Spotify vs. Apple Music (Why I Can’t Switch)


  • To audiophile ears, and with the right equipment, Apple Music appears to have much better fidelity than Spotify (stop right there!).
  • iTunes lets you create “Smart Playlists” that are query driven, so you can keep self-managing playlists of everything from the 1930s or the 1960s or the 2010s, or everything from “these three genres” or everything that you imported from vinyl sources, or everything with a given comment string in the metadata, etc. I get a huge amount of mileage from Smart Playlists — but there is no equivalent feature in Spotify.
A handful of the Smart Playlists I rely on in iTunes — no equivalent functionality in Spotify!
  • While both services let you upload your existing collection into the cloud for access from anywhere, iTunes makes the process far more straightforward and seamless (I found the process with Spotify awkward and unreliable, with lots of missing/scrambled cover art, albums that were uploaded intact arriving in the cloud as if assembled from multiple compilations, etc. — it did not respect all the organizational metadata work I’ve done over time).
  • iTunes lets you edit your tracks’ metadata (including cover art), whether it’s part of your uploaded collection or part of their collection. Spotify does not.
  • iTunes lets you change the “view” of any slice of your collection, from Album cover grid view to simple track listing to enhanced “Playlist” mode, etc. (Yes, Spotify has an Albums view but that’s not what I mean — If I’m viewing a Playlist I want the ability to view that playlist in any of several modes!)
  • iTunes lets you shuffle your entire collection from any view (if this is possible in Spotify, I don’t see how — if I go into Albums view in Spotify, how do I start a track-based random shuffle of all my albums?).
  • iTunes lets you rate and “Favorite” tracks so you can create custom smart playlists of just your favorite tracks in a certain genre, for example. No equivalent functionality in Spotify.
Smart Playlists are so powerful — arbitrary query complexity.
  • iTunes lets you view your precious cover art at any resolution — even full-screen on a second desktop! Spotify’s cover art view seems to be limited to a tiny thumbnail. When I was digitizing the collections, I was committed never to store art at a resolution lower than 1000x1000px. I personally photographed and scanned many hundreds of LPs and CDs to make this happen. All of that work would be wasted if I switched to Spotify.
iTunes lets me view cover art at any size, and free-floating cover art windows double as playback controllers. Not possible with Spotify.
  • Because iTunes is integrated with both AirPlay and bluetooth, it lets you route its output simultaneously to any set of speaker systems in the house. Spotify has a similar feature, but it’s Bluetooth/Chromecast only (no AirPlay) and only available to Premium users (not a big deal, just saying this ability is free with iTunes, paid with Spotify). As a constant user of both Bluetooth and AirPlay speaker systems, I can say unequivocally that Bluetooth is a constant hassle, while AirPlay is seamless — no way would I want to be forced into using Bluetooth all the time.
  • Both services employ teams of human curators who hand-assemble massive collections of custom playlists and self-refreshing stations in every imaginable micro-subgenre, with music ready to play all day no matter your current context or mood. The human-curated offerings on the two platforms are different but similar. I honestly can’t say I prefer one over the other — the “discovery” problem is satisfied by both platforms equally.
  • As an app, Spotify is faster — but that’s because it does much less than iTunes does. They look very different, of course. iTunes favors the classic Apple “clean white” look while Spotify goes for a more geeky “light on dark” color scheme. Again, I could go either way — both are pleasant and non-fatiguing to use over long periods of time.
  • Both services let you make your playlists public, and to share them out onto social media or blogs.
  • Spotify does one thing far better than iTunes/Apple Music — social graph integration. Sometimes I’d love to see what my friends are listening to. iTunes now has the beginnings of a feature like this in place, but it’s weak, and Spotify’s is far easier to use, and more detailed.
  • Spotify doesn’t provide a way to browse my own collection by Genre, nor a way to customize the genre of individual tracks or albums (admittedly genres are problematic because they’re so loosey-goosey and subjective, but I’m used to having this control and sometimes actually use it!

The Show-Stopper

All filled up (not a screenshot of my own library).




Djangonaut at Energy Solutions, Oakland. Dad. Geocacher. Treehugger.

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Scot Hacker

Scot Hacker

Djangonaut at Energy Solutions, Oakland. Dad. Geocacher. Treehugger.

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