between this quality and Spotify’s.
Google Play Music
Google Play Music lets its users stream tracks at a maximum audio quality of 320 kbps, but if your Internet connection is not as good as it could be, Google Play Music will automatically stream the audio at a low quality.
Winner: Google Play Music and Spotify
Google Play Music and Spotify stream their audio at 320 kbps. This means that if you really care about the quality of your audio, we suggest going with either one of them. However, if you listening to audio through headphones that aren’t professional, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference.
Selection and Library
We don’t recommend that you pay for a music service if it doesn’t include the artists that you are wanting to listen to. However, there’s very little chance of this happening these days, with each service offering millions of songs and artists.
Spotify comes with over 15 million tracks in its library. Over the years several big artists have decided to keep their music off Spotify. Most of the time, this is because they signed limited deals with rival services, but sometimes, it’s because they didn’t like Spotify’s free option. However, these days, most people have relinquished this. This means that artists like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift are now on Spotify even if they weren’t before.
This is where Apple music really stands out. Artists have almost never taken issue with the service, since it doesn’t offer its users a free option. Apple music now has over 60 million songs free to enjoy, and they have a large amount of overlap with Spotify.
Google Play Music
Google Play Music comes in last with offering their clients just 40 million songs. Most major artists out there will put their music on every streaming service, but you do have a bigger chance of missing out if you use Google Play Music.
Winner: Apple Music
Of course, as we talked about, there are some variations between libraries, but for the most part, you aren’t going to notice it. Artists rarely offer limited album releases on different streaming services, and if they do, it’s only for a couple of weeks. This being said, Apple music has 10 million more tracks than the other two music streaming services we’ve talked about.
Of course, there is more to a music streaming service than just gaining access to many different songs. Some of the best features will help you discover new artists, see what your friends are listening to, and listen to the music you want on all of your devices. Let’s take a look at how the different services compare.
Spotify has some pretty sophisticated tools when it comes to discovering new music, and some of the best social sharing options out there. Each day, you will be given new tracks to listen to, and they use a huge amount of listener data to customize their playlists for you. Spotify even links with Facebook so that you can show your friends what you are listening to.
You can share Spotify tracks on any social network out there, send them directly to other people using Spotify, and even collaborate on playlists. Spotify also has great hands-off features, which means that you can easily transfer music from one device to another without breaking a sweat.
When it comes to Apple Music, it also offers its clients plenty of features worth using. One of these is the beats 1 radio station. This means that if you like the nostalgia of listening to a good radio station, then beats 1 might be a great feature for you. Apple Music doesn’t directly link with other social networks out there, but you can follow friends using their Apple ID.
You’ll get a general overview of what people are listening to, rather than a by-the-minute rundown like Spotify. Interestingly, Apple Music doesn’t offer much in the way of hands-off. This means that you can’t share your music between other Apple devices.
Google Play Music
When you sign up for Google play music, you gain free access to YouTube Music. This is great if you want to watch a lot of music videos, but you can also use it for listening to normal music as well. Google Play Music is generally more limited in its features when compared to Apple Music or Spotify. However, it does offer radio available online, and music discovery playlists, but they don’t offer the same quality that you will get from other services.
Spotify offers its clients features and playlists that are considered the best out there, possibly because it got a head start over Google Play Music and Apple music. Additionally, it works equally well on all platforms, and it’s great for transferring music between devices. If you like the idea of listening to a radio station as well, Apple music is a great choice, however, if you are more into music videos, then you might want to go for Google Play Music.
So, what are our final thoughts on all three popular music streaming services? We think that the reality is that they all offer pretty much the exact same thing. This means that all of them come with their pros and cons, but if we had to choose, we would definitely say that Spotify is the best when it comes to being an all-rounder.
While it does have a smaller library than Apple music, it comes with more additional features. The bottom line here is that there is no bad choice, and all of the major players offer their users great streaming services. It all comes down to your personal needs, and what you want to get out of a music streaming service.