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Apple Music vs Spotify: Battle of the streaming giants

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Stockholm based music streaming service, Spotify, was launched over 10 years ago to provide DRM-protected music content online.

As a freemium service, Spotify allowed users to tune in for free as long as they didn't mind getting bombarded with ads, along with some other limitations which could be lifted by purchasing their premium service. As of recently, Spotify reached 180 monthly active users and 83 million premium subscribers. Having grown up listening to music on the bus using portable radios, walkmen, and mp3 players, at the age of 16 I was blown away by this Swedish technological wonder.

After a decade of buying music on iTunes for 99p per song, Apple's music and video streaming service, Apple Music, was launched as the answer to Spotify in 2015. Same pricing and same basic features but with one key difference - forged in the treaty of Taylor Swift, there is no free plan. You either pay or you don't have access to any content. 50 million subscribers later, Apple worked to perfect its Apple Music so it can be as close to Spotify as copyrights allowed it to but has it surpassed it?

Looks

AM: While both apps adhere to the modern flat design, sometimes aesthetics don't matter as much as functionality. Apple Music has been revamped several times and the final product is what most of iOS now looks like. It’s a design that took me a while to warm up to because everything seemed unnecessarily big and simplistic. Apple Music is basically all white with some red highlights and filled with giant list-based catalogues, icons that highlight beautiful album artwork, and bold text. 

Score: 8/10 Looks great but there’s a lot of screen real-estate that could be utilised better.

Spotify: Spotify’s user interface has remained the same for the most part in the past few years because if it ain't broke why fix it? It's always looked good, there’s more information available at a glance and all of that in a dark/night mode interface with the signature Spotify yellow highlights.

Score: 9/10 Dark mode by default, clean but not too basic - Spotify has the lead.  

Ease of us

AM: While Apple Music should, in theory, be easy to use, especially to newcomers, I still find it baffling sometimes. Yes, it does the basic things: search, put in a playlist, add to library etc, but there are hundreds of small design quirks that end up making me hate the entire service with every fibre of my being. 

Are my songs really downloaded? I might never know since most of the time they’re stuck with a loading icon next to them, and then sometimes even after Apple Music swears they are downloaded they turn out not to be. Trying to get to the artist or album page while you're listening to a songs takes multiple steps instead of just letting you tap on the damn name.

7/10: It works most of the time but it’s often annoying.

Spotify: The design team here knows their shit in terms of user interface, user friendliness, and general functionality. There’s never been a time where I’m confused about where the song I just added went, or whether deleting a song from my library will cause it to disappear from any playlists that its contained in.

Spotify is built around the user experience from the little things like being able to swipe the album artwork to skip a song to easily navigating to artist and viewing albums. It's much more intuitive both on mobile but especially on desktop, where you can literally drag and drop anything. It also works faster, at least on my phone and laptop. 

10/10: It never makes me exasperate in desperation and contempt - I love the Swedes.

Features

AM: What drew me to AM was its personalised playlists and Beats radio and the truth is they're both pretty great. 2 weeks in, I got my recommended playlists and they’ve almost always been to my liking. You don't just get one, you get a Chill Mix, a new Music Mix, a Favourites mix and a Friends mix each updating and refining itself every week. Listening to artists discuss their new records, like Ariana Grande, or Lady Gaga is also a priceless experience and I really loved being able to do it from inside the same app. Apple Music also has most of the latest music videos and they're not like the awkward "portrait videos" that Spotify makes.

A big nuisance on this service is that there's no support for multiple devices so if you're listening on your phone and then switch to a desktop, your music will be cut off with a small delay and give you a warning, instead of letting you choose where to direct the music like Spotify does. If you have an apple watch, however, you're in luck because you can stream apple music without even needing to carry a phone.

Score: 9/10 Beats Radio and personalised playlists that deliver - Apple Music scores. 

Spotify: Spotify may not have Beats Radio, but it does have so many smaller features that make it more powerful overall. Personalised playlists and daily mixes, automatic recommendations for which songs to add to a playlist, Spotify-exclusive singles. Aside from its own curated playlists, there's an infinite number of shared community playlists that Apple wouldn't even dream of rivaling. It's clear more people use Spotify and it pays off.

Speaking of which, you're more likely to find all your friends on Spotify and you can see what they listen to in real time. You can even see what concerts are coming up from the artists' pages. Most artists make their own playlists and share them and even release Spotify exclusive live and studio singles. The only thing that never worked for me on Spotify were those daily mixes which ended up being rehashed songs from my existing library instead of new ones. 

Score: 8/10 Not as many personalised playlists but a much larger community for all your playlist needs.

And the winner is...Spotify! Easier to use, more features than you can count, and in some countries comes bundled with other app subscriptions including Hulu. 

For the Apple purists: If you're really into Apple's trillion dollar ecosystem and love to have all things apple, Apple Music does an adequate job as a streaming service. If you like music videos, curated radio shows and interviews, and big buttons and text Apple music's got your back.

For any other student on the planet who wants to get their money's worth: If you're into seeing what your friends are listening to as well as collaborating on playlists with them, and publishing them to a large audience, Spotify is there for you. I personally did not regret moving to Spotify one second and feel at peace knowing my playlists will automatically download without me having to beg the iCloud deities to heed my prayers. 

How to switch

Why not mix it up every now and then and see if the grass is really greener on the other side? Luckily, there are a few services to help you transfer all your data, including one that's completely free to use! Songshift allows you to select which playlists to sync over effortlessly but beware, it doesn't always work. Keiynan Lonsdale's 'Kiss The Boy' ended up being transferred as Soulja Boy’s 'Kiss Me Thru The Phone' on my Spotify. Good try but not quite the same vibe.

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