Apple Music vs Google Play Music vs Spotify UPDATE: Apple Music goes live today

When Apple bought Beats Audio, the headphones weren’t the main event: Apple wanted Beats Music, the streaming music service. Beats is now the heart of Apple Music, Apple’s rival to Spotify and Google Play Music. How does it compare? Let’s find out in our Apple Music vs Google Music vs Spotify comparison and see if Google's curve ball of a free ad-supported streaming radio service mixes things up.

Apple Music goes live

Apple Music goes live on June 30 at 11 AM ET, alongside iOS 8.4. The first radio broadcast on Beats 1 will air an hour later at 12 PM ET. Beats 1 will be hosted by ex-BBC Radio 1 host Zane Lowe, who will kick things off in style with an interview with Eminem. Other first week interviews include Elton John and Pharrell Williams. Will you be tuned in?

Google Play Music free streaming radio goes live

Google announced its free, ad-supported streaming radio service as part of Google Play Music on June 23, one week ahead of the Apple Music launch. The service is now available in the US (on the web first and on iOS and Android by the end of June) and provides a bunch of curated radio stations.
The service makes use of the same content found in Google Play Music's paid subscription, but with the occasional ad, just like Spotify free. The only difference is you can't choose your music, you simply choose the station, just like you would on the radio. 
If Apple music decides to offer a free streaming radio service we'll be sure to update this article to compare free versions of these services.
Hell froze over. Apple's bringing an app to Android. / © Apple
In the main part of this comparison we’re going to look at the paid-for versions of the services - mostly because we don't have three free versions yet. Spotify has a free tier that omits some key features and intersperses ads, while the free version of Google Play Music gives you access to streaming radio channels and your own uploads and purchases. Currently Apple Music only offers a paid service. Here we’re comparing the paid-for, unlimited streaming services of each company.

Apple Music vs Google Music vs Spotify: price

Three nines appear to be the magic number for streaming music: Spotify Premium is $9.99 per month, and Google Play Music All Access is also $9.99 per month. Spotify currently offers a 60-day free trial and Google currently offers 30 days. Apple Music is also $9.99, with the first three months free. 
In an interesting move, Apple has made it possible for one account subscription to cover an entire family. $14.99 covers up to six people.
Apple promises its recommendations will be better than rivals' algorithm-based recommendations. / © Apple

Apple Music vs Google Music vs Spotify: availability

Both Google Play Music and Spotify are available worldwide, and you can get them on Android, iOS, on Macs and PCs and via a web-based interface too. Both services also have offline modes so you can download tracks for listening when you're in a no-internet zone.
We heard rumors that Apple would bring Apple Music to Android, and they turned out to be true - but not just yet: so far Apple Music is for Macs, iOS devices and PCs. It's going to be available in 100 countries from July. An Android version is coming in the Fall. 
Beats 1 is a 24/7, global, live radio station for Apple Music users. / © Apple

Apple Music vs Google Music vs Spotify: catalog and quality

Both Spotify and Google boast catalogs with more than 30 million songs, streaming at a top-quality 320Kbps. Apple's iTunes reportedly holds 30 million songs streaming at 256kbps AAC, but through the Connect part of Apple Music you'll also be able to access content that isn't in iTunes yet.
Imagine an app that combines what you can buy in the shops with the works-in-progress that artists post to SoundCloud (and to Instagram, and to Facebook, and to...) and you'll get an idea of what the Connect part of iTunes is designed to do. 
If it's in iTunes, or if it's headed there, you should be able to stream it. / © Apple

Apple Music vs Google Play vs Spotify: what's so special about it?

The sales pitch for Apple Music is that it's all about the people helping pick music you might like. As music business legend Jimmy Iovine yelled on stage at the Apple Music launch, "ALGORITHMS ALONE CAN'T DO THAT EMOTIONAL TASK", and in a video Trent Reznor laid out the pitch to artists: it's about a "sense of respect" for music as an art form, not just a bunch of bits being chucked down an internet tube. 
We've been here before, of course, because that's what Beats Music was all about. But Beats didn't have Apple's massive competitive advantage, which is that its app will be on millions of iPhones, iPads, Macs and PCs.
On phones, the exceptionally fast rate of new OS adoption means that most Apple customers will have access to Apple Music as soon as the iOS update appears in July. That sheer market clout could attract musicians in a way previous Apple efforts, such as its ill-fated social network for Music, Ping, didn't.

Apple Music vs Google Play vs Spotify: which one's best?

That depends on what you've got. Until the Fall, Apple music isn't relevant to Android users - but when that app drops, things are going to get interesting. Apple will have had several months to iron out any wrinkles, and it'll be clear by then whether Apple Music's Connect is something artists actually use or if it's destined for the same fate as Ping.
Right now we'd recommend Google for ease of use and Spotify for its pretty good playlists (and included ''curated'' radio stations), but come the Fall we could be singing a very different song. 
$9.99 per month
$14.99 for up to 6 people
3 months free
$9.99 per month
1 month free
$9.99 per month
2 months free
PlatformiOS, Mac, PC
Android in Fall 2015
Android, iOS, Mac/PC, WebAndroid, iOS, Mac/PC, Web
Catalog30 million30 million30 million
Bitrate256 Kbps (AAC)320 Kbps320 Kbps
Offline accesstbcYesYes
Which paid service do you think is best? Do you think Apple with offer a free streaming service?
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