Apps & Games

For well over a decade, the music industry has been trying to figure out the Internet and they have failed more often than they have succeeded. Declining music sales and the rise of free sources like YouTube and Pandora have left a once proud industry in a state of perpetual anarchy. Half of it is trying to adhere to old paradigms like asking for $20 for fully digital albums while others are trying more unconventional methods.

The happy medium for now seems to be music streaming. It brings money back into music and gives people quick, unlimited access to the songs they enjoy. For right now, the juggernauts in on-demand music streaming are Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play Music. Let’s take a look at which one is the best.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music

Content and compatibility

The first, and arguably the most important thing that we took a look at was content. After all, you’ll be forking out $10 per month for each of these services and it’s good to know what you’ll be paying for up front. Please note that all three services are equally good at providing the latest popular music and most of the popular music from the last six decades or so.

Google Play Music

Google Play Music All Access (later rebranded just Google Play Music) was first launched in 2013 during Google I/O and currently boasts 35 million songs. On top of that, users can upload 50,000 of their own songs to Google Play Music which will then be added to their library for streaming, which is a great way to carry around your personal collection without taking up space on your device. Any music you purchase on Google Play Music will also be added to your collection. Each song can be up to 300MB.

On top of that, you’ll get YouTube Red bundled in, which we will talk more about later. A single account costs $9.99 while a family account can contain up to six members and costs $14.99. You can use Google Play Music for free, but you’ll be limited to using radio stations (with ads) and listening to music that you have personally uploaded to the service (no ads). Each account can have up to 10 authorized devices and you can de-authorize up to four devices per year.

AA Spotify Your Library Spotify

Spotify was first launched back in 2008 and currently advertises more than 30 million songs in their catalog. As of early 2016, they also support video content, as well as podcasts. Spotify can also read your locally supported music but you’ll have to sync it to your device’s internal storage through Spotify’s desktop application first.

A single account costs $9.99. Spotify revamped their family plans in mid 2016 and now they are on par with Google Play Music and Apple Music. That means you can get a family plan for $14.99 per month and share it with up to six family members (yourself and five others). Spotify also supports a 50% discount for students. You can also use the service for free and you’ll get most of the features as long as you don’t mind some advertisements. Each account can have up to three authorized devices and the service automatically deletes authorized devices as you add more.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play MusicApple Music

Apple Music began life as Beats Music but was officially launched in its current form in 2015 and their catalog includes over 30 million songs. On top of that, users can upload up to 100,000 songs to iCloud to be streamed back to them, which is very similar to Google Play Music. Each song can be up to 200MB in size. Any music you have purchased in iTunes is also available for immediate streaming.

On top of that, Apple also has a 24/7 live radio station that plays all kinds of content including live music, interviews, and more. A single account costs $9.99 and family plans cost $14.99 which support up to six people. You can have up to 10 authorized devices and you can deauthorize as many devices as you want assuming that they’ve been inactive for up to 30 days. Currently, Apple Music has no free version and is the only one of the three to not have this.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play MusicCompatibility

In terms of compatibility, all three of these services are available on most mobile and computer devices. However, we found that Apple Music had the worst mobile compatibility out of the three. Spotify and Google Play Music have web players which gives them additional compatibility on virtually anything with a web browser, a feature that Apple Music lacks entirely. That gives Spotify and Google Play Music an equal advantage over Apple Music in this category.

Winner for best content and compatibility

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music

When you add it up, Spotify has the best free service but its content is otherwise par for the course these days. Apple Music had a strong showing, but like Spotify its only really big feature is its music. Given that YouTube Red is directly linked into Google Play Music and provides an untold amount of additional, ad-free content, the service that has the highest compatibility and the most additional content is Google Play Music, hands down.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music


Of course, all the content in the world matters little if you don’t enjoy actually using the application. We took a look at all three services to see what it was like to actually use their applications. Please note, that all of the design testing was done with full, paid accounts for all three services.

Google Play Music

Google Play Music uses Material Design which means you’re in for a bright, colorful, and generally enjoyable music browsing experience. When you open the slide out menu, you’ll be greeted with the Listen Now, Top Charts, New Releases, My Library, Browse Stations, and then the Settings. Each page does pretty much what the title says it does. You can see the latest popular music with Top Charts, the newest content with New Releases, check out your library, browse stations, and Listen Now acts as both a landing page as well as a discovery page. On all pages, you’ll find a Chromecast button and a search button in the upper right hand corner. 

It could be argued that Google Play Music is occasionally too flashy

The My Library page is broken up into a lot of sections. You’ll have playlists, stations you’ve previously listened to, and then your actual musical library that’s broken up by genre, artist, album, and then by individual songs. This is both good and bad because it gives you a ton of ways to view your content but the layout requires a lot more work on the part of the user to access all of it. In this instance, it could be argued that Google Play Music is a little too flashy and a simpler, more streamlined approach would have been appreciated. The browse stations tab is much the same way where users must perform a ton of swiping to get to various categories.

