A personal favorite, Spotify offers two levels of service: Free and Premium. Premium is $10 a month (unless you’re currently enrolled in higher education, you get the service 50% off see details here), and includes the best features Spotify has to offer. In Premium you can save playlists, shuffle them, download the playlists or just certain songs to be available offline, so if you’re ever not in service you can still access your tunes. Premium also allows you to access Spotify on your phone and for this reason alone you should consider upgrading from free. In the free version of the app, you can access Spotify from your phone and you can create playlists- but you can’t shuffle through songs or make the song available offline. Additionally you can’t play whatever song you want on demand, you’ll just be at the mercy of the AI software. Spotify also just recently announced it is expanding its features on the mobile device. These features include: streaming TV shows and original video content, podcasts and radio shows, discovery tools, and a jogging buddy. Whew- and all for still their set premium price a month. Spotify is on its way to becoming a fully loaded app, but keep in mind it’s only being released for iOS at first, so if you have an Android your release date is TBD. On the home screen of the app, you can browse other user playlists and can also view and listen to Spotify created playlists. Connecting with your friends is easier too- just simply locate their profiles and you can follow any playlist they create and be up to date with whatever they’re adding and removing from their list. Although Spotify has come under recent fire from notable celebs like Taylor Swift for not paying artists enough, as long as you’re not bummed about not listening to “Shake It Off”, Spotify remains a dominant music service.
*Bonus! Google announced that Spotify will be available for streaming for their new Audio Chromecast, coming soon.
Pros: Spotify is expanding and including video and TV/ low price/ fully loaded running section
Cons: The latest and greatest is only available for iOS/ free version isn’t all that great- so you’ll definitely be paying to access all the best features/ in recent months lots of popular artists have left the streaming service
$4.99/month (For College Students)
Play Music (Google)
As Google already owns almost all of my information, it only seems fitting that I have myself used Play Music for my musical needs. One of the greatest things Google Play offers is that they circulate free albums for download from time to time on their site. These aren’t incredibly old, outdated albums either- in recent weeks available for download have been the full Sia album, Jason Derulo album, and the Cole Swindle album. As the holidays approach, Google will release holiday albums for free that you can download right into your library. Like Spotify, Play Music also features “Mood” Playlists (like for “Driving”, “Cleaning the House”). Additionally they also give you recommended radios based off artists you listen to frequently, or an “I’m Feeling Lucky” Station that just pulls from your favorite artists from different genres. Depending on how many songs you have in your repertoire, Google lets you store up to 50,000 songs for free which includes uploading music to the cloud and transferring files to a specific device (like from computer to phone).You can also upload your files onto Play Music, so that you can have access to your own musical library in the Google Play App, wherever you are. If you subscribe to Play Music you get your first 30 days free, then $9.99/month afterwards. Subscribing entitles you to ad-free listening and unlimited skips- so you can imagine what non-subscription subjects you to (Say hello to only 6 skips per HOUR and tons of ads). Play Music rivals Spotify’s prices, but they have some of the artists that recently left Spotify.
*Bonus: Google announced at their Sept. 29th event that they will be releasing a Family Plan later this year, which allows up to 6 profiles to be created on one plan, for only $14.99/month
Pros: Free (surprise) album downloads/ great mood playlists/ all artists are on Google/ store 50,000 songs for free/ upload your own music into the Google Play Music/ works great with Droids and Apple products
Cons: Non subscriptions features are bad, meaning they’re going to get you to pay for the service.
Prime Music (Amazon)
Prime Music boasts an impressive sized library, over a million songs, from all the top artists (including Taylor Swift) that can be listened to ad-free with unlimited skips. If you already have been buying your songs through Amazon (MP3’s and CD’s), your music is already in the Amazon library, so Prime Music will make the most sense for you. Prime Music also has Prime created playlists for any mood or any day of the week. Utilizing personalization, the more you listen the more personalized stations will become for you since you can “thumbs up” songs you like and “thumbs down” songs you don’t (Hmm, sounds a little bit like our friend Pandora doesn’t it?). Bonus! Prime Music is included with your Prime membership, which is good because we all know those memberships are not cheap. However, if you’re a student and you have a Student Prime Membership, then this is the best built in music service for you. Like Spotify, there is a download option in which you can download songs from Prime Music onto your mobile device so if you ever don’t have an internet connection, like when you fly or are driving out in the middle of nowhere, you can listen to the music in your catalog.
Pros: Included in your Prime Membership/ no ads/ stations that personalize over time to your taste
Cons: You have to have a Prime Membership in order to enjoy this “Free” perk. But Prime Memberships are cool too though, right? It personalizes your stations and musical preferences like Pandora, but for a lot more.
$49.99/year (For College Students)
Ah, Apple Music. Starting off you get a free 3 MONTH trial membership, which beats out every other music app we’ve discussed thus far. Apple also takes care to mention that you can experience all the glory that is Apple Music across all different platforms (meaning it works on PC and Droids, not just Apple products). When your trial is over and you have to pay, Apple offers Individual and Family- Individual means you get access to the entire Apple Music library, recommendations for songs and artists you may like, the newest music, and unlimited skips on their radio stations. For Family, where up to 6 people can enjoy the unlimited access to Apple Music on their own devices, is great for the monthly price but this feature really only works seamlessly with Apple products, and not so seamlessly if someone has a different non-Apple device. So what do you miss out on if you don’t pay? Unlimited listening, being able to add Apple Music content to your library, being able to save for offline listening, and the expert music recommendations. Basically, you don’t get any of the cool features and you’re subjected to hours or advertisements interjected throughout your listening.
Pros: 3 month free trial- enough said. Family is a great deal for the price for 6 users to share Apple Music content and perks.
Cons: Family doesn’t make sense if you’re not all Apple users/ really only prefers Apple users, Droids will struggle with this music app
Pandora is definitely one of the more grandfathered in streaming services out there. Personalization is at the heart of Pandora’s radio platform but like many other streaming services, there are two hierarchies in the Pandora world. Known for its thumbs, you can thumb up or a down a song and now you can even go back through your session history to give a track you may have missed a thumb up or down. With their “Add Variety” feature, you can add other artists or songs to stations you’re listening to and even now rename the stations. You can even tell Pandora when you’re tired of listening to a track they seem to play all too often on your station. In their settings you can create Alarm Clocks and Sleep Timers so that you can wake up and fall asleep to your favorite songs. Another favorite feature is the “Shuffle Stations”, in which you can select several stations and command Pandora to shuffle through them, giving you the ultimate variety. Pandora One is the name of their paid service, the higher tier, the no ad version. More skips, no ads, fewer time outs with Pandora asking if you’re still listening- for dirt cheap.
Pros: It’s cheap! The free version is pretty great as well, so you can get away with never paying.
Cons: You can’t make playlists or make songs available offline, so Pandora listening is limited to Internet connection locations only. Also, just like the radio, you’re subject to randomization.
$4.99/month OR $54.89/year*
*(The year rate saves you $0.42/month)
So which one is the best?
Overall, your preference for the music app you choose to use largely revolves around what you specifically value. For those looking for more user control, Spotify may be more for you. But if you’re a student who already uses Amazon Prime, Prime Music is free so it’s budget friendly if you’re already an Amazon junkie. Apple Music offers a 3 month free trial which makes it a great option for those who are indecisive. In any case, it’s good to do your research on the different apps that are out there for music before you commit yourself to a monthly membership with any of the services mentioned above. Consider factors like what specific features are you getting if you pay, how much do you value those features, and how much of a deal breaker are the cons of each app. From there you can make a better decision and ultimately pick the best music app for your lifestyle.