My life was changed for the better back in 2011. That was the year that I was introduced to this crazy wonderful new service called Spotify, a music streaming service where you could look up just about any song and add it to your own personal playlist. You could play this music anywhere as long as you had an Internet connection, and since I only discovered Spotify after it had been made into a smartphone app, I was pretty much set.
At the time Spotify was the only service of its kind, but it’s an entirely different story today. Now you have plenty of options to choose from – Apple Music, Google Play Music, Spotify, and recently Amazon Music Unlimited are the closest in competition to each other. While each offer many of the same features, they also have slight differences that make them tempting in their own ways. So how do you choose which music streaming service to go with? Let’s break down the details of each to find out what sets them apart from each other.
For the most part, all four streaming services are in the same price range. Apple Music, Google Play Music, Amazon Music Unlimited and Spotify all start at $9.99/month for an individual plan and charge $14.99/month for a family plan (all of which include up to 6 members). That’s where the bar stops for Google Play Music; however, both Apple Music and Spotify offer individual $4.99/month plans for students.
Amazon Music Unlimited gets a little more complex when you factor in an Amazon Prime membership. Prime members can subscribe to Music Unlimited for a $7.99/month price, or $79/year price for an even heftier discount if you plan to stick with the service. Family membership pricing still starts at $14.99/month, but is discounted to $149/year (from $179.88 month-to-month). Amazon also offers a special Echo-only Music Unlimited option for $3.99/month.
As far as free trials go, Apple Music consistently offers a 3-month free trial; Google Play Music, Spotify, and Amazon Music Unlimited all offer 30-day free trials, but it isn’t uncommon to see the occasional offer for a longer trial period for any of these services floating around.
Apple Music, Google Play Music, and Spotify all share the same main features. I’ll touch on Amazon Music Unlimited in a little bit because it doesn’t seem to be as extensive as the other three just yet.
Apple Music, Google Play Music, and Spotify all feature around the same amount of songs in their music library (around 35 million songs). They support Podcast listening, curated Radio stations, song recommendations, and the ability to share playlists. This is where the similarities end and the differences become important.
Apple Music’s unique offerings include Smart Playlists, which gives you more options regarding exactly what kind of playlist you’d like to create. There’s also Beats 1, which is an innovative radio station hosted by the world’s best artists and DJs. Apple Music also has a service called Connect, where artists can connect directly with their fans through Apple Music. Additionally, with an Apple Music subscription, users can upload up to 100,000 of their own personal music library to the iCloud Music Library.
Google Play, on the other hand, only has two unique offerings – but neither are anything to sneeze at. The first is YouTube Red, which is included in a Google Play Music subscription. YouTube Red gives YouTube viewers ad-free YouTube videos, the ability to continue playing a YouTube video in the background, and save videos for offline viewing later. The other differentiating feature actually doesn’t require a Google Play Music subscription (but is still a part of Google Play Music), and that is allowing a user to upload up to 50,000 songs to the cloud.
Last but not least, we have Spotify. Spotify’s shining feature is that you don’t actually need a subscription to be able to listen to music on Spotify. There are a lot of limitations without a “premium” subscription, but you can still create and listen to your own playlists, with ads, for free. Depending on what gadget you use for listening, limitations vary.
Amazon Music Unlimited’s most tempting aspect is really its pricing model for Prime members or Echo users, which makes such a service slightly more affordable. Prime members also benefit from having a fairly decent (but limited) selection of free songs without a Music Unlimited subscription. It’s unclear just how many songs Amazon Music Unlimited has in its library, as it’s only vaguely stated as having “tens of millions”.
Support for each product varies.
Apple Music: Mac, PC, iOS, and Android
Google Play Music: Mac, PC, iOS, Android, Chrome, Web
Spotify: Mac, PC, iOS, Android, Universal Windows 10, Alexa, Fire OS, Chrome, Web
Amazon Music Unlimited: Mac, PC, Android, iOS, Alexa, Fire OS, Chrome, Web
Overall, I find that each service is close in comparison to each other. The addition of YouTube Red from Google Play Music and the still-functional free option from Spotify make those two a cut above the rest for me, but I can also see the appeal of Apple Music for Apple-centric gadget users, as well as the more affordable price tag on Amazon Music Unlimited (for Prime users).
Readers, do you use a streaming music service? If so, which one do you use and why?