When you play music, the music player is constantly accessible either in the notification drop down or as a truncated box at the bottom of any given page. The player itself is pretty standard with prominently featured album art along with a thumbs up and down buttons and the standard control buttons at the bottom. Right above that is the repeat button, the shuffle button, and another Chromecast button. You can hit the music note icon at the top right to return to the playlist or song list to change the track. To the right of that is the three dot menu where you can access additional options including adding the song to your playlist. You can click the thumbnail in the top left corner to close the player and return to the app to look around.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music Spotify

Spotify uses a lot of the same basic principles as Google Play Music where the majority of your navigation is going to take place by opening the left slide-out menu and then picking your category. However, Spotify takes a much less flamboyant approach and it is decidedly more simple to move around the application. It also employs Material Design but seems to do in more measured doses. The app opens up to your library page which, in my humble opinion, is the correct place to open the application. From there you can use the slide-out menu to go to Search, Browse, Radio, and then back to Your Library. Much like Google Play Music, the title of each category more or less explains what each one does.

Spotify also has Material Design, but in more measured doses.

The Browse feature is essentially Google Play’s Top Charts, New Releases, and Listen Now pages all rolled into one. There you’ll find new artists, popular artists, and a variety of things to try out based on your listening habits. You can also access podcasts and video content from here by clicking on the Shows option. This is a really smart way to do this as it creates an easy, all-in-one hub for finding new content and users know where to go if they want to find something new. The Radio section is where the curated playlists are kept in case you want to try those.

The music player acts almost identically to Google Play Music. You can access it anytime in the notification drop down or by the truncated box at the bottom of the application. The controls are in different spots, but you’ll more or less see the same buttons across the bottom that we say in Google Play Music. The top left is the button that closes the player and returns you to Spotify’s main interface and the top right is a button that takes you to the current playlist. We will note that the notification player has a plus symbol to easily add the current song to your library without entering the app which we thought was nice.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music Apple Music

Despite what you may have heard, the app experience on Apple Music isn’t all that different from the other two. It also relies on a left-side slide out menu where you’ll be doing most of your navigation. The app launches to the “For You” page, where you’ll find recommendations based on your listening habits. You’ll also have access to New, Radio, Connect, Playlists, and My Music sections straight from the left side menu. These sections do exactly what their titles suggest that they do. 

Apple Music looks good, but not Material Design good.

There aren’t many surprises with Apple Music. Each section is well defined and the content is prominently and simply displayed. The only real complaint is the application relies very heavily on your device’s back button and some pages have on-screen back buttons while others do not. This creates a disjointed and sloppy feeling in the application as your finger will have to bounce frequent between your back button and the navigation button in the top left corner.

The music player isn’t anything we haven’t already seen before. It’s accessible in the same fashion as Spotify and Google Play Music and you’ll find the same controls, simply in a different configuration. Apple tries to be different by putting the three dot menu in the bottom right instead of the top right which is unusual. Our biggest complaint is using the button to the current playlist to switch tracks is one of the screens that doesn’t have a navigation button so going back and forth frequently requires some hand gymnastics.

Winner for design

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music

All three applications had surprisingly good showings in the design department and this was a very close one because all three of them do so many things in such a similar way. Google Play Music definitely had the best looking interface, but its penchant for being flashy often requires extra taps and swipes by the user and we felt that it got in the way of the user experience. Apple Music has a surprisingly robust interface, but its outdated design and occasionally sloppy execution gave it a disjointed feel. It really felt like Spotify struck that perfect balance where it was simple and streamlined when it needed to be, but flashy, modern, and fun when the occasion required without getting in the way of the user experience.

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Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music

Playlists and curation

All three services offer the ability to create playlists along with curated, pre-made playlists for you to listen to. This is a huge feature because it kind of dictates how we listen to music on the service and curated playlists are a large draw thanks to the popularity of radio streaming apps like iHeartRadio and Pandora.

Google Play Music

As expected, Google Play Music does allow you to create your own playlists. Playlist creation is rather simple. You find the songs you want, add them to playlists, and then you can play back the various playlists. You can play them in random order or sequentially and modifying playlists is generally easy. It’s worth noting that since you get ad-free YouTube and the ability to play YouTube audio with the screen off, the playlist functionality can be extended to YouTube and then played back without interruption like any other music app. It’s not something a lot of people do, but that’s one more playlist option that the competition doesn’t have. You can share playlists by making them public, but admittedly, it’s not as robust of a sharing system as Spotify.

Back in 2014, Google purchased Songza with the expressed intent of improving their curated playlists, and it worked. Not only can you find the usual playlists based on genre, but Google Play Music also has playlists for various moods and activities. We thought that was spectacular and all of the options offer up hundreds of playlists for various situations and emotions. You can also start a playlist based on a song, genre, or artist that you like just like Pandora.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music Spotify

Spotify follows a lot of the same lines as Google Play Music. You can create your own playlists by surfing for songs and adding them at your leisure. You can also share your playlists with friends and then import playlists that other people have made and Spotify arguably does this better than anyone else. Spotify will also maintain a “starred” playlist filled with the music you have favorited for easy access to stuff you know you’re going to like.

The service also has a pretty decent curated playlist selection. They adhere to basic genre selection and each genre has a variety of playlists based in that genre. It’s similar to Google Play Music but without as many options. Spotify’s saving grace in the curation department comes in the form of their weekly Discovery playlists. These are 30 randoms songs you’ve never heard before that are compiled based on your musical tastes. This feature has had rave reviews and it’s an effective method of discovering new music without being overwhelming. It’s a feature all Spotify users should check out.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music Apple Music

To put it bluntly, Apple Music has the best self-made playlists out of the whole bunch. When you add a song to a playlist on Apple Music, the service automatically adds that song to your library as well. This is in comparison to competitors where you must add songs to playlists and your library separately. This means you can build a library and playlists simultaneously which saves you a lot of time and effort in the long haul.

