Music streaming services are still a somewhat new concept that leaves a lot of people feeling conflicted and confused. Especially now that it seems like there is a new one popping up every other month. I am going to attempt to ease the confusion a bit by giving you one guy's opinion on each of 4 different streaming services, their benefits, and their drawbacks. Hopefully, after reading this you will better understand the music streaming landscape and be able to make the right choice for you.
The services that I will be comparing are Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, and Amazon Music Unlimited; each of which are great services that I have used for a good amount of time. None of the services really beat the others at everything; there is no beat all streaming service existent today. However, each of them does bring their own unique twist to the table that makes them unique. I will be grading each of them on several factors including music selection, UI/UX, and accessibility.
So, without further ado, I will begin.
First up we have Spotify, which boasts about 30 million songs in its collection. Putting that into perspective (with an average song length of 3 minutes and 30 seconds), that's about 199.6 years of content if you were to run every song back to back with no pauses. The Swedish company stated in 2013 that about 20% of their songs were still unplayed; although services such as foregetify are attempting to bridge the gap.
Apple Music, with a constantly growing library of 40 million plus songs, obviously beats Spotify here. Apple is a new player in the streaming game, but they have arguably been in the music game longer than any of the other competitors. You may not believe it, it may even make you feel old, but iTunes launched on January 9th, 2001. Streaming seemed like a natural progression for the music giant, and their numbers certainly beat Spotify.
Google Play Music was one of the first Spotify competitors to hit the market, and their library was instantly better. They had a larger selection and a number of artists that Spotify didn't have. Their selection matches Apple Music at 40 million plus, which is quite a feat.
Lastly, we have Amazon Music Unlimited. They simply state that their library contains "tens of millions of songs", so it's hard to include them in this part of the competition. I can say it sounds like they would beat, or at least tie with Spotify, but it's hard to say until we get some harder numbers.
So it's a tie. When it comes to selection, Apple Music and Google Play Music take the proverbial cake with a whopping 40 million songs.
Where we really start to see a difference in the streaming services is with exclusive content. Every one of the services has certain artists, albums, or songs that you can't find on the other services. Unfortunately, that makes it extremely difficult to do an in-depth comparison.
What I can say is that I have been impressed with Amazon Music Unlimited recently. Not only did they get Taylor Swift's songs, which was Apple's main selling point in the past, but now they have the exclusive rights to Garth Brooks' entire song collection. For anyone that isn't a country fan, or just doesn't know, Garth Brooks is the second-highest-certified music artist in the US with 148 million album certifications.
So for this one I am going to go ahead and declare Amazon Music Unlimited the winner. If they won over Garth I'm sure other artists won't be far behind.
User Interface and Experience
This section is largely opinionated. Something that looks ugly to someone, may be perfect for someone else. Were it not so I would have most likely remained unmarried, and the Mona Lisa would probably be at the bottom of a trash heap somewhere. That being said, I feel like as a web designer and developer I do have some room to speak on the subject.
I'll start again with Spotify. Throughout the years, Spotify user's biggest complaint has been about the user interface. As such there have been a number of redesign concepts throughout the years, but the user interface has not improved much. Overall the design is just not intuitive enough and kind of lackluster.
Google Play Music
Google Play Music really excels in this area. Beauty has recently been one of Google's strong points with the onset of their Material Design. The home page gives you beautiful, and relevant, suggestions with album art that stretches across the screen. Following material design principals, everything comes from somewhere. Things will slide out from the side, expand to fill the screen, or shrink and disappear.
Apple Music is also beautiful in its own right. Very simple, but beautiful nonetheless. My only gripe is that it feels safe, but such is Apple, right? The app is very white and clean with nice typography. It gives you quick access to exactly what you need, and the overall user experience is good. I just wish Apple would branch out a little more and be more adventurous, but the app does look like it belongs with iOS 10.
Amazon Music Unlimited
Lastly, we have the new kid on the block, Amazon Music. Amazon Music is actually pretty nice to look at as well. I'd put it somewhere between Apple Music and Google Play Music on the scale. Overall it's intuitive; the dark theme is nice, but I wish they had a light theme we could use as well. The UX is probably the best of any app here though. From the moment I installed it I had no problem finding what I wanted. It also has built-in scrolling lyrics which is a major bonus for someone like me that enjoys singing along to every song.
I'd say the winner in this department is Google Play Music, but Amazon Music Unlimited is right behind it. Let me know if you think differently and why!
Accessibility is a strong point for most of these apps, but a weak point for one in particular. By accessibility I mean: How many places can I listen to music, and how easy is it to get to the song I want.
Spotify is currently available on iOS, Android, Windows and macOS, the web, certain TV's, certain cars (namely those with Android Auto or Apple Car Play), and PlayStation. I'd call that pretty dang accessible! You can also play your Spotify music using both Amazon Echo and Google Home. There isn't a Spotify app for Apple TV yet, but it may come at some point.
Google Play Music
Google Play Music is available on iOS, Android, Windows mobile, the web, Android Auto, Apple Car Play, various TV's, and Google Home. There may be some others, but there are definitely some holes. It's not available natively on the Amazon Echo, Apple TV, as a native Windows App, PlayStation, or XBox One. Some of those aren't very important, but I would definitely like to see a native Windows app for it. It can also be opened via Google Assistant which is pretty handy.
Apple Music is available on iOS, Android, Windows and macOS (via iTunes), Apple Car Play, Android Auto, and of course Apple TV. I am pretty sure that's it. Its main selling point is that it has Siri integration and since Apple hasn't opened up an API for Siri yet, it is the only music app that Siri will play from. As far as accessibility goes I would rank it far below the likes of Spotify and Google Play Music.
Amazon Music Unlimited
Amazon Music is available on iOS, Android, the web, Car Play, Android Auto, and Amazon Echo. That means that for now, it ranks at the bottom of the accessibility list. Not much else I ca say about that.
I will actually have to give the title to Spotify on this one. Spotify has been around for a while and in that time it has managed to get on almost every device. That being said they do have some major memory leak issues with their macOS app, but I digress.
Overall, each of the different services have their own strong and weak points. My personal preference out of the 4 would be Amazon Music. Why? Because they have the best music selection in my opinion. I haven't found an artist that I like that they don't have yet. Garth Brooks was a huge selling point for me, but they also have Taylor Swift, who was previously exclusive to Apple Music.
Your choice may be different, but I urge you to try all of them. Each one of them offers a free trial, so take advantage of that. If you decide to try Amazon Music Unlimited use this link and you can get a $10 credit on your account plus the free trial. That means 2 months of free music!
Thanks for reading! Please comment below and let me know what you think.