Our in-depth Spotify vs Apple Music vs Amazon Music Unlimited comparison reveals which music streaming service is best for you. From the music selection and device compatibility, to controls and other bonus features, we examine every aspect of these rival streamers.
When it comes to streaming music to your mobile phone or other devices in 2017, you have an incredible amount of choice. Three of the biggest names right now are Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited, all boasting enormous music catalogues as well as lots of bonus features to entice new members.
Sure there are other options out there such as Deezer (which specialises in high-quality audio) or Jay-Z owned Tidal, which boasts a lot of exclusives with artists like his wife Beyoncé. But for the widest offering and simplest use, the big three are what we’re looking at.
So which is best for you: the granddaddy Spotify, Apple’s relatively new Music offering, or Amazon’s own Music Unlimited service?
Spotify has fewer songs than Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited, but also seems to get new albums quicker
Of the three music streaming services here, Spotify has been around the longest and is probably the most well known. Yet despite this, it also has the fewest songs.
To put this in perspective however, Spotify still offers a whopping 30 million tracks to users and adds roughly another 20,000 songs daily. Whenever a new album is released, Spotify tends to pick it up ahead of the other services – in our experience, at least.
Spotify is also our favourite when it comes to discovering new music. The number of playlists on offer, mostly contributed by users and artists themselves, is staggering. Plus you get the useful Discover Weekly playlist, which is auto-compiled based on your past plays.
Amazon Music Unlimited and Apple Music both offer 40 million songs on their services. Of course it’s not just about numbers here, it’s quality too.
Spotify works on more devices than Apple Music or Amazon Music Unlimited
One virtue of Spotify’s age which puts it ahead of the competition is its compatibility, allowing for impressive availability on a variety of devices.
Apple Music only works on a selection of specific devices including iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, Windows, macOS, tvOS and watchOS. That sounds like a lot of course, until you consider Spotify’s availability.
Spotify works on iOS, Android, Windows and Mac as well, but also across smart TVs, Sony PlayStations, cars, smartwatches (including Android Wear), smart speakers, receivers and more besides. So pretty much everything with a chip in it, then.
Amazon Music Unlimited is also pretty widely available, since it works on iOS, Android, Mac and PC, as well as cars and Sonos speakers, plus of course Amazon’s own Fire TV, Echo home speaker and Fire tablets.
Amazon Music Unlimited is cheaper than Spotify and Apple Music, sort of
Amazon offers cheaper rates than Spotify and Apple Music for Prime members. So if you’re already a Prime member, Music Unlimited will cost just £7.99 per month, compared to Spotify and Apple’s £9.99 per month. Also if you have an Amazon Echo, you’ll only have to pay £3.99 per month to use Music Unlimited on that speaker device.
However, when you want to use Amazon Music Unlimited on more than one device, you need to spend £14.99 per month – or £12.50 per month for Prime users for the family plan.
By comparison this is still cheaper than Spotify and Apple Music, which offer family plans for the same £14.99 monthly price. This means you can listen on more than one device at a time as well as having multiple accounts under one price band. Each service can therefore learn from individual users’ habits and tastes and make appropriate recommendations.
All of the music services here offer a shared payment method also. So you can split the cost between the separate users, making it even cheaper each month.
Amazon Music Unlimited and Apple Music are better for voice controls than Spotify
If controlling your music with your voice alone is on your list of must-haves for a music streamer, then Amazon or Apple are the way to go.
In the case of Apple, if you have Apple Music installed on an iOS device then you can use Siri to find any tunes you’re after. This search functionality goes beyond just asking for an artist, album or track of course. You can ask Apple’s assistant things like “what was the number one song in 2001?” and have Lifehouse’s Hanging By A Moment blaring out in seconds.
This feature is limited to Apple Music on iOS though, as you need Siri on the hardware.
Amazon is all about voice controls too, thanks to its Alexa AI which is ideal for playing music on the Echo speaker. This also goes beyond simple searches in favour of more human-like interactions. For example you can ask “what’s the song that goes…” before singing a chunk you remember. Even if you have the singing voice of the average X-Factor contender, Alexa should still manage to find the track for you.
Spotify is an AI-free music streaming app, so it doesn’t have the clout to offer artificially intelligent voice controls just yet. The service can work with other devices though, thanks to its smart integration. Amazon lets its Echo users set Spotify as the main music player, for example, so when you ask for a song Alexa will search using Spotify by default. The same applies in cars, where Spotify is one of the more commonly-found music streaming apps.
Spotify and Apple Music are better than Amazon Music Unlimited for exercising
Spotify offers a really cool smart system for running that is actually able to offer steps-per-minute songs. Spotify Running essentially works like a metronome, by picking the right music beats per minute to suit the goal of your running cadence. Even better than that: if your phone has its motion sensors turned on, the Spotify app will recognise your running pace and automatically select songs to match that pace.
Apple Music doesn’t offer as complex a feature as Spotify, although Apple has opened the MusicKit API to allow other apps to use Apple Music. As such, Nike+ Run Club already offers workout and running playlists using the Apple Music app, from within its own app.
Amazon Music Unlimited doesn’t offer any sports specific features.
Music discovery is best on Spotify and Apple Music over Amazon Music Unlimited
While Amazon Music Unlimited does learn a user’s musical tastes and adapts to offer suggestions of what they might like, it’s not as advanced or varied as Spotify or Apple Music.
Spotify has a dedicated Discover section which offers playlists of varying artists that suit your tastes in music. It also has a Browse section with a huge variation of styles from Blues to Jazz to Rock to K Pop, there are even options to suit moods, like party mode.
Apple Music does offer smart learning but it also sticks to more human ways of music discovery, namely its Beats 1 radio offering. This has top DJs including Zane Lowe playing music for you to discover and then download to enjoy on Apple Music. Apple also recently added an option to see what your friends are listening too – something Spotify has offered for a while now.
Spotify is more popular than Apple Music or Amazon Music Unlimited
Spotify, started in 2008, has announced that it has a hefty 100 million users on its books – with 50 million of those as paying subscribers. By comparison Apple Music, which is much younger, has grown to 27 million subscribers. Bearing in mind it only launched in 2015, that’s still pretty impressive.
Amazon is less forthcoming with numbers for its Music Unlimited service, but this is also very new having only just launched last year. So it’s a fair bet that Spotify wins out here.
Spotify vs Apple Music vs Amazon Music Unlimited verdict
Spotify might have fewer songs than Apple Music or Amazon Music Unlimited but it’s the most ubiquitous, found on most devices and easiest to use. We prefer the app to its rivals here, which is easy to get on with and offers plenty of ways to find new artists and tunes – including incredible playlist support and the Discover Weekly feature.
Apple Music is naturally the go-to option for Apple users, yet it still lacks some of the finished feel Spotify has achieved after years of fine tuning. Since Spotify works on most other devices already, Apple Music’s support for HomeKit doesn’t seem so special.
Amazon Music Unlimited is the cheapest option for Prime members and offers some of the biggest song libraries around, although in our personal experience Spotify seems to bag the most interesting and hard-to-find albums a little sooner.
All of these services offer free trials, so it’s probably best to get as much out of the freebies as you can before investing money.