Curated playlists, on the other hand, could use some work. Apple Music uses the genre system which has even fewer options than Spotify right now. The service does have a 24/7 live radio station called Beats One that is pretty enjoyable. It has live music, live radio hosts, interviews, and brings a certain human feel to an otherwise robotic experience. The only bad part is that it tends to play popular music which may not interest those who don’t like popular music. Even so, we really liked the idea of Beats One and it is a feature that neither competitor can replicate.

Winner for playlists and curation

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music

This was another very close call. Google Play Music wins because it simply pounds the competition into submissions with the vast amount of playlists you can interact with on both the Play Music app and on YouTube. Apple Music had the best user-made playlists and Beats One offered a fun, unique experience that neither competitor could replicate but also had enough aside from that to still remain well rounded. Spotify’s weekly Discovery playlist is utterly fantastic, but aside from this single, 30-song playlist, Spotify doesn’t really have anything that wasn’t replicated by its competition.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music

Additional Features

Most people will be picking up one of these three services to listen to music. However, that is not all that they can do. Each of these services offer unique features aside from just music streaming. Many features, such as the ability to save music for offline listening, are shared between all three services so we’ll focus on the ones that make them different.

Google Play Music

Google Play Music has a strong game when it comes to additional features. The one that is worth talking about the most is YouTube Red. YouTube Red gives you additional features in the YouTube Music app, offers ad-free YouTube videos on both computer and the application, and then it also allows you to listen to YouTube videos with the screen off. YouTube is, of course, the single biggest video streaming site on this entire planet. This adds an insurmountable amount of video content that ranges from tech to sports, funny videos, music videos, video podcasts, and even those goofy, five second quote clips from that show you like.

On top of that, the Google Play Music application also acts as a local music player and can see the music you have stored on your device.. This successfully bridges the gap between locally stored music and streaming with more fluidity than the competition. It also includes support for Android Wear, Android Auto, and, hands down, the best support for Chromecast. Chromecast support also extends to all of the YouTube content.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music Spotify

Spotify has only a few additional features. It has superior music controls and you can do things like crossfade and gapless playback. The app also contains better notification support and control so you can get notified when new artists or albums his Spotify. It also has Chromecast support although it’s not that great yet. It also has direct support with Facebook which gives it a better social media presence than either competitor.

Spotify’s biggest draw outside of music is the addition of podcasts and video content as of early 2016. Both have been integrated surprisingly well into the existing interface and it’s easy to find and interact with the content. The podcast and video content is a bit scarce with how new it is, but we expect the library to grow over time. For now, you can find stuff like clips of Jimmy Fallon and Epic Rap Battles of History along with podcasts such as The Nerdist and various podcasts by HowStuffWorks.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music Apple Music

Apple Music suffers a lot in the additional features category because it’s so new. It hasn’t had the opportunity to iterate and improve over the course of years like its competitors and that puts it at a disadvantage. In fact, we’ve already discussed most of the features in previous sections and don’t really have much to talk about here.

The one additional feature that we can touch on is the Connect feature. It gives your typical user the ability to follow various Apple profiles and artists and engage with them. You can choose who to follow and as you read status updates, you can drop a heart if you like and even comment if you want to. Aside from music discovery, there is no real point to it but it can be fun if you’re into following artists and celebrities.

Winner for additional features

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music

Truth be told, we didn’t weigh the additional features category very heavily because these are primarily music services which makes additional features icing on the cake rather than a focal point for value. That said, Google Play Music had the best extra features thanks to its inclusion YouTube Red which adds so much extra content to the table. Spotify has native video and podcast support which is nice, but ultimately can’t compete with YouTube Red. Apple Music is brand new and it really doesn’t do much outside of streaming which may actually be alright if you don’t want extra stuff getting in the way.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music

Best bang for your buck

Finally, we’re going to discuss which service is the best bang for your buck. The question we’re trying to answer is whether or not you’re getting what you pay for and how far your dollar is being stretched when you use these services.

Google Play Music

Google Play Music does a great job of providing a good amount of content for the price. You get the 35 million songs, the hundreds of playlists, cloud storage for up to 50,000 of your personal songs, you can get to it almost anywhere, and play almost anything and it’s all ad-free. The real catalyst for success in this category is, once again, YouTube Red.

Not only does YouTube add an uncountable number of songs that Google Play Music doesn’t have, but also adds ad-free video content for literally any category that you can think of. When you add it up, there really isn’t a paid service that you can name that offers as much ad-free content as Google Play Music and YouTube Red. The Play Music family plan is $14.99 for up to six people which is extremely reasonable.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music Spotify

Spotify offers quite a bit as well. You get the 30 million songs, all of the playlists, and you get the podcasts and the video content all ad-free. Spotify has native desktop applications for Windows and Mac along with a web player that can be accessed on pretty much any operating system much like Google Play Music. You’ll also have access to concert information near your location and perhaps the best social media integration for sharing playlists and songs with friends. You’ll also get decent discovery tools and Spotify Running.

