I’ve been a user of Spotify for the last four years but when an opportunity arose for me to update my mobile phone contract, it also ended my premium subscription to the service.
So, I decided that, along with the new phone, it was time to try out Apple Music on a one- month free trial. I had used the service when it was launched in 2015, but quickly switched back to Spotify.
Four years later, has Apple Music improved? I’m going to compare how I used both streaming services and share my experiences. Aspects will include interface, playlists, functionality and overall views. All opinions are based on using a premium account for each service.
Let’s start with Spotify, who in the UK, have around 16 million premium customers.
Spotify is simple to use both on desktop, mobile and tablet devices. Playlists appear on the home screen of all devices and finding your saved songs is pretty straightforward. Finding playlists you’ve created is also a breeze.
When listening to music, the ‘behind the lyrics’ function is great if you’re interested in finding out more about the song or artist, though this isn’t available for each track.
Some artists have uploaded ‘videos’ along with their songs, so instead of the album artwork, you’ll be treated with a moving graphic. This isn’t so good, as most artists just repeat the same image over, and over, and over again. Think of the Boomerang feature in Instagram, just with music.
The playlists recommended to you will ultimately be different to your friends and relatives and depend on your music tastes. Which is why, although the range of playlists available on Spotify in general is great, the ones they create for me as a user, aren’t always 100%. In fact, most of the time they have been 70% right.
The ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist is a favourite and occasionally quite bizarre. How it ended up picking ‘Aqua’ and ‘Beethoven’ together in one week I’ll never know.
I think my favourite thing about Spotify is the ability to use web and desktop apps for Windows & Mac, something which Apple Music currently doesn’t offer, or not to the same extent as Spotify. Also, the ability to play it through devices such as a Sky Q box or Playstation/Xbox is also ideal, but by the same token, this can be a bit too much choice.
Now onto Apple Music. Before I obtained this free trial, I had used the service before when it launched back in 2015, when the offering in my opinion was much smaller, but what is it like now, four years later?
This is sometimes a little more complicated to use when compared with Spotify, though once you get into the swing of things, it’s pretty straightforward. I do like the big, bold titles which are part of the iPhone’s overall UI and I do like the size of the album cover art, especially on iOS.
The interface on the desktop version, via iTunes, sadly doesn’t match to the high quality of the iOS version, other than the ‘For you’, ‘browse’ and ‘radio’ tabs, which look similar. The downside of using Apple Music on desktop is the library is just the same style as the old iTunes one. A long list of songs, which is a real let down.
I find Apple’s playlists more intuitive than Spotify. The “Favourites Mix”, which is released every Tuesday, is more relevant to what I’ve listened too in the week and has often thrown up artists and songs I haven’t heard in ages and would listen too. However, it does also add in songs I’ve already got in my library, something I would like to see less of.
Generally speaking, though, the playlists are great, especially if you’re a fan of pop/chart/decades – or at least these are what mainly show for me, I suspect if you’re into rock, indie or classical, you’d be shown more of those playlists.
I touched on this under the Interface section, whilst the iOS app’s functionality is clear, concise and perhaps a tad confusing when you first use it, there is no other functionality. You can’t stream Apple Music to your Sky box or games console. If you’ve got Apple TV, you’re in and can stream.
Similarly, to Spotify, everything updates and syncs through the cloud, so whilst I may not be a fan of having to use iTunes instead of a dedicated Apple Music app, at least it’s synced across all devices.
What I’d like to see from Spotify is investment in their ‘radio’ tab. They’ve gone big on podcasts, so why not enable a streaming service for the radio stations where some of their podcasts come from? Apple’s Beats 1 is actually pretty good and I’ve enjoyed listening every now and again (Who knew Elton John has his own Saturday evening show!).
As for Apple Music, I’d love to see more functionality in terms of listening devices in the future, but I think more importantly its own dedicated app for desktop devices, without having to go through iTunes, which sounds so 90s these days.
The costs for both streaming services in the UK are £9.99 a month and they have family bundle offers too.
Overall this comes down to what you want from your streaming service. 16 million people use Spotify in the UK, whilst Apple Music has 56 million subscribers worldwide. Both have their merits and challenges and I hope this review of them both, albeit brief, will give you an understanding of what it’s like to use the services they both provide.
For me, I’ll probably stick with Apple Music and hope someone takes note of my above suggestions, but I’ll always have my Spotify for backup!