When it comes to the best music streaming services, Apple Music and Spotify immediately come to mind—which isn’t surprising, considering they lead the competition in regards to the number of paid subscribers. Sporting different feature sets that cater to specific users, it can be difficult to choose between the two. Let’s dig a little deeper into Apple Music vs Spotify to see which is the right music streaming service for you.

Editor’s note: this article was updated on August 9, 2021, to update information about high fidelity streaming.

Apple Music vs Spotify: Streaming quality

A picture of Spotify app open on a Google Pixel 3, used for an Apple Music vs Spotify comparison.

Spotify Music is one of the most popular streaming services around.

As of August 2021, only Apple Music will provide you with an audiophile-grade streaming experience. Spotify announced its Spotify HiFi tier, though all we know about it thus far is that it will offer CD-quality audio and will only be available to select regions upon its release. Apple Music recently released its high-resolution streaming options at no extra cost. You can now stream 16-bit/44.1kHz, 24-bit/48kHz, and 24-bit/192kHz streaming and Spatial Audio through Dolby Atmos content through Apple Music.

Apple Music also streams content at 256kbps utilizing the AAC audio format and streams via one high-quality Bluetooth codec: AAC, which is far more efficient than most other open-source lossy alternatives. By default, Apple Music will stream at the highest quality possible and will reduce quality when streaming using cellular data. However, this quality throttle can be disabled in the settings.

Streaming ServiceMax streaming qualitySupported Formats
Qobuz24bit / 192kHzAIFF, ALAC, FLAC, WAV, WMA Lossless
Amazon Music HD24bit / 192kHzFLAC
Tidal HiFi24bit / 192kHzAAC, ALAC, FLAC, MQA
Deezer HiFi16bit / 44.1kHzFLAC
Google Play Music320kbpsAAC, ALAC, FLAC, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WMA
Deezer Premium320kbpsMP3
Spotify Premium320kbpsAAC, Ogg Vorbis
Apple Music24bit / 192kHzAAC
YouTube Music Premium256kbpsAAC
SoundCloud Go+256kbpsAAC
Slacker Radio320kbpsMP3
Spotify Free160kbpsAAC
Deezer Free128kbpsMP3

On the other hand, Spotify has its streaming quality set to automatic by default, adjusting depending on your connection strength—whether you’re on Wi-Fi or cellular data. The app streams audio using the open-source Ogg Vorbis codec at up to 320kbps for Spotify Premium users, and up to 160kbps for people with a free account.

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The streaming quality from both services is sure to satisfy casual music listeners. However, if you’re someone who lives in an area with an unreliable internet connection, you’ll appreciate Spotify’s variable streaming quality options for an uninterrupted playback experience. If you don’t want to have to worry about needing to alter stream quality due to data constraints, Spotify also lets Premium users download and save up to 10,000 songs at a time on up to five different devices. Downloaded music can be saved at the same bitrate options as streaming—up to 320kbps.

Apple Music vs Spotify: Content and recommendations

Juxtaposed screenshots of Apple Music vs Spotify Premium search in their respective applications on mobile.

Both Apple Music and Spotify offer a large collection of songs, albums, and playlists.

When it comes to music content libraries, there’s no beating Apple Music. With over 60 million songs, you’ll be sure to find music from the artists you love, and from artists you have yet to discover. Moreover, Apple Music is well-known for making exclusive deals with artists like Drake and Taylor Swift for early content releases. This is exclusive content is due in large part to Apple’s paid-only service; users are required to have a paid subscription after the three-month free trial. On top of the exclusive content, users have access to many on-demand radio shows, including Beats1.

While Apple Music may have more content, Spotify’s music catalog is still extensive with over 50 million songs, with around 40,000 being added every day. Unlike Apple Music, Spotify also offers podcasts, with over 700,000 currently on the platform. Over the years, Spotify has been diversifying its content library to become the ultimate audio streaming application, which is why the company has gone to great lengths to secure big-name podcasters like Joe Rogan.

There’s no beating Spotify when it comes to recommendations

Spotify is well-known by consumers for its ability to recommend songs based on your listening history. Sure, Apple Music’s human-curated Stations allow users to discover new music, though it doesn’t quite compare to the magic behind Spotify’s recommendation algorithms.

Juxtaposed screenshots of Spotify Recommendations from the mobile application, used for an Apple Music vs Spotify comparison.

Over the years, Spotify has refined its algorithms to help you discover songs based on your music tastes.

At the bottom of every playlist, you’ll see recommendations for new songs based on what’s on your list. You also get custom playlists such as Discover Weekly, which automatically generates hours worth of new music for you to discover based on your listening patterns. Spotify also includes a collection of hand-picked playlists featuring the latest hits, which are automatically reorganized for each user according to their tastes.

The Listen Now page on Apple Music running on Android

The design of the new Listen Now page on Apple Music closely resembles Spotify’s interface.

The latest version of Apple Music features a dedicated Listen Now tab that is full of song recommendations based on your listening habits. Listen Now replaces the cumbersome design of the old “For You” page with an interface that is much more streamlined—whilst bearing a strong resemblance to Spotify app’s home page.