Spotify’s only real weak point is its pricing. On the plus side, it has a great free option and college students can get the service for 50% off. However, its family plan pricing is by far the most expensive of the three and can max out at $29.99 per month for six people. That’s double the price of Play Music and Apple Music.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music Apple Music

You would think that Apple Music would suffer here but it actually doesn’t do all that bad. You’ll have the 30 million songs along with direct integration with iTunes. Apple Music also gives you free cloud storage for up to 100,000 songs similar to Google Play so you can bring your own library. You’ll also get the human touch with Beats One and a dedicated social media service in Connect to follow your favorite artists.

We’ve no doubt that Apple add more stuff in the future, but that stuff isn’t available right now. Unfortunately, for now, the service is new and only contains music. Apple Music matches Google Play with a $14.99 family plan that supports up to six people. That’s a great deal.

Winner for the best bang for your buck

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music

This one was ridiculously close. Google Play Music wins, again, because of YouTube Red. If Google ever removes YouTube Red from Google Play Music, then we’ll have to have this conversation again because I’m not so sure Play Music would retain the top spot. Spotify has the most amount of native content and doesn’t rely on outside services for its podcasts or video content which puts it in a solid second place. Apple Music almost matches Google Play Music feature for feature, but doesn’t have the advantage of YouTube Red to improve its content offerings and gets a third place finish.

Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Play Music

Who wins?

Winner: Google Play Music
Second place: Spotify
Third place: Apple Music

This ended up being a much more difficult comparison than was originally envisioned. All of these applications hit the all of the most important points when it comes to design, content, and playlists with only minor differences and nitpicks between them. They all have additional features that add value. However, at the end of the day, Google Play Music has that proverbial streaming cheat code with YouTube Red which adds so much content.

Spotify had a strong all around showing. It has great content, great design, above average discovery, and it’s intensely easy to use. You can’t really go wrong with Spotify, especially if all you want is a solid, no-fuss music streaming experience without a lot of extra stuff tacked on. It is worth noting that most of Spotify’s features are available in the free version and Spotify maintains the best free music streaming service out of these three competitors. If you don’t want to spend money, Spotify is your winner.

Apple Music came in third, but not by the wide margin that I originally envisioned. The interface is functional and even adheres to many of the Android design guidelines. It has a lot of content and the Beats One really is a unique human touch that you don’t find anywhere else. It is a shame that it offers no free services like the other two, otherwise it may have been higher on this list. There are demographics that could see Apple Music as the way to go and that’s something I wasn’t expecting.

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It inevitably boils down to personal taste. Some people are going to love the virtually limitless content that Play Music offers while others will prefer the more streamlined Spotify experience. Others still will see the allure of Apple Music as a viable option. As long as you’re happy with what you’re getting then there are no wrong answers. Which service do you use or would you use?

  • Ira

    I’m not a huge fan of Play Music’s UI when it comes to the mobile app – feels really cluttered at first glance. Lack of native desktop app really puts me off – compared to Spotify. However, YTRed is another thing in favour of Play Music – but not for those in UK, as it’s not available here yet.
    Huge toss between Spotify and Play Music for me; whereas Play Music works better for me on mobile (+ default music player on my 6P), Spotify is better when it comes to cross-platform and its UI (desktop + mobile).

  • beastie

    An review that tells me nothing… I know that those services can play music and I want them to play music, I don’t care about video or stuff like that.

    Google Play Music: Great interaction with Google Now. I’m from Europe, so no YouTube RED for me and the browse section is just with one tab, no Moods etc.

    Biggest weakness is that you’re unable to download music for offline listening on Mac or PC, you can do it just on your phone. Which kinda sucks.

    And the music you listen on mobile will not be visible on web version! So if you don’t add the song you’re listening to at mobile to your music or give it a thumb, you will not see it in web version.

    Spotify: The best interaction between devices. I can start to listen to song on my phone, come to Mac and continue to listen in the exact second of the song! This is amazing! I can even control the music played on my Mac via the mobile app.

    Biggest weakness is that I was able to find about 10 songs from different artist which aren’t in library, even that Google or Apple have them.

    Apple Music: The best “you’re not in US” experience. Everything which is in US edition is also available for me in Europe version.

    Weakness: Honestly, I don’t know, I like it.

    Currently I’m using Google Music, because I can easily thumb up music that I like and it will be saved in special playlist.

    • Kevin S.

      even better is downvoting ;) But I have to add that Spotify has amazing interaction for their own music but when you add your own files the interaction becomes the worst of the bunch because you have to sync your files yourself instead of uploading them to a cloud and then getting them from there on all your devices. I had like 5 different music collections on 5 devices and if i wanted to listen to a specific song on my desktop I couldn’t because the file is only on my laptop …

    • smokebomb

      Biggest weakness is that you’re unable to download music for offline listening on Mac or PC, you can do it just on your phone. Which kinda sucks.

      That is incorrect. You CAN do this. It’s less convenient since they’re not temp files that are a single click away from being downloaded or deleted, but you can download and listen on computers.

      • beastie

        No you CAN’T download songs that you don’t own. In Spotify, you can download any song, on Apple music also. But for Google music, there is NO option to download a song to your PC or Mac.

