The best music streaming services for Android compared

June 3, 2014
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Music is good for you. Marley was on to something when he said, “One good thing about music, is when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

One of the best things about the smartphone revolution is that we all now have the means to listen to music wherever we happen to be. Streaming services, playlist curation, and automagically created radio stations are changing the way we listen to and discover new music. This space is extremely competitive right now and that can only be a good thing for us, but how do you decide which service is going to provide the soundtrack to your life?

We compare some of the top competitors and weigh up their pros and cons.

SpotifySpotify_icon

The original, and quite possibly still the best, is Spotify. With well over 20 million songs on offer, a huge range of curated playlists, the ability to create radio stations, a powerful search function, and some handy add-ons like scrolling karaoke lyrics, there really isn’t anything else quite as well-rounded.

If you can tolerate ads then the free version of Spotify can be used as a desktop client, through a browser, or as an Android app on tablets and smartphones. The limitation with the smartphone app is that you can’t play any song whenever you want; you can only “shuffle play” playlists. That still allows you to make a playlist you like and listen to it on your mobile for free, you can even pick a few songs you like and have Spotify fill the rest in. There are no restrictions on the tablet or desktop versions, just an advert every five songs or so.

For $10 per month you get the premium service which lifts the restriction on choosing specific songs on mobile, gets rid of the adverts, and allows you to download music for offline listening.

Spotify is the best all rounder available

PROS
  • Feature rich
  • Great free version
  • Strong song selection
  • Priced competitively
CONS
  • Free mobile version is shuffle only which takes away a lot of the Spotify experience
9.0
Spotify’s music library and its ease of use separate it from the rest as the best music streaming player for Android. Highly recommended!
google play

Spotify_screenshots

Google Play Music All AccessPlay_Music_icon

The basic Play Music app lets you upload up to 20,000 of your own songs and stream them for free. If you’re willing to spend $10 per month then you can get access to over 18 million songs via the All Access service. Choose whatever you want on any device and play it without any limitations. You’ll also find radio station functionality and smart recommendations.

One cool feature on All Access worth mentioning is the ability to choose a playlist and delete the songs you don’t like out of it before you start listening, instead of having to skip.

Still has some catching up to do

PROS
  • Upload your own music
  • Delete playlist tracks
  • Song selection is above average
  • Proprietary music store, no linking to other stores to buy tracks
  • Smart lists and stations work well
CONS
  • Can't decide if it wants to be like Pandora, Spotify, or iTunes and the result can be a tad confusing for end users
  • Music discovery
  • Free version is a poor example of what you can get with the paid version
7.5
If you want to upload a big collection and access new music then Play Music All Access is a winner.
google play

Play_Music_screenshots

Sony Music UnlimitedSony_Music_Unlimited_icon

With more than 22 million songs Sony’s offering is huge, but there’s no free component. For $10 per month you get free, unlimited access to the library with no ads or limitations. You’ll find curated playlists, a recommendation engine, and full playlist support. You can also create or listen to pre-made channels, which are much like radio stations. It ties into Sony’s Entertainment Network, so if you have a lot of Sony devices it might represent the easiest choice.

On Android, the app is a bit of a weak link compared to some of the competition. It’s not as well designed or robust as Spotify.

More curation and a better app could push Sony's service into the top tier

PROS
  • Big collection
  • Sony device tie-ins
CONS
  • Android app is poor
  • Music discovery
  • No free version to try
7.0
It has plenty of music to choose from, but the app isn’t the best on the market.
google play

Sony_Music_Unlimited_screenshots

RdioRdio_icon

There are more than 25 million tracks on Rdio. You can choose individual songs, listen to stations to discover new music, and save anything you like to your collection or a playlist. You can also sync your music for offline listening. It costs $10 per month on mobile (there’s a 14 day free trial). If you just use it on your desktop browser then you can enjoy a six month free trial. The free versions of Rdio are currently limited to the US and Australia and they offer ad-supported free listening on desktop and free stations on Android.

The remote control feature is a winner on Rdio. If you have music playing on your laptop you can fire up the smartphone app and use your phone as a remote control, or switch devices seamlessly. This works both ways and it can be quite handy.

Loads of music, easy to use, well designed apps

PROS
  • Huge collection
  • Music discovery
  • Remote control feature
  • Offline syncing
CONS
  • Free version limited outside US
  • Curated playlists not for everyone
8.5
For music discovery Rdio is excellent and the app is a joy to use.
google play

Rdio_screenshots

DeezerDeezer_icon

This is a feature-rich service with over 30 million tracks in its library. You can listen in to more than 30,000 radio stations or create your own, there’s full playlist support, unlimited uploads of your own tracks, and a discovery engine. The free version has adverts and some limitations which you can remove for $5 per month.

If you want to go Premium + for $7 per month then you’ll also gain the ability to download tracks for offline listening and get access to a range of extra features. Both premium versions allow you to continue to use the service wherever you go, even if you travel abroad. The downside for Deezer is the fact that the Android app can be a little flaky.

