Apple Music vs. Spotify—Which music streaming service is right for you?
We compared the two platforms to help you decide for yourself.
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From Amazon to Apple, you’ve got a lot of choices when it comes to music streaming services. To help you narrow things down a bit, we took a look at two of the biggest platforms out there—Apple Music and Spotify—to see how they stack up against one another.
While both offer robust catalogs and plenty of ways to discover new music, each brings a little something different to the table. Before you pop on your headphones and press play, check out our guide to find the major differences between Apple Music and Spotify so you can choose the one that’s right for you.
When it comes to the amount of music available, Apple Music stands out with a total of 60 million available songs for subscribers. However, Spotify still delivers an abundance of music with more than 50 million songs at your fingertips. In addition, Spotify integrates an extensive library of podcasts and audiobooks, while Apple splits both off into separate apps.
When it comes to music, most users will find the vast majority of the tracks they’re looking for on either Apple Music or Spotify. But if you’re looking for something specific, you can try out the limited free option for either service (more on that below) to see if you’re missing anything crucial.
Available plans and pricing
Unlike Apple, which is a subscription-only service, Spotify comes in two primary flavors: the free version, which is supported by ads and has streaming restrictions, and the paid version, Spotify Premium.
Spotify Premium’s basic plan costs $9.99 per month for unlimited skips, the highest-quality playback the service offers, and the ability to download up to 10,000 songs on five devices for playback offline. There’s also a $14.99 family plan, which allows for up to six users and comes with all of the above, as well as Spotify Kids, a special app for children 12 and under.
If you’re a student, Spotify’s Premium Student Plan gives you all the benefits of the regular Premium plan, as well as Hulu’s ad-supported TV plan, and unlimited access to Showtime, all for $4.99. A basic Hulu subscription costs $5.99, while Showtime is regularly $11 per month, making this plan the most cost-effective subscription for those who qualify.
Additionally, Spotify offers a free, ad-supported plan, which also offers access to millions of songs, podcasts, and audiobooks without forking over a penny—but there are some caveats. Those including frequent advertisements, lower streaming quality, and shuffle-only playback on mobile devices for most tracks.
Like Spotify, Apple Music offers three monthly subscription tiers: Student ($4.99), Individual ($9.99), and Family ($14.99), which offers up to six users and the ability to share purchases. All of Apple's plans allow you to listen online or offline without any ads. You can also download up to 100,000 songs to your library, access Apple Music across your devices, see what your friends are listening to, and gain access to original shows, concerts, and Apple Music exclusives.
Along with Spotify’s free option, the service also offers new subscribers one month of Spotify Premium for free.
Although Apple Music doesn’t have a free, ad-based plan like Spotify, the service does offer a longer, three-month free trial for new users.
Not sure you want to commit to Apple Music or Spotify? Do yourself a favor and set a reminder in your phone to cancel your plan before the trial period ends.
Spotify streams AAC files at 128 kbps for free accounts, or double that (256 kbps) for Premium accounts. Spotify automatically adjusts the sound quality based on your network connection. However, within the Settings menu of the desktop, mobile, and tablet apps, the Music Quality feature allows you to select low, normal, high, and very high (only offered with Premium accounts) which the service claims is the “equivalent to approximately 320 kbps.”.
Like Spotify Premium, Apple Music streams AAC files at a rate of 256 kbps. You can adjust the quality under the Settings of your iOS device—just remember that doing so may use more cellular data and may also cause a delay when you press play on a song.
It’s worth noting that neither Apple Music or Spotify offer lossless (i.e. uncompressed) listening options like Tidal's HiFi membership, which gives you access to CD-quality streaming (1411 kbps) or even higher on select devices for $19.99 per month.
Amazon Music HD also offers high-definition listening, including many tracks at around 850 kbps and select tracks at up to 3730 kbps for $14.99 per month (or $12.99 for Prime members).