      • Kevin S.

        no you can’t at least not legally. I heard there is an option to download the temp files that google play uses and play them but that is definitely against the ToS

        • chris722

          The files are legit MP3 files but they aren’t the name of the track or the artist, they’re named numerically. They won’t play if you’re not subscribed, or you haven’t purchased them so they are authenticated before playback. At least on Android they are, not sure about other operating systems. Any Android file manager will do the trick, just search for MP3 files.

          Or short answer the only DRM free files you’ll get, are those you purchased, or your own music you’ve uploaded to Google Play. Groove Music works the same way.

    • “Apple Music: The best “you’re not in US” experience”

      i agree with this, i’m from Indonesia and for looking Indonesian song Apple music is the best

      • KAM310

        Spotify just launched in Indonesia! You should try it out.

    • JosephHindy

      Okay, 5 things:

      1. This is a comparison for apps. I was going to do desktop services as well but the apps-only comparison was already 6000 words and I knew I was going to get comments from people who didn’t make it to the bottom. Therefore, the existence of desktop features were mentioned, but no comparison was done on purpose.

      2. Spotify has a 3-device limit. If you add a 4th device, it’ll delete all the content from one device and de-authorize itself. Best “between device” experience only qualifies if you own fewer than 3 devices and never intend on using more than 3. Ever.

      3. In the article (and the video), I expressly state that Spotify is the best service if YT Red is unavailable. That means if you can’t get YT Red, then Google Play Music is not the best. Trying to say I didn’t say that means you didn’t read all the words.

      4. You don’t care about video doesn’t mean that no one cares about video. Especially after I’ve had thousands of people leave comments that say “why can’t I listen to YT videos with the screen off?”, I wanted to make sure I addressed the concerns of those people.

      5. As I state, the best features are the ones you actually use and that means my assessment will not be an end-all-be-all comparison. I accept that and calling a comparison that admits that “useless” is being pedantic at best, and just plain mean at worst.

    • chris722

      You can’t use Google Music Manager to download/upload your music on a Mac, PC, Linux or Chromebook? I’ve never had issues there. And even if that is the case you can’t synchronize your phone with your PC with OneDrive or Google Drive? If you want full synchronization, you might be better off with Groove Music, and then synchronizing music with your PC to your phone by uploading to OneDrive’s music folder on the PC, which will make its way back to your phone through Groove Music (if you aren’t using the OneDrive app on your phone). Unless these services aren’t available for you in Europe it sounds like you’d better off using Deezer.

    • Ismael Rosales

      Do you ever see the number of songs in the Thumbs Up playlist fluctuate? Everytime I come back to try GPM, I notice this “bug?” where the number of Thumbs Up songs goes up and down, a little frustrating.

  • Kevin S.

    so basically Play Music won because of Youtube Red. I have no problem with that but you should not forget that Red is only available in the US right now. I am also upset about the missing Desktop Player for Play Music, web players are a lot more resource hungry than Desktop Apps. I love the custom radio stations but you somehow cannot download them to iOS Devices, only to Android (using both regularly). But I love the Downvote Feature that keeps songs out of your Stations (sadly not 100% on Android), both Spotify and Apple music need to copy that asap. I dont want to hear all about that bass ever again.

    • JosephHindy

      And I said “if YT isn’t available, Spotify would win”. So I definitely made sure to keep that in mind for non-US readers. Please read all the words :)

      • Kevin S.

        ok ok sorry I missed that part, but thank you for a great article

  • ldsands

    It would have been nice to see Groove music included here but I’m not at all surprised. Groove music is really not advertised all that much but I think it is a competent competitor in many of these categories and there’s something to be said for it’s complete platform agnostic approach, it works well everywhere.

    • karlj324

      I like Spotify for the discover new artist feature.. Like Google play for uploading my personal collection. Can’t comment on anything apple since I’ve never used it’s ecosystem.

  • JackButch

    a good feature for Spotify is being on PlayStation so that’s a big bonus for me

  • David ibarra

    Overall, we are analyzing a music app and as such the review needs to remove the video side to make it apples to apples

    Items that were not addressed in review quality of streams, offline options, offline file quality downloads which are essential for a music to be useful

    When you talk about a playlist, you can find all playlists on all apps. What I think needs to realize is a that a playlist has to be looked like finding new music from artists and genres you would not usually listen and I think Spotify Discover really tackles it properly.

    • JosephHindy

      I did, in fact, address offline options. Quality of streaming and offline file quality is WILDLY subject to personal interpretation (they all have high quality streaming options and 320kbps downloads, but people are picky about codecs and there is no such thing as “the best codec”). Thus, “addressing” or “testing” these things is arbitrary and nonsensical. They all stream high-bitrate music. They all download high-bitrate music. Unless you’re rocking $300 headphones, you’ll never notice and if you’re rocking $300 headphones, you’re probably taking advantage of the 200MB-300MB per song upload to add FLAC songs to your online library anyway.

      • LifeWulf

        A note: Adding FLAC songs to your Google Play library is irrelevant, as they just convert it to MP3 anyway. Unless they changed that since I cancelled my subscription.

        • JosephHindy

          I wouldn’t blame them if they did. A ton of people don’t have the web capable of streaming files that big on a consistent basis for long periods of listening.

    • you can listen to music on YouTube though so it’s relevant enough.

