I’m all for staying in the ecosystem, but Spotify beats Apple Music
Apple has plenty of rivals, and the list only grows longer as the company explores new fields. What first started as a desktop computer company has now evolved and expanded into several, more diverse areas. Apart from challenging Windows and Linux PCs, its iPhone is now a serious competitor to Android phones. Other examples include AirTags rivaling Tile trackers, Apple Watches beating other wearables, and more. One of the notable spaces Apple is trying to dominate is where Spotify leads — music. It’s no secret that I’m enthusiastic about Apple devices and services. However, I’m well aware that Apple is not a perfect company, and I do criticize it. I’m stuck in Apple’s ecosystem, and I realize that its music service is very lacking when it comes to Spotify.
Story Time: The first brush with online streaming
I only started listening to music in my early teen years — when I bought my first Android smartphone. At first, I was using unofficial apps and services to build my local, offline library. Eventually, that became too much of a hassle, and I decided to give official music streaming services a go. Cloud-based libraries were significantly easier to manage, and the latest releases were instantly made available. As someone who used to mod his phone’s software a lot, factory resetting my device made backing up and transferring local music libraries a hassle. Streaming services only require me to log in, and they restore all of my preferences, listening history, and playlists.
At the time Spotify wasn’t available in the MENA region, and I was living in Lebanon. So I resorted to VPN to access Spotify’s free service. However, that meant I couldn’t subscribe to its premium plan. Additionally, I had to log back in every two weeks with VPN enabled — once it detected I was in an unsupported region. I had already fallen in love with the service for reasons I’ll mention below, but it was time to say goodbye. The free plan’s restrictions were too annoying, and logging in every other week was inconvenient.
Anghami was founded in Lebanon, and it’s the first legal music streaming service in the region. It was my only decent option, after trying several services with VPN, such as Pandora, Deezer, and others. I could subscribe to Anghami’s premium plan as well, considering it was officially available there. However, the experience was too buggy for my liking, despite the app’s innovative features and active development. I would send the company endless bug reports, and they would fix them in the following releases. Eventually, they invited me to their headquarters to meet the software engineers and discuss my ideas with them.
Finally, Anghami completely overhauled its app, but it still wasn’t as polished as I’d like the app I use to relax and wind down to be. That was around the same time Spotify launched in the region. At that point, I was hopping back and forth between Anghami, Spotify, and Apple Music. Anghami included the richest regional music library, Spotify had a smoother app, while Apple Music was the most integrated with iOS — after I moved to iPhone.
Few years later, Apple bundled its subscription services — as an optional, cheaper solution than subscribing individually. Now, as an Apple One Premier user, I get Apple Music access as part of the bundle. I’ve deleted my Spotify account and decided I will be sticking with Apple’s service for the foreseeable future. I’m all for staying in the ecosystem, but Spotify beats Apple Music, and I dearly miss the former service.
Spotify vs Apple Music
Algorithms and Music Discovery
It’s hard to pinpoint what I miss the most about Spotify. However, its music discovery algorithm is one of the first things that crosses my mind. After using the service for a while, the algorithm learns exactly which kinds of music click your buttons. In fact, it knows your taste better than you do — and this isn’t an exaggeration, at least in my case. I used to look forward to checking my Discover Weekly playlist every Monday, and I would end up adding almost all recommended songs to my library. That’s how accurate it is. The best part is that it surfaces little-known gems by artists that you probably have never heard of. So it exposes you to the type of music that you’re unlikely to hear on the radio or at your friends’ house parties but would have appreciated.
When it comes to Apple Music — where do I even start?! The algorithm just never gets it. Apple offers five personalized playlists that update weekly — excluding Replay playlists:
- Get Up! Mix — includes upbeat songs that the algorithm believes you’ll like. It updates every Monday.
- Favorites Mix — includes songs you frequently play. It updates every Tuesday.
- Friends Mix — includes the music your Apple Music friends are listening to. It updates every Thursday.