Design and accessibility
The Apple Music app stays true to Apple’s signature minimalist style, offering a clean, white aesthetic that’s light and modern. Compare that to Spotify’s overall dark theme that primarily showcases a black background and the brand’s signature green color splashed throughout for a completely different appearance.
When it comes to the overall layout, both services offer similar ways to discover new music, access your library of playlists and purchased tracks, and call up specific selections from the search function.
Apple Music also offers the aid of Siri on Apple devices, allowing you to use voice search for playback control, search, and song skip. While Spotify doesn’t have its own voice assistant, the service is more device agnostic, meaning it's accessible across more devices and can be integrated with third-party voice assistants.
In other words, Apple Music is tailored for those highly invested in Apple hardware, while Spotify is more versatile and accessible across a wider range of devices.
With millions of songs at your fingertips, it may feel overwhelming to find new songs that suit your musical tastes. Thankfully, both music streaming platforms offer curated playlists just for you. Spotify's Discover Weekly playlist is updated every Monday with 30 new tunes based on your previous musical choices. The service’s Daily Playlists, based on your most-played genres, are also easy ways to play and discover new songs.
You'll find similar playlists under Apple Music's "For You" tab, based on your listening history and musical preferences. When you sign up for Apple Music, you’ll also be prompted to select different genres and bands you listen to. Apple Music also uses this data when assembling your curated playlists.
Apple Music has invested heavily in radio to help it stand out from the pack. In September 2019, Apple partnered with TuneIn, bringing more than 100,000 global radio stations to the service. And, of course, there’s also Apple’s Beats 1 Radio, a 24-hour live radio station. Beats 1 offers the human touch, including curation from big-name DJs like Zane Lowe, as well as celebrity shows from the likes of The Weeknd, St. Vincent, and others.
Spotify’s radio feature takes a much less traditional approach, offering algorithm-based listening a la Pandora. Based on any artist, album, playlist, or song of your choosing, Spotify will create a continuous mix of songs that match certain attributes of your theme of choice. While there’s no live aspect like Beats 1, Spotify has invested heavily in algorithm curation to make its playlists more robust and varied.
Spotify Web Player vs. Apple Music Web Player
Both Apple Music and Spotify have web players where you can view a particular artist's page, as well as access and edit your music library. You can also search for artists, songs, albums, new releases, and more.
When it comes to web players, Apple Music was a little behind the curve here. In April, Apple Music launched a web-based music player, after introducing a beta version in Sept. 2019.
Spotify's web player is supported by the following browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Opera. If you're having trouble running the web player, it's possible that your browser may be out of date. Installing the latest rendition should fix any problems. Still not working? You can also try opening the web player in a private or incognito tab. Spotify may be restricted at certain locations like schools, work, and other offices. Follow @SpotifyStatus to track outages or report any issues.
How to cancel Apple Music and Spotify
Another important factor to consider is the cancellation process for both Apple Music and Spotify. It’s actually a lot easier than you might think.
To cancel your Apple Music subscription, open the Settings folder on your smartphone. Navigate to iTunes & App Store. At the top of the screen, click on your Apple ID and then select View Apple ID. Scroll down toward the bottom of the page and select Subscriptions.
If you have a current Apple Music subscription, you should see it at the top of the page under the Active category. Tap on your Apple Music Membership to view more details. Click on Cancel Subscription (in red letters) to end your subscription. The app will prompt you to confirm you want to cancel. All you have to do is select Confirm and you're all done.
Ready to cancel your Spotify subscription? If you signed up via the website or the app, simply login to your account page. In the menu on the left side of the page, click on Subscription. Next, select Cancel and then Cancel Premium. Like Apple Music, Spotify asks you to confirm that you do indeed want to cancel your membership. So, go ahead and click Yes, Cancel. There is one thing to note. If you signed up with a student discount and then cancel your plan, you will not be able to apply it to another account until the year-long verification period is through. You can also log in to your account and fill out this form to submit to Spotify to cancel your membership.