      Google is terrible for making playlists since you can’t organise them into folders. spotify is miles ahead of the competition with their discover features.
      Google is way better for me since you can store your own songs. so it’s not possible to compare apples with apples

      • Jacob Swinton

        Yeah I started off with Google Play Music and have been using it since just after it’s launch in 2013. I love uploading my own music and have my account well set up with recommendations and playlists. My brother uses spotify and The Discover feature has led him to find so many great new artists and niche music that I just don’t have the tools to find on Google Music, to the point where I’ve considered switching just to find new music. There are also far less smaller artists on Google Play Music than Spotify too.

  • Juschan

    honestly i got to say apple music is crappy on the iPhone .. unrealistic batteryimpact pared with whoever thought of these strange menus .. google play music was always a good choice on my galaxy. well now its not an option. spotify is clearly the best app i have ever used and seen and i am happy with it

  • nebulaoperator

    Have used all three. Spotify for 3 years Google music for 3 montha and apple music for 1 month now. Best of all is Spotify. Intuitive easy to navigate and find music and library it. Second is google keep in mind they have pathetic browser extension and no app lfor windows that makes it painfully annoying to toggle quickly from a task bar . Apple music would be fine but the UI is fucking mess , excusy language, but least I would expect it from the company that is synonymous for simplicity. It is also far from intuitive. After 3 month trial i will ptobably go back to spotify.

  • Goat Cheese

    Switched to Apple Music as the family plan is so inexpensive. But while using Apple Music, I came to the realisation it’s a much better service than all other music services. Song quality is just better on Apple Music (higher bitrate doesn’t mean better sound all the time), iTunes music library is much bigger too.

    • Kevin S.

      part of the reason is that Apple uses AAC while Play Music and Spotify both use MP3.

      • Marco Missere

        Spotify uses OGG Vorbis, doesn’t it?

    • janxspiritt

      I think a massive deal break for most people when considering Apple Music is the fact that there is no webplayer. Being able to open a browser and access your playlists while visiting a friend would be very helpful.

  • Matt Colontrelle

    I use Apple Music. Never tried Spotify. Google Play always thought the orange and white theme was ugly, plus Apple Music beat them to get a family plan out which was the major factor for me since I have myself, 2 kids and my wife. And there’s no way were switching now and have to rebuild all our music libraries we’ve created. I might have overlooked the ugly Google theme and went with them if they would have pushed out a family plan sooner.

  • Scott Ricketts

    When there were huge chunks of content not available for streaming Google Play’s big deal for me was being able to upload those songs and then have them mixed in with streaming songs in playlists. Given The Beatles Mono Mixes aren’t available for streaming, this is still the biggest win for me.

  • mrjayviper

    would be nice if another review of the 3 services is done by an AA staff that’s not living in the US to cater for it’s non-American audiences. Youtube Red/Google Music ad-supported radio is US only. :)

    • abazigal

      This. Google Play isn’t available in Singapore, for example, which pretty much makes it a non-starter.

    • JosephHindy

      If you read all the way through, you’d see that I state that if YT Red isn’t available, that Spotify would win.

      Keep in mind that 1st, 2nd, and 3rd doesn’t mean “great, mediocre, crap”, it means “really good, really good, and really good”. You can’t go wrong with any of these services.

  • sri charan

    Google Play All Access and Spotify are not available in India and many other countries…Only Apple Music is….Which is probably a big reason for why Apple Music has got 10 million paying subscribers so soon….The former two are missing out on a lot of potential customers….

    The pricing for Apple Music is also country dependent….In India individual membership is 120 rupees which is about 1.75 dollars and family plan is about 190 rupees which is about 2.8 dollars….which is awesome and cheap….

    You should also consider SoundCloud and Groove Music…..

    • Ed B

      In latin america or, at least, in mi country, both Spotify and play Music cost USD5.99 for an individual membership and USD8.99 for a family membership. Apple music is still 10 bucks… so spotify all the way in my case.

  • faddy

    Deezer is better

  • In my opinion I gotta say Apple Music is the best! Design, playlist, & discovering new music are all amazing. I don’t really care for the orange and white “Material design” theme Play Music has going on, I think its ugly. I’ve also realized that Apple Music gets some content first and has more. I use Apple Music for streaming and Play music for offline and YouTube Red.

  • Danny Ryan

    Shame that family plan isnt available on Google Play Music for those of us with google accounts with our own domains :-(

    • Kim Nilsson

      That is a definite shame.
      No Family Plan for Google Apps accounts.

    • domwrap

      I’m in the same boat: no Family Plan for me as I have GApps for Domains. :(

    • Subpariq

      In agreement here. I enjoy Google Play Music, but am quite frustrated by Google leaving folks like us with family Google Apps accounts out in the cold like this.

    • David Alexander Opperman

      Except it does…

      • Brett Williams

        It does? How? I don’t even have the option to attempt to sign up.

    • Dex4Sure

      They have family plan and for $14.99 you get Google Play Music for up to 6 people… Its the best family plan out there by far.

  • balcobomber25

    I have used all 3 plus a few more. For me Google Play has been the best hands down.

    • ACB Agente de Seguros

      i haven’t used Apple Music, but Spotify and Google as a payer user, and in my experience i’ve prefered Spotify, because it has new underground artist that i’ve liked, but haven’t found on GMusic. And also has a destop player no like GMusic. that i have to run my navigator to initiate GMusic. But that’s my experience. Cheers!