Offers more for less, just needs a better app

PROS
  • Huge library of music
  • Cheaper premium options
  • Ability to download music with Premium
CONS
  • Android app is not perfect
8.0
The biggest library and different pricing options are only let down by the Android app itself.
google play

Deezer_screenshots

Slacker RadioSlacker Radio music streaming

Slacker Radio is a somewhat underrated selection in music streaming. It features over 10 million songs along with a healthy selection of talk radio stations. You can use one of the 200 or more curated playlists or create your own as you so choose. It also includes not one, but three different subscription options. The free version gives you unlimited listening but limited skips, no offline play, and you’ll have to listen to some advertisements. For $3.99 per month you get no ads and unlimited skips. For $9.99 per month you get offline listening and a very Spotify-like ability to play music on demand.

The Android app is free to use and it’s fairly competent at accessing all of Slacker’s features. It’s been known to have crash and buffer issues. The interface has been updated in the near recent past and it’s actually rather functional and pleasant to use. Slacker is one of the few services to combine music and talk radio services into a single app so those who enjoy both forms of entertainment can kill two birds with one stone.

Options that others don't have, but others may have more options.

PROS
  • 10 million songs is a decent library augmented with talk radio selections.
  • Competitive pricing and multiple paid options.
  • Android app is well designed.
  • Mammoth multi-platform support, including cars, game consoles, phones, and computers.
CONS
  • Android app is known to be buggy for some.
  • Spotify, Google Play Music, and others have more music available.
  • On demand music play requires most expensive subscription.
7.5
With a competent app, a good sized library, and talk radio, Slacker has a little something for everyone. However, a little something may not always be enough.
google play


Play_Music_screenshots

Honorable mentions

Songza is a really cool app that allows you to choose music based on your mood or activity and it’s packed with curated playlists, but it’s only available in the US and Canada right now. If you’re not put off by Apple’s acquisition and you live in the States then Beats Music offers more than 20 million songs for $10 per month with plenty of recommendations and handy features.

Pandora is another good option for free radio stations. The version is ad supported and the mobile version has a skip limit on iOS and Android. Users can subscribe to Pandora One for $4.99 per month. This gives them more skips, no ads, less time outs, and more. The only real downside is their lackluster 800,000 song library which is far below average.

If you’re already using doubleTwist, and you’re in the US, then you should check out the Magic Radio service within it for 13 million tracks, infinite playlists, and personalized stations for $25 per year.

The bottom line

If you’re looking for a free service, and you can put up with ads, then there’s nothing better than Spotify. Deezer comes a close second and Rdio is a good choice for Americans and Australians. If you’re willing to pay a monthly fee then Spotify still tops the charts, but Google’s Play Music All Access is a good option. The fact that Spotify has been around for so long makes it hard to compete with, it has more features and add-ons and an active community, and there’s very little that it’s lacking compared to the competition. It’s worth checking each service to see if your favorites are included, because licensing deals are complex and the catalogues of available music change frequently. Having tried them all, Spotify definitely tops the list as the best all-rounder right now.

What gets your vote? Is your favorite missing from the list? Tell us about it.

Comments

  • Jbg

    Spotify is no longer requires a Facebook to get an account and hasn’t for a while.

    • Alex

      For some time now, we can make a account whit just the email, no need the facebook acc.
      So I think should take out that from the cons, and maybe more a 0.1 for that? :P

      • http://www.AndroidAuthority.com/ Darcy Alexander LaCouvee

        This has since been fixed. 9.0 is very high! Spotify is to be commended for creating such a good service, but Play Music All Access remains a compelling alternative.

        • Jbg

          Yup. I honestly think the main 2 competitors are Spotify and All Access. Only reason I haven’t switch is because I’m so use to Spotify.

    • JosephHindy

      That’s very true but if you want to use social media to sign in, your only option is to use your Facebook account. There is no Twitter, G+, etc support. Only email and Facebook.

  • Hows about some perspective?

    *laughing*

    “Can’t decide if it wants to be…”

    Translation:
    “They tried to incorporate the best parts of…”

    I guess it completely depends on your perspective. GPMAA is, in this user’s opinion anyway, the best combination of the Zune Subscription Service and the likes of Pandora et al.

  • Amadeus Klein

    Hmm Just the other day “Beats Music” was called a “Very important app” But it didn’t make the list here, so I’m guessing that was just hype to make the apple purchase seem more sinister?

    Don’t get me wrong, Apple buying beats is surprising, but they overpaid for a name and crappy product to obtain a middle of the road streaming service that can’t even break this list…

    As for this list I agree with it’s top 5 for the most part….

  • alby91a

    What didn’t you like about rhapsody that it didn’t even get honorable mention? I tried Google all access to see about switching from rhapsody but I didn’t like Google ui.

