Which music streaming service should you choose in 2017? Apple Music or Spotify?
The shift of customer behavior in the music industry
Similar to what is happening in cable TV industry, the music world has been watching a significant shift of listener taste from CDs, downloaded albums and singles to streaming. Yet, you can still have “a thousand songs” on your pocket. However, fewer and fewer music lovers right now, even Apple’ users go to iTunes to purchase songs and albums like before. Instead, they are preferring storing and playing music on the cloud, thanks to a proliferation of streaming services. Big players in the game include Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon Music, Google Play Music, Microsoft Groove Music.
Among those, Spotify and Apple Music are sharing the big pieces of the cake. As per Statista, on July 2017, these 2 services hit 60m and 27m paid subscribers respectively.
Debuting in 2015, Apple Music was expected to push huge pressure on Spotify, which is 8 years maturer. However, even after a major UI overhaul in 2016 within iOS 10, Apple Music is seemly struggling in keeping pace with the Swedish streamer. Arguably, either one of them has exclusive features that the other does not. I am currently subscribing for Apple Music for around 1 year after 1.5 years being with Spotify. Therefore, I would like to share my experience on both streaming services.
Spotify’s UI reflects the dark theme which is highly contrast with Apple Music with white background. Both set the menu bars in the bottom which look quite identical except the arrangement of sub-menus. Apple Music’s design language is a little more minimalistic. However, I found Spotify’s UX to be more functional. Let’s take an example at Now Playing screen:
At a glance, we can see the color of the Album Art hovers the whole screen which looks lots more elegant than the always-white-background in Apple Music. Next, users can directly adjust Shuffle, Repeat options, quickly add the current song to Library as well as accessing to Queues right in the first move instead of having to unreasonably scroll down in Apple Music.
Things get more complicated from Apple’s app when going to Songs collection. In order to download, you have to manually tap every single icon on the right side of the song while in Spotify, it is simply done with one tap of the Download toggle.
There are even more confused experiences when going to sub-menus like For You or Browse in Apple Music. However, as the focus of this Blog is not entirely about UX, I will stop here and give my personal preference: Spotify’s user experience is more appealing and functional than Apple Music.
I have listened to both Spotify and Apple Music daily through a wide range of earbuds (Apple EarPods, Beats X, Sennheiser CX 3.0), headphones (Beats Solo 2, Sony MDR) and some middle-range-price speakers from Bose & Logitech but I could not find any major differences in sound quality. Therefore, I would say if you want to listen to music while you traveling to work, working out at the gym or chilling at home, both of these will definitely meet all of your needs. If you prefer superior audio quality, there are number of options out there such as vinyl or lossless streaming from Tidal. However, the price is obviously more expensive.
Wanna get access to your music library in different devices? Both Spotify and Apple Music are able to synchronize your music almost instantly and flawlessly. While Spotify allows premium customers to stream online unlimitedly, it only lets customers to sync content to offline playlists to maximum 3 devices with 3,333 tracks on each device, Apple Music sets the limit up to 10 devices without a certain limit on the amount of downloaded songs.
You can find personally tailored music in “Discover” in Spotify or “For You” in Apple Music. Both uses advanced algorithm to deliver automated music suggestions for listeners in the form of Weekly Playlists. Spotify even navigated to incorporate AI into its system. The Swedish firm just acquired Niland-a startup offers music recommendation in May 2017. I personally saw both works equally amazingly well.
Apple Music is perhaps superior to its competitor with Beats 1-a 24/7 music radio station including mix of pop, rap and indie music. Being hailed as the biggest radio station in the world, Beats 1 also released exclusive episodes such as “OVO Sound Radio” featuring Drake with his new album “More Life” on March 2017.
Here are probably the most exclusive features that could be considered as primary reasons to subscribe for each service, apart from UX which is partly varied among users.
- Device connect: this feature turns your device as a remote control. It works pretty magically and is probably on top of my list of reasons to choose Spotify.
Within the Spotify app from your phone, tablet or computer, you can tap the “Connect” button. It will allow you to choose other devices which are available to play on. After playing on another device, your current one will act like a remote control. For example, you can play music in your PC with better sound quality and just sometimes use your phone to play next, previous, shuffle tracks or adjust volume. Just making sure that your devices are connected and set up as Spotify’s guideline, then you’re good to go!
- Siri compatibility
If you are like me who often use Siri to control music player, you will love this great feature-just pick up your phone, invoke Siri by “Hey Siri” then tell it to play any song you want. You can also use Siri as a “handfree” way to skip/forward current song, adjust volume. Besides, Siri is able to “Shazam” the song that you do not know or forget the name, too. So, there is probably no need for installing Shazam on your phone.
- Trials: Spotify offer 1 month free trial and after that users can choose to either subscribe for 9.99$/month or continue with ad-based service. It is obviously annoying to be disturbed sometimes by ads while you are listening but you still can get access to it. On the flip side, Apple Music offers 3-month free trial. After that users must pay 9.99$/month to continue using. There is no ad-based tier like Spotify.
- Student offer: both gives student plan for 4,99$ per month.
- Family membership: both offers family plan for 14,99$ per month for total 6 members. This is an appealing package if you want to share with your family members or friends.
Both Spotify and Apple Music have great features which partly explain their huge customer base. Both provide a vast song collection in great sound quality in relatively same subscription fee. Two services are also putting greater efforts in more exclusive contents as well as enhancing personalized music experience for customers.
Choosing to subscribe vastly depends on your personal needs. If you prefer an elegant but also very functional user interface, with great customized “Discovery Weekly” playlist and magical “Device Connect” feature, Spotify definitely will not disappoint you. However, if you’re especially rocking an Apple device, comfortably letting Siri to control your songs as well as “For You” customized playlists, or loving listening to Beats 1, Apple Music is for you.