Related: How to find new music

Alternatively, you can also take songs, albums, and playlists and create Stations, automatically generating a list of similar songs—including everything from hits to hidden musical gems. Spotify also has this feature, though most people opt to use the platform’s Discover Weekly playlist to find new music.

Apple Music vs Spotify: User interface and features

A juxtaposed screenshot of Spotify's user interface for an Apple Music vs Spotify Premium comparison.

Spotify’s clean user interface puts your content at the forefront before giving you recommendations.

When it comes to music streaming apps, Spotify has the best user interface—which is surprising considering Apple is typically the king when it comes to design. In this case, Spotify’s app layout is much cleaner and better organized than Apple Music.

Spotify’s UI is laid out in a way that gives you instant access to your own content. The home page shows your recently played songs and playlists, which is what most people want to see when opening a music app. Every part of Spotify’s design puts your content at the forefront, only providing you with suggestions after you’ve seen what you wanted to see.

A picture of the Apple Music UI on iPhone X for an Apple Music vs Spotify comparison.

Apple Music’s interface is intuitive but can look cluttered at first.

Apple Music is also well-designed, though it can come across as overwhelming with all the different tabs at the bottom of the screen. It seems like Apple wants to show off all the features at first glance, though this tends to get in the way of accessing your content. Apple Music’s interface divides its features into separate sections, rather than integrating them into a single scrollable page like Spotify. The large, colorful artwork plays into Apple’s design aesthetics, making Apple Music—like the company’s other apps—quite pleasing to the eye.

Apple Music and Spotify are now tied for search functionality

In terms of search functionality, Apple Music outshone Spotify for quite some time because it had a Search by Lyrics feature and Spotify didn’t. How many times have you wanted to listen to a song only to remember the lyrics and not title? However, now Spotify has implemented this feature as well, so regardless of which service you’re using, you can forgo Googling and type your lyrics directly into the app’s search bar. You’ll then be presented with the song with a small excerpt showing the lyric you searched—talk about convenience.

Apple Music’s on-screen lyrics are a piece of eye candy

Both Apple Music and Spotify have recently added on-screen, karaoke-style lyrics to their apps. Gone are the days when you’re jamming to your favorite song, only to forget the lyrics and switch into a freestyle mumble.

Apple Music and Spotify Lyrics

The presentation of on-screen lyrics on Apple Music (left) is much more eye-catching compared to the approach taken by Spotify (right).

While Spotify’s inclusion of on-screen lyrics is nicely integrated into the Now Playing screen, Apple Music’s full-screen presentation of the lyrics just seems more attractive with its bold text and pleasing gaussian blur background; like a classier-looking karaoke machine. You even have the option to scroll through the lyrics and jump to a specific line in a song.

Take control of your sound with EQ

Spotify vs. Apple Music EQ

Spotify (left) offers graphical EQ controls while Apple Music (right) only provides iOS users with a list of presets.

If you’re someone who likes to fine-tune their listening experience, you’ll enjoy Spotify’s inclusion of a graphical equalizer, allowing you to tailor the sound of your music to your tastes. The app also includes several EQ presets for you to choose from, if you so desire. Android-owning Spotify users will be bumped into their phone’s system audio settings to EQ the sound, which may impact audio in other apps.

On the other hand, Apple Music doesn’t really offer any extensive EQ functionality. In fact, all you get are a list of EQ presets to choose from, which are only available to iOS users via the Settings app.

Spotify is better for use with voice assistants

An aerial image of the best smart speakers including Amazon Echo, Google Home Mini, and Google Home on a wooden table.

Spotify is compatible with many voice assistants, including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

If you use a voice assistant in your daily life, whether it be through a smartphone or smart speaker, Spotify has you covered. The platform is supported by most, if not all voice assistants—including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri. Yes, you read that right. Even Siri supports Spotify. Do note that voice assistant integration requires a Spotify Premium subscription.

On the flip side, Apple Music is quite lacking in terms of voice assistant functionality, with only Siri having full support for the platform. Unless you’ve got a HomePod or any other Siri-enabled device, don’t expect to stream your Apple Music playlists using your non-Apple virtual assistant.

What is Apple Music Spatial Audio?

As of June 7, 2021, Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos is available to Apple Music users. This is a feature that mimics the effects of surround sound and provides a 3D audio experience. Any Apple listening device such as the Apple AirPods Max or an iPhone 12 Pro will automatically play supported songs in the Dolby Atmos format. Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos is available to any Apple Music subscriber at no additional cost. Compatible songs will be clearly labeled on the Apple Music interface, and Apple plans to create playlists of Dolby Atmos content to make it easy for users to find.

Apple Music vs Spotify: Sharing is caring

Both platforms make it easy to share music with your friends and family. With either app, you can share songs on your Instagram story, or even send a direct link on your social media platform of choice. While this is certainly useful, Spotify has a couple of tricks up its sleeve that give it a leg up over Apple Music.

A screenshot of Spotify Codes which are custom per user.

Spotify Codes function like QR codes, allowing you to easily share songs and playlists with others.

