Apple Music vs. Spotify: Settling the Debate

October 5, 2023 • Zachary Amos


The Apple Music vs. Spotify debate has raged for years, with both sides fiercely defending their audio streaming service of choice. It’s time to put everything on the table and settle the debate once and for all. 

How Does Their Content Compare?

Spotify and Apple Music have reined supreme as the top two audio streaming services for years. While they each have over 100 million songs, their content differs from there. Apple has a separate app for podcasts, so it doesn’t offer them in its music app. On the other hand, Spotify has around 5 million podcasts. 

While both platforms have their own exclusive content, Spotify may have Apple Music beat with its dozens of original podcasts. Still, there’s no telling which is better from music alone, so we’ll have to dive into their cost, features and security to find the winner.

How Much Does Apple Music Cost?

A standard Apple Music subscription costs $10.99 per month. However, there are other plans and promotions you can use. For instance, you save $5 monthly if you’re a student and give them your institution’s email address.

If you want the most bare-bones experience, the “Voice” plan is for you. While you still get all the regular songs, you don’t get access to most features. It’s great for people who exclusively use Siri-enabled smart speakers but not for those who like to interact with an app.

The family plan costs $16.99 per month. Up to six people can share access while still getting their own personal library and recommendations. Other than that, the rest of the features stay the same.

If you want to test the waters before committing, the platform has a free trial period you can use. While it’s usually brief, Apple sometimes offers multiple-month-long promotions. It also routinely gives out deals to people who trade in phones or bundle its services. 

How Much Does Spotify Cost?

A standard Spotify subscription costs $10.99 per month. If you want multiple people sharing an account, the Premium Duo plan has a price tag of $14.99, while Premium Family will run you $16.99. You save $5 if you’re a student and provide Spotify with your institution’s email address.

When it comes to Apple Music vs. Spotify, the big difference is the availability of a free plan — you don’t have to pay for Spotify if you don’t want to. However, you’ll have ads, limited skips, lower audio quality, no downloads and a shorter time for streaming abroad. You’ll also be stuck on shuffle, which can get frustrating when you want to listen to a specific song.

How Does Sound Quality Compare?

The sound quality of Apple Music vs. Spotify varies widely — it’s a dealbreaker for some. At face value, Apple’s 256 Kbps bitrate is lower than Spotify Premium’s 320 Kbps. However, it offers spatial and lossless audio for maximum quality. The one catch is you need AirPods or headphones with special chips. Lossless audio only works with a wired connection.

What Unique Features Does Apple Music Have?

Apple Music has multiple unique features, but the most popular is Sing. It lets you change a song’s volume so you can sing the harmony or background vocals. It also has a fun duet view for multi-singer tracks, which is helpful if you like to sing along with friends or are just ambitious.

Apple Music has live radio, where you can listen to broadcasters like NPR or Smooth FM. They have a massive collection of local and international shows. It’s great if you want more variety on your daily commute or always want to keep listening after you pull into your driveway. 

Speaking of live music, Apple has a range of in-house live recordings. Apple Music Sessions — where artists release live covers — came out in 2022 and has been a popular feature since. They record everything bright in the platform’s very own studios, so the quality is always great. 

If you appreciate the finer things in life, you’ll love Apple Music Classical. It’s the most extensive collection of classical music in the world. Pair it with the platform’s spatial or lossless audio and you get a mind-blowing experience.

What Unique Features Does Spotify Have?

Spotify has many unique features that rival Apple Music. Of course, we can’t talk about the app’s exclusives without mentioning Spotify Wrapped. This feature displays a year’s worth of your listening data in a fun, interactive form annually. Even if you don’t use it, you’ve probably seen everyone posting on social media about theirs.

The Web Player is one of the most convenient features of the platform. It lets you play music right in your browser. You might even be able to get past the ads if you have the right extension or a high-quality adblocker — but you didn’t hear that from us. 

If you prefer listening to books over music, Spotify has you covered with over 350,00 audiobooks. However, you don’t get access to them even with a premium subscription. If you want to listen, you have to pay up.

In the Apple Music vs. Spotify debate, artificial intelligence is the platform’s biggest advantage. While it’s had smart shuffle for a while, it recently went global with the AI DJ. It selects songs for you and comments on your taste as you listen. 

How Does Security Compare?

The account security for Spotify and Apple Music differ, but it’s difficult to compare the two when their cybersecurity incidents have been so different. That being said, both have caused public backlash for past data breaches, horrific bugs or shady practices. 

Spotify’s security is almost infamous for being poor. Even though significant incidents are few and far between, users commonly report having hacked accounts. Privacy has often been a serious concern, too. In fact, Sweden fined the audio streaming service millions of dollars in 2023 for breaking the European Union’s consumer data laws. 

Besides being in the news for violating consumer privacy protection laws, the platform has experienced multiple cyber attacks. For example, approximately 100,000 Spotify users were the victims of a  credential-stuffing attack in 2021. 

While an Apple ID provides Apple Music with better protection than most platforms, it’s had its fair share of cybersecurity missteps. For example, a supposed iCloud syncing error broke users’ playlists in March 2023. Although Apple didn’t publicly comment on the situation, many people reported their libraries were edited or deleted.

Which Audio Streaming Service Is Best?

If you want a high-quality listening experience, Apple Music is the best audio streaming service. However, Spotify far outperforms Apple with the amount of content and features it has. It also has a free version on top of its Premium trial period. These things make up for its lack of lossless audio or live radio, crowning Spotify as the winner and settling the debate.