      • balcobomber25

        I have used Spotify off and on it’s a good service too. I just live in the Google ecosystem so Play Music is the best for me.

  • cmcinroy

    Might be worth mentioning one of the significant limitations of the Google Play Music Family Plans — they are not available to Google Apps for Work/Domains/Education users. You must have a free gmail account to participate.

    • Omar O’Hara

      You have to be a part of a family to participate in a family plan?

      • Kevin S.

        no you haven’t, but you have to be comfortable sharing a credit card for all members of the “family”

        • I think @omarohara:disqus’s point was that family plans are for actual families, not work/domain/education groups.

          • JosephHindy

            Nate is correct. This isn’t like Amazon Prime in the olden days where you could find 3 random ass people on the Internet and everyone pitches down $20 to get a year of 2-day shipping. These days, businesses want you to use family plans for your family and close friends.

  • Adrian Zoltan

    the pirate bay is the best.

    • Nirjhar Samadder

      hats off :) lol

  • Arkham Knight

    I love Apple Music, but the app is what made me not want to continue paying after my trial was up.

  • rooislangwtf


    • chris722

      In Europe. It technically is not available in the US but there are workarounds, such as subscribing through Cricket Wireless, another wireless provider they have deals with, or subscribing through a Windows Phone. They need to make up their mind if they are allowing new accounts to exist in the US or not before anyone can recommend them.

      • rooislangwtf

        Ah weird, didn’t expect it to not be available in the US

  • Rusty Millabas

    hmmmp. if only google Play All access is accessible to most countries in the world, . Google please have mercy for Filipinos!!!

  • badgamer1967

    Very US centric review as Youtube Red is not available in many countries such as mine, Australia. So giving google music the win seems a bit of a joke.

    • JosephHindy

      No, technology is a very US-centric business. It’s not region bias to include every feature a service has. However, if you read carefully, I do say that if YouTube can’t be included, then Spotify probably wins.

  • Jason Owens

    I have had Spotify for 3 years. I have loved it. Until the last month. For some inexplicable reason, their engineers have destroyed a once amazing app over the past month with their updates. A playlist that used to incorporate gapless playback now stops playing audio whenever it feels like it, even though the timebar of the song continues to run as if it were still “playing”. Having to keep starting songs on a playlist that should run thru them automatically and seamlessly is annoying, extremely frustrating, and essentially defeats the purpose of creating your own playlists. Unless they fix this problem, I will be cancelling my subscription.

  • Paul Allen

    Looking to switch my family of two iPhones and one Android from Rhapsody to either Apple Music or Play Music. YouTube Red makes Google’s system more compelling but I’m concerned with how well it works on iOS. Basically I only use Rhapsody on my Android for streaming a new song to decide whether it’s worth buying, but the wife and daughter use it as the primary music app on their iPhones, downloading songs for offline playback.

    How well-organized is each element in terms of family plans? Do any of them make use of individual profiles like Netflix does, or is it just “Here’s everybody’s playlists, good luck finding yours” the way Rhapsody does it?

    • JosephHindy

      YouTube Red is attached to your Google account, so you should have it immediately after signing into YT on any platform (ios, Android, web browser, etc).

      Apple Music and Google Play Music have the best family plans bar none in terms of price, but all three allow for each family plan member to maintain their own profiles that don’t see anyone else’s profile so you’re fine there.

  • I like

  • Jim Ryan

    I ended up actually switching from Google music to spotify. While Google’s service does have more features and additional implementation with YouTube, I’ve found that it just doesn’t work as well at streaming over a weak network as spotify. Doesn’t really matter what the service offers if it doesn’t work on your network.

  • Joe the Internet Guy

    I know this means very little now, but man, do I miss Rdio. Rdio was beautifully designed, had a great social community and great music selection. *sigh* For me, all services now are judged by that service.

    I currently have Google Music because I use an Android phone (Galaxy S6) but use Apple products for everything else. Google Music is quite ugly, basic and has to be run through a browser but it does have Chromecast support and I am able to upload my personal collection like Apple. But why no Playlist Folders? Seems so obvious! There is also so much wasted space in the interface. Their Auto-Playlists are amazing and blow everyone else out of the water.

    Apple Music is much better looking but still too young with too many bugs (for Android). I think if that stuff were fixed with added Chromecast, I’d move over to that service. Visually, its more appealing and makes sense to use.

    Spotify is better on iOS than Android and does have a nice social component which trumps the other two but it’s pretty ugly to look at (that green tho) and its too focused on individual songs than albums which makes curating my Playlists and such very difficult and slow.

    Now that Pandora owns the technology of Rdio and even some of the coders/designers were hired by Pandora, I am in a holding pattern to see how the update to their streaming service goes later this year. If it is what I hope it could be, I’d run to them screaming for them to take my money.

  • Benjamin Roesler

    I use and really enjoy Spotify. I’m definitely open to trying to Google, but do they have comedy stuff? I know Apple Music doesn’t…or they didn’t when I used my free trial. If I can listen to Rory Skolvel, Kyle Kinane, or Ron Funches on Google, I might switch because I really like the “upload your own music” part of it.

