Updated: Jul 18
I love streaming music and I have subscribed to the Apple Music streaming service since 2016. Subscribing to the family plan and very much enjoying the service, I will admit to traditionally being an Apple fan.
As an iPhone and Mac user, I wanted to check out Spotify again. The last time that I had used Spotify, it was the free version before Apple Music launched. At that time, I did not try the paid version.
In recent times and with the cost of living getting extreme, I wondered if I could get a cheaper music subscription to save some money.
I used to subscribe to the Apple One family subscription which included music, magazines/news, arcade, fitness and cloud storage to share with my family. To save money I decided to look at other plans and music streaming services.
All the music services offer family plans but the Spotify Duo plan caught my eye. A subscription that fell between the individual and family plans called Duo. A plan for 2 people who live at the same address. Maybe an opportunity to save a few pounds a month?
I then signed up to Spotify Duo and tried the service, cancelling my Apple Music subscription. I was intrigued to see how I got on with the Spotify service as I know it is very popular.
I downloaded the Spotify to use on an iPhone 14 pro, a MacBook Pro and I mainly listened with Airpod Pro headphones. I also tried using Spotify in Apple CarPlay, on a PS5 and even on my Sky Q.
So, what did I think? Here is a comparison in what I consider to be the all important factors:
Many plans exist for both services which gives you lots of choice. As widely documented, no free plan exists for Apple Music and the free plan on Spotify has limitations and ads.
While both services offer pretty much the same plans at nearly identical pricing for the (student, individual and family) plans, both companies do offer a couple of unique offerings.
Apple offer a voice plan which is basically a service whereby you can play music on devices that support the Siri voice assistant. A good way to save money if perhaps you are prepared to sacrifice a lot of features such as downloads and don't mind selecting songs by taking to the Siri voice assistant. A unique plan only available on Apple Music.
Spotify also offer their own unique offering - a duo plan whereby two people living at the same address can have their own premium account each. A good way of saving money as the plan effectively charges you just £7 per person when you consider the subscription is £13.99 a month. This was the plan that I signed up for to review Spotify.
It is also worth noting that once subscribed to Apple Music, an individual annual plan can also be selected. You have to be subscribed in the first instance to get this plan. You can then select it by going into your iPhone settings, select your apple Apple ID, then subscriptions followed by selecting "Apple Music". This plan is then available to select as not always advertised to select.
Spotify do not offer an official annual plan but according to MoneySavingExpert.com you can buy gift cards and vouchers. Some shops offer Spotify premium gift cards to claim exgainst a Spotify account that may work out cheaper and offer a discount. Amazon was offering 12 months for the price of 10 months at £99 here.
Lastly, Apple Music is also available as part of Apple One subscriptions with other bundled apps. Not listed below but if you want other apps like fitness, arcade and magazines, it may be of interest.
Pricing for all plans in the table is a monthly subscription (except the annual).
Individual annual plan
* Correct at time of writing on the 15-Jul
Value for money/Trials
Both services are quite similar on pricing. The main difference is just £1 between Spotify individual and Apple Music individual. Spotify being the cheapest at £9.99.
Only Spotify offer a free tier but it is very restrictive and plays ads. It may be suitable if you want to treat the app like a radio station whereby you don't have full control and just listen to the music in the order that suits Spotify.
As to which is best value for money, it just boils down to individual preference really, which you like best and perhaps also related to the unique offerings that both services offer. Hopefully this article will help you decide which is best for you.
If you are not sure, both services do offer limited trials. By signing up, you can get 1 month free with Spotify and you can cancel during the trial. Apple offer a 6 month plan for free when you buy certain Apple hardware. However, gaining a free 1 month trial appears more difficult with Apple if you are a potential new subscriber but not buying Apple hardware. However, they do currently appear to be offering new subscribers a free month trial.
When I used Spotify many years ago, I always remember the clunky interface. However, as time has passed, I think it is fair to say that both interfaces have improved. Apple tending to go for large graphical selections and Spotify taking a more compact approach with more options on display on screen when using mobile.