For starters, Spotify gives you the option to create Collaborative Playlists, allowing you and your friends to make the perfect playlist for a Friday night in, or a Saturday night out. You also have the ability to quickly share songs and playlists through Spotify Codes, which can be generated and scanned within the app itself. Apple Music doesn’t yet support collaborative playlists, but does support playlist-sharing.

Apple Music vs Spotify: Pricing

Spotify and Apple Music both offer pricing options comparable to one another. An individual Apple Music plan costs $9.99/month, which is the same as Spotify Premium’s $9.99/month rate. For alternative plans, find the tables below:

Apple Music: Pricing options

Individual$9.99/month- Access to the Apple Music library and exclusive content
- Offline listening
- Ad-free streaming
Family$14.99/month- Access to the Apple Music library and exclusive content
- Offline listening
- Ad-free streaming
- Access for up to six people
- Personal accounts for each member
Student$4.99/month- Access to the Apple Music library and exclusive content
- Offline listening
- Ad-free streaming

Spotify: Pricing options

Free-- Free music and podcast streaming with ads
- Skip songs up to 6 times per hour
- Shuffle mode
- Access to Daily Mix playlists
- 30-day free trial for Premium
Individual (Premium)$9.99/month- 1 month free
- Ad-free music/podcast streaming
- Offline listening
- On-demand playback
Duo (Premium)$12.99/month- 1 month free
- Ad-free music/podcast streaming
- Offline listening
- On-demand playback
- Up to 2 accounts
- Duo Mix playlist
Family (Premium)$14.99/month- 1 month free
- Ad-free music/podcast streaming
- Offline listening
- On-demand playback
- Up to 6 accounts
- Parental controls
- Family Mix playlist
- Spotify Kids access
Student (Premium)$4.99/month- 1 month free
- Ad-free music/podcast streaming
- Offline listening
- On-demand playback
- Hulu (ad-supported) plan
- Showtime

Unlike Apple Music, Spotify allows you to use the service for free with a few caveats. Music can be played in shuffle mode you’re limited to skipping songs up to six times per hour. Recently though, some have reported a bug that allows free users to skip songs as many times as they want. Spotify has yet to comment on the matter.

Apple has also announced that later this year, its music streaming platform will also be available as part of Apple One: the company’s collection of services that gives you access to Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50GB of iCloud storage. The Individual plan starts at $14.95/month, while a family plan will be available for $19.95/month—with support for up to five users per family account.

Comparing the prices, it seems that both services offer a great value for money and you can’t go wrong either way. If you’re a student, Spotify may appeal more to you with its inclusion of non-music streaming perks like Showtime and Hulu. However, if you’re already invested in the Apple ecosystem, then Apple Music—or even the Apple One bundle—may be worth considering.

Related: Spotify Free vs Spotify Premium

Try before you buy

Before committing to either of these streaming services, take advantage of their free trial periods. Apple Music gives you access to its entire library of songs and radio stations for three months—which is quite generous when compared to Spotify. After that, you’ll have to pay for a subscription in order to continue accessing the service.

Spotify, on the other hand, only lets you try Premium for a month before you either pay for a subscription or revert to the ad-supported free version. However, while Apple Music’s trial period is limited to an individual account, Spotify gives you a free month regardless of the plan you choose. That including Duo and Family plans, meaning that multiple people can try Premium for free under the same subscription.

Apple Music vs Spotify: Which is better?

A picture of Apple Music vs Spotify on a OnePlus 7 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S10e, respectively.

Spotify and Apple Music are similar streaming services, but Spotify has a leg up especially for those who live with their partners.

After comparing these two streaming services, Apple Music is a better option than Spotify Premium simply because it currently offers high-resolution streaming. However, Spotify still has some major advantages like collaborative playlists, better social features, and more. If you’re someone who avidly uses Apple devices in their daily life, you’ll appreciate Apple Music’s familiar UI design language, Siri support, and automatic synchronization across Apple devices.

On the other hand, Spotify has always been designed with cross-compatibility in mind. If you’re looking to step out of Apple’s ecosystem when streaming music, Spotify is sure to satisfy listeners with its vast collection of music and podcasts, and its powerful music recommendation algorithms. However, while you can access Spotify for free, Premium doesn’t just get rid of the ads. The free version of Spotify doesn’t let you save music locally, which can tax mobile data plans, and also limits how often you can skip songs while using the mobile app (6 an hour). Still, it’s a great option if you want to save money and mainly listen to music on your computer.

Next: Best music streaming services

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I download music to my iPod with Apple Music?

No, the "download" function of Apple Music is not truly a download, but rather a feature that allows you to listen to the music from the app offline. It is not the same as purchasing the music, and therefore it can only be used with your Apple Music account.

Can I add my own songs into Apple Music?

Indeed you can! To add songs from your laptop/desktop, all you have to do is open your audio files using the Music app. After you've synchronized your library, your files will be available on all your devices which have Apple Music installed.

Can I add my own songs into Spotify?

Yes, however his process is far from intuitive. In order to add your own music from the Desktop app, go into your settings. Scroll to "Local Files" and enable "Show Local Files". From there, you can specify paths for Spotify to find music from.