  • Final Stretch

    the one most important thing missing from this comparison article is music quality. because I’ve noticed that apple music definitely has higher streaming quality than google play music. maybe it was just my old galaxy s5. But I had google play music and used my 3 months with apple music. There was a deciding increase in streaming quality for apple.

    • An Li

      good point to bring up.

  • Rick_Deckard

    Spotify wins… :-D

  • An Li

    none of the above. Chinese music apps allow you to download (English songs not just Chinese) for free. Hands down better than all the ones listed. Not to mention all the other features such as Karaoke mode and lyrics for songs.

    • DanG

      It’s not something you want to brag about if the musicians don’t get paid by the Chinese music app.

      • An Li

        except that some songs are paid so I’m sure there is some payment made to the singers and no Taylor Swift as well.

        • DanG

          “Some” doesn’t count. It must be for all songs.
          How would you feel If you are a musician, and you found out your music is being downloaded freely without your consent?

  • Diskus1

    So when will YouTube Red launch in more countries… ?

    Fore us high tech savvy people in Sweden, does Google Play Music then lose this shootout?

  • JC

    I had Spotify Premium for almost 2 years, and just recently switched to GPM. I grew increasingly frustrated with the Spotify app, which ultimately caused the switch. Had a lot of crashes, music not playing, music playing with the wrong album art, etc. I don’t have these issues with GPM.

    My personal experience.

  • DanG

    Can’t beat $7.99 deal.

  • DanG

    The family plan only works on accounts.

  • tiger

    Love this statement: ” Apple Music had a strong showing, but like Spotify its only really big feature is its music.”

    What was this article about again? Which of the 3 has support from musicians (and thus actually have a future!)? Which 3 have exclusives from artists?

  • Marius Tomas

    what about Amazon music?

  • Disqus-ed

    Did I miss something here with Spotify? You can download artist, albums, songs or playlist for off line listening. Also how about sound quality? A few audiophile sites have had blind listening test with each service with Spotify Ogg Vorbis format coming out on top. So for $10 a month I can download all my music at 320kbps for off line listening, the same rate that apple music sells songs at .99 each! No brainier, better sound, download all the music I want , listen in high quality. I use this in a $30K audiophile system and it sounds amazing.

  • phatmanXXL

    Apple Music is by far the best service.


    Not a Apple fan so that’s out. Never tried Spotify because at the time it was more expensive than GPM. I’ve been on GPM since it’s inception [had the 7.99 plan until May when I switch over to the family plan] and truly enjoy it. As to what’s the best? The best for ME is what I’m using.

  • Chris Beavans

    I have Google Play Music plus YouTube Red! They are the best! I have a Nexus Tablet,Nexus Phone and a Chromecast!

  • DanG

    When you stated you can download music for free from a Chinese app, did you mean from one of apps listed on the website?
    If so, it’s not free download since you are paying month fees for the subscription. Those apps collect fees from the members to pay the recording companies owning the copyrights to the music.

  • Shaunak Basu

    In India we only have Apple Music. So… But their regional library is pretty slim. and also find it pretty stupid that I cant play music copied to phone from PC…
    Also I dont understand why Play Music or Apple Music does not have a folder play option.

  • mobilemann

    android blog picks google app as best. Shocker.

  • An Li

    no point arguing with you since you clearly only see things your own way and have to be right in everything. And yes the downloads are free because membership is free (why do you think they have 800m members? ) while you can be a vip member through monthly subscription and have access to more songs. just go use your iTunes and Play Store music if you’re so holy.

  • Patrick van Enschot

    I’m comparing the three right now, both on my Android device and my iOS devices. So far Spotify is in the lead. Why? Quality of playback. It’s slightly better than the others. But I have to admit, my ears are very good and I’m using a decent in-ear headphone. Spotify sounds ‘roomier’ – there’s more depth in the sound, it’s more 3-dimensional, don’t know how else to describe it. Mind you it’s not a mind blowing difference but as an audiophile for me it’s enough.
    I mainly listen to classical music and was worried about the number of tracks/albums on all 3 of the services but it’s plenty, unless you’re looking for something obscure. I don’t need 222 recordings of Beethoven’s 5th, the current 30 (or so) is enough. And so far, everything that is on Spotify is also on Apple and is also on Google.
    Sure there are cosmetic differences. But that’s not enough for me to choose one over the other. In my country there is no bundle with YouTube for GOogle, unfortunately, otherwise that would probably have sold the deal for me. If and when that comes, I might settle for Google music. The test is not over yet but Spotify stands the greatest chance.

  • Diego Marcondes

    I’ve tested the 3 applications. Google Play Music is the slower, it’s really slow. Spotify is good, but I think the sound quality of Apple Music is better and I also like the interface as well the ability to creat smart playlists.

  • Caitlyn

    Google Play Music does not have a Roku channel which makes it a problem for me. My best speakers are in my entertainment system and it is very inconvenient to setup something that works. Basically I need to cast from my phone to my Roku. What a pain.

  • dwegowy

    Having used paid versions of all three, I settled on Google because it works the most consistently for me and I like how it lets me manage my downloads. Sync of listening activity between phone and browser is handy.

    None of these services does very well at offering older music. They are focused on new music. Older music tends to be best-of collections, poorly organized and with gaps (absent albums, songs). Very poor classical collections, too.