The most recent Spotify interface on mobile and desktop is pretty good. I found it easy to navigate and work my way around the app. For both music services, the key differentiator is their ability to suggest playlists and artists that meet your mood and taste throughout the app.
The playlists on offer within Spotify are definitely superior to Apple Music. Spotify has an AI DJ playlist which is excellent. A Duo playlist also exists where Spotify will compile song choices of two users to create a daily list of songs. Though this may be restricted to the Duo plan that I was using.
Suggestions generally are very good though on both services. The systems learning from your searches, selections and artist/song likes. Both services make it easy for you to also create your own playlists.
When searching for music, I preferred how Apple Music presented the results and categorised options. Probably more personal preference.
I found Spotify to be less reliable though. For instance, when selecting "Texas" as an artist and then selecting "albums" you gain more results than you expect and some of the albums for the artist were missing. You would then have to search for the missing album which was always eventually located.
I definitely like how Apple Music display the search results. More user friendly with rows of listings to review. Whereas, Shopify tend to use selection buttons at the top of the app to narrow down your choice.
As far as the catalogues are concerned, I believe that Apple Music has about 100 million songs and 80 million on Spotify. Apple Music also has a new classical app which forms part of the subscription for anyone liking that genre.
I was unable to test Android auto, not having any android hardware. However, I found both music services very similar in the car. The menu options being pretty much the same. The only difficulty I had was with Spotify was that the search functionality did not work in the car. A quick google appears to reveal that this is a common issue and some reports even indicate it is a feature not available in CarPlay. This would seem strange and if you have experienced this, please do comment.
Not particularly exciting but both music services offered widgets that you can add to your Apple home screen. As you can see from the picture, almost identical. Widgets for both services are also available for Android phones.
A quick press then takes you through to the respective apps. Not a function that I really used.
I am not hugely into the sharing and the social media side of music streaming. For me, I am just happy to be able to see what friends are playing within the interface and share a song or album via the app to a friend using iMessage. SharePlay, also allows you to stream music with friends together.
However, for Spotify users, you can connect the account to FaceBook and the options to share to social media channels is presented really well making it easy to use.
Sound quality - streaming/downloads
The one big thing that I noticed when first using Spotify was that the sound quality definitely was not on the same par as Apple Music. Perhaps I had been spoilt in the past but I noticed straight away the difference.
Apple advertise Dolby Atmos, spatial and lossless sound. The menu with then let you know what is available.
I was able to improve the Spotify sound by adjusting the settings for a higher bitrate stream. This did improve things a bit.
Apple is definitely the winner here though. Spotify has been promising high res sound for a couple of years and it is still not forthcoming. Current rumours suggest that they may be launching a premium plan to support this along with other functionality like music videos. If they do charge more though this will be a bad move as the competition are offering this as standard.
Spatial sounds when supported is excellent on Apple and is so immersive.
Best for artist royalties
Certainly it is always questioned whether the streaming services pay a fair rate to artists and record companies. It is wildly reported that Apple Music pays much more than Spotify. So while the amounts vary online, it does appear that if this is important to you. there is one clear winner - Apple. Personally I do think ethics are important in business and it is still to be determined if any streaming service actual fairly treats artist with fair pay.
While both service are supported on many different devices, each service of course has certain features or functionality that the other does not. Some of this has already been discussed such as high res streaming and spatial sound offered by Apple.
Spotify appears to be more widely supported across different devices and I particularly liked having the Spotify app on my Sky Q box to play music which is connected to a speaker system.
Apple has its their own exclusive radio stations actually produced by Apple, which is for their subscribers only. While Spotify support podcasts and even has the ability to play audio books (though you have to buy these).
The deal breaker for me was simply sound quality. High res streaming with Dolby Atmos and Spatial audio made such a difference. I am no audiophile but if you switch between the two services,I found an obvious difference.
While I enjoyed reviewing Spotify and finding out what was on offer, I decided that I would be going back to Apple Music. For me, the additional cost of the Apple family subscription compared to the Spotify Duo is worth it for the audio quality.
Both are decent options though and your own preferences for the available functionality will help you decide which to choose.
My winner has to be Apple Music.
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