  • Terry Barnhill

    The thing I really like about Google All Access is the ability to share the subscription. My wife, sister in law, and I all share one account making it much cheaper per person. I tried Beats and it only let’s you play on one device at a time, whereas with All Access we can all have our phones playing different tracks at the same time.

    • supremekizzle

      How do you do that?

      • Terry Barnhill

        You just log in with the Google account that has the sub on multiple devices.

    • sluflyer06

      What about cross platform? Is there Google All Access available for iOS (wife is on iOS)

      • Terry Barnhill

        Not sure that would work. On android it just goes by the Google account. Not sure how it’s registered on iOS.

    • Aaron

      Doesn’t that mean your playlists and stations are shared on all devices? Me and the wife have very different taste in music.

      • Terry Barnhill

        Yes you will see music or playlists that the other people who use that account save to the account but you don’t have to save it to your device.

        • Aaron

          I guess that’s a reasonable compromise in most cases but for another 8 bucks I’ll let it curate to her music tastes. Thanks for responding.

          • Terry Barnhill

            Yeah. Sharing kind of kills the music suggestions as we have different tastes so it will suggest stuff based on what my sister in law likes.

    • takpro

      How are you able to share a subscription? After reading your post I’ve searched Google forums and groups to see how to do this, without success. Unless all the devices are on the same Google account, I see no way to do this. It would be helpful to have an explanation.

  • vickeiy

    Since i mostly listen to music on my phone, my main problem with Spotify was that i had to use 2 different apps for my local music and for the Spotify stuff, even if they were made available offline. So i switched to play music aa cause it looked perfect on paper: i could sync my own music with the rest of the ‘borrowed’ stuff, had more than enough space to upload the songs what i couldn’t find in their library, and i could manage all this in just one app. And it even works just fine. Worked at least… lately it started to drop error messages while listening to music and i have to restart the song or even the app to make it work. It drives me crazy and i can’t find a solution. I might try out Deezer too, if i remember correctly you manage your subscribed and locale music at once with their app too, and that’s the most important part for me, since there’s a lot of (mostly underground) music i can’t find in any of these apps.

  • Andrew White

    Strange that ‘DI radio’ was given no mention.
    Free with the exception of an occassional pop-up ad and a subtle reminder every 20 mins or so that you can upgrade the bit rate, therefore the sound quality for a small monthly charge.
    About 30 different music styles or genre’ available 24/7 including Trance, Chillout, Lounge, Drum ‘n bass, DJ Mixes, Hardcore etc etc.
    I’m more than satified with the diverse range of music on offer and the digital quality with the free streaming.
    I will upgrade shortly because 1) my new fibre connection is giving me 200GB a month for $59 and 2) I want to offer my support financially for what is being presented.

  • Shark Bait

    All access has to be my favorite. I totally disagree that music discovery is bad. I actually think its the best. I’m feeling luck radio is brilliant, its sometimes scary how well it knows me. And if someone brings out a new song it thinks i like its automatically added to my screen, i think its great. Sync and offline work flawlessly too! (its also the cheapest for me)

    • Justin S.

      Totally agree about the discovery. The ‘Explore’ menu option shows new music, recommended artists, etc. I haven’t used other services but have discovered so many new albums, artists, songs, etc. that I am thankful All Access has helped. The worst thing about the service is the name: Google Play Music So Access is a mouthful!

  • Angela

    Talking about music, there is a new android multiplayer app “Piano 4 hands” is cool. We can hear each others piano sound in real time. com.blueslabs.blackwhite

  • smokebomb

    Since a lot of what I listen to isn’t available on any music streaming service, uploading up to 20k songs to Google play is my favorite feature of the service. I’ve been using it for 4 years, uploaded my entire library when I first started using it (about 12k songs), and still haven’t hit 20k songs yet.

  • Derrick Johnson

    It would seem that Chromecast compatibility should be automatically mentioned in any review of media apps these days.
    That would be helpful…

  • User

    Spotify’s Spotify Connect can control device to/from any Android/iOS device as well as other partnered audio devices. Huge.

  • Franco

    What about Milk music in galaxy phones. That’s the fast music app ever

    • Franco

      *best music app ever. You can create your own stations and choose whatever gender you want; and is free

  • Donald Martin

    What about “Milk”? I’ve been using that one lately.

  • CF in Massachusetts

    I am new to Android operating systems with a new phone and I’m sad to report Pandora is flaky on Android. It starts skipping half way through pieces and I have to shut down, reinstall, clear data. Boring.

  • Tio Roberto

    History lesson — Rhapsody started this all rolling back in 2001. Spotify is far from “the original.”

  • Badre Zouiri

    what about https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.itconnect.inc.musica
    Musica unlimited free music ;

    the music listening service is free. There are no restrictions on viewing your location or time.
    you do not even need to sign in to listen to your music unlimited !
    also Musica offer the same services as (spoty,Deezer…) .