The best streaming music apps for iPhone, whether you need huge collections, offline access, or international reach. Can't stop the signal!
Looking for the best iPhone apps to stream all the songs you want to listen to? While Apple offers their own music streaming, iTunes Radio, there are lots of other options in the App Store that are just as worthy of your attention. From downloading and listening to tracks offline to serving up up the perfect playlists for your next party or event, there really is something for everyone. But which streaming music apps for iPhone are the absolute best?
Note: Availability and sometimes catalog size and feature sets vary greatly by location. The U.S. has the most services available, other countries only a few or none.
If you aren't the "mixed bucket of tracks" kind of girl or boy and know exactly what you like, Spotify lets you create just exactly the type of experience you want from their library of over 25 million songs. It's one of the largest, if not the largest of any streaming music service currently available. Spotify has also managed to ink lots of exclusive deals which means you may not find some content anywhere else. Free users get unlimited, ad supported radio style streaming which includes playing any album or artist's collection — on shuffle of course. Premium subscribers get completely on-demand streaming as well as the ability to download tracks for offline listening. Spotify streams at up to 320 kbps as well which means better audio quality than some of the competing services.
For great audio quality, reliable streaming, and a huge library with many exclusives that the competition just can't match, get Spotify.
Rdio current houses about 20 million songs and offers many of the same features Spotify boasts. When it comes to app design, it's hard to beat Rdio's beautifully designed suite of apps for both iPhone and iPad. Rdio also offers radio style streaming for free through all their apps and online. Premium subscribers get offline downloads and on-demand streaming. One thing to note is that while Spotify and many other services limit how many offline tracks you can save between devices — typically around 10 to 20,000 — Rdio does not. If you have the storage capacity, you can store them. Rdio currently streams at around 192 kbps but has announced they'll be updating their catalog to 320 kbps in the very near future.
If using aesthetically pleasing apps is important to you, you won't find a better music streaming experience than Rdio.
Songza is your personal music concierge. Select the type of music you want to listen to or tell Songza what you're doing and it will give you music suited for just that occasion. The playlists inside Songza are curated by industry experts and DJs. You can even match Songza to the exact headphones you're wearing for optimal song quality. The free version of Songza is ad supported. If you'd like to remove ads and get premium content, you can join Club Songza for $3.99 a month via in-app purchase. Since Songza is a radio streaming service, there is no offline saving and on-demand listening. But since the curation aspect is so great, you don't really need it.
If you are less concerned with saving music and just want to hit play and walk away for hours, Songza doesn't disappoint.
Pandora is also a radio streaming service and while it's library is relatively small compared to the other guys — only around 1 million songs — it still has a great selection of music. What I've always found appealing about Pandora is the quality of the artist stations. I can pick an artist and start a station based on them and Pandora does a great job selecting tracks. A lot of services throw in tracks that really don't belong which ruins the curation aspect in my opinion. You can stream with ads for free or subscribe to Pandora One for $4.99 a month via in-app purchase for no ads, better audio quality, and a desktop app.
Beats Music is the new kid on the block but don't be fooled as it's quickly becoming one of the very best at music curation and discovery. Aside from offline listening and on-demand playback, the real killer feature of Beats Music are the playlists. The more you listen, the more the service can recommend and in my experience, I've discovered more great music with the Beats than I have with any other two services combined. Recommendations are typically spot on and so are the featured playlists. There is no free tier for Beats Music and you'll need to pay $9.99 a month as an individual or AT&T users can sign up as a family and pay $14.99 a month for 5 users.
If music discovery is your number one concern, you have to give Beats Music a try.
Slacker brings to the table a library of 13 million songs, with a nice selection of indie artists. Premium Slacker subscribers can also save their favorite playlists for offline playback. If you're a sports fan, Slacker offers many sports stations including ESPN and covers many events that other streaming services don't. There are also comedy stations and talks shows aplenty. Subscriptions start at $3.99 a month and go up from there.
If you're a sports fan or like having a great selection of talk shows and news stations, you want Slacker.
Your pick for best streaming music apps for iPhone?
Music is a personal preference so we know selecting a streaming music app is too. What service are you currently using and why did you choose it over the others? Be sure to let me know in the comments!
Note: Originally published August 17, 2013. Updated on May 12, 2014 to reflect new apps and features.