When Apple bought Beats Audio, the headphones weren’t the main event: Apple wanted Beats Music, the streaming music service. Beats is now the heart of Apple Music, Apple’s rival to Spotify and Google Play Music. How does it compare? Let’s pit Apple Music vs Google Music vs Spotify.
In this comparison we’re going to look at the paid-for versions of the services. Spotify has a free tier that omits some key features and intersperses ads, while the free version of Google Play Music gives you access to your own uploads and purchases but not music you haven’t already bought or ripped. And now there is Apple Music too. Here we’re comparing the paid-for, unlimited streaming services of each company.
Apple Music vs Google Music vs Spotify: price
Three nines appear to be the magic number for streaming music: Spotify Premium is $9.99 per month, and Google Play Music All Access is also $9.99 per month. Spotify currently offers a 60-day free trial and Google currently offers 30 days. Apple Music is also $9.99, with the first three months free.
In an interesting move, Apple has made it possible for one account subscription to cover an entire family. $14.99 covers up to six people.
Apple Music vs Google Music vs Spotify: availability
Both Google Play Music and Spotify are available worldwide, and you can get them on Android, iOS, on Macs and PCs and via a web-based interface too. Both services also have offline modes so you can download tracks for listening when you're in a no-internet zone.
We heard rumors that Apple would bring Apple Music to Android, and they turned out to be true - but not just yet: so far Apple Music is for Macs, iOS devices and PCs. It's going to be available in 100 countries from July. An Android version is coming in the Fall.
Apple Music vs Google Music vs Spotify: catalog and quality
Both Spotify and Google boast catalogs with more than 30 million songs, streaming at a top-quality 320Kbps. Apple's iTunes reportedly holds 26 million songs, but through the Connect part of Apple Music you'll also be able to access content that isn't in iTunes yet. Imagine an app that combines what you can buy in the shops with the works-in-progress that artists post to SoundCloud (and to Instagram, and to Facebook, and to...) and you'll get an idea of what the Connect part of iTunes is designed to do.
Apple Music vs Google Play vs Spotify: what's so special about it?
The sales pitch for Apple Music is that it's all about the people helping pick music you might like. As music business legend Jimmy Iovine yelled on stage at the Apple Music launch, "ALGORITHMS ALONE CAN'T DO THAT EMOTIONAL TASK", and in a video Trent Reznor laid out the pitch to artists: it's about a "sense of respect" for music as an art form, not just a bunch of bits being chucked down an internet tube.
We've been here before, of course, because that's what Beats Music was all about. But Beats didn't have Apple's massive competitive advantage, which is that its app will be on millions of iPhones, iPads, Macs and PCs. On phones, the exceptionally fast rate of new OS adoption means that most Apple customers will have access to Apple Music as soon as the iOS update appears in July. That sheer market clout could attract musicians in a way previous Apple efforts, such as its ill-fated social network for Music, Ping, didn't.
Apple Music vs Google Play vs Spotify: which one's best?
That depends on what you've got. Until the Fall, Apple music isn't relevant to Android users - but when that app drops, things are going to get interesting. Apple will have had several months to iron out any wrinkles, and it'll be clear by then whether Apple Music's Connect is something artists actually use or if it's destined for the same fate as Ping. Right now we'd recommend Google for ease of use and Spotify for its pretty good playlists, but come the Fall we could be singing a very different song.