- New Music Mix — includes new releases by artists you actively listen to or ones the algorithm thinks you’ll like. It updates every Friday.
- Chill Mix — includes personalized songs to help you wind down. It updates every Sunday.
I used to check these playlists every time they refresh. However, most of the songs I get are just too meh. Now I just check my New Music Mix to see if any of my favorite artists have new releases. And even this playlist sometimes includes songs that had been released a week or two earlier. So it’s not really reliable for listening to the freshest songs from the artists you care about.
Additionally, Spotify allows you to follow artists and it notifies you about their new releases automatically. While Apple Music notifies you about new releases it thinks you’ll like, there’s no way to officially follow an artist, and it doesn’t notify you about all of the releases you care about.
UI and UX
Apple is behind iOS, so Apple Music should work better than Spotify on iPhones, theoretically. Surprisingly, I find Spotify more fluid and responsive than Apple’s own app. Apple Music — while it doesn’t lag for the most part — feels “heavier” to interact with. It also hides the shuffle and repeat buttons behind a menu, while Spotify has them exposed with a quick swipe access to lyrics. I can’t specify exactly what I love about Spotify’s user interface and user experience, but it certainly feels more intuitive to use to me. Also, I like how Spotify includes podcasts in the same app — instead of releasing a separate one for them. I read a lot of complaints on Spotify forums, but personally, I wish Apple would unify the Music and Podcasts apps. And I won’t list the bugs and express how broken the Podcasts app is on iOS.
Additionally, Spotify’s Mac app is smoother than Apple’s — in my opinion. The Cupertino giant recently revamped the Music app on macOS, but it still is clunky, glitchy, and sometimes it literally crashes completely. And don’t get me started on the search field that often requires me to delete and retype to display results. I don’t get why Apple doesn’t seriously invest some of its (relatively) unlimited resources to properly update the music apps across its operating systems. Apple doesn’t offer a free plan, so all of its users are paid. You’d think that’s a motivator to focus on releasing a solid product in a field you’re trying to dominate — but apparently not.
Apple is well-known for its unbeatable ecosystem. Copy on iPhone, paste on Mac. Start reading an article on macOS, resume reading it on iOS. Type a document on your Apple computer, and annotate and sign it through iPadOS. Unlock Macs and Face ID iPhones through Apple Watch. The list is endless — but it doesn’t include Music, not properly at least. You can hand off music from an iPhone to a HomePod, but there’s no Spotify Connect equivalent.
Spotify Connect is the kind of magic you’d expect Apple to be best at. It allows you to control the queue, output device, pause/play, and more on any of your connected devices. You can stream from your Mac as you work from a cafe, then seamlessly transfer the queue to your iPhone to listen as you commute back home. The process is instant and doesn’t interrupt your listening. Every WWDC I desperately wait for Apple to announce a similar feature, only to be disappointed by the end of the main keynote.
Spotify is optionally available for free with limitations, while Apple Music forces you to subscribe to a paid plan. That’s not the worst part, though. Want to take a short break from Apple Music for whichever reason and don’t want to continue paying for it? The company will nuke all of your Apple Music data after 90 days. If you decide to return, you will have to rebuild everything from scratch. The company doesn’t owe you the few megabytes your data consumes on their servers. However, it could at least offer users the option to store this data using their iCloud quotas. Nope. You either use a third-party service to export your library as a file, or it’s gone forever in 3 months.
Apple Music is available on Android, Windows, the web, some smart TVs, and consoles — in addition to Apple operating systems, obviously. While Spotify supports almost the exact same platforms, its app is more polished than Apple’s. My friends using Apple Music on Android are always complaining about the app’s performance. Most of them end up ditching the service eventually. The Apple Music web player isn’t as reliable as that of Spotify either.
At the end of each year, some services offer users summaries of their listening habits and statistics. Spotify Wrapped includes more detailed stats that beat Apple’s. The Swedish company also allows you to view them directly inside the app, while its rival makes you visit a website and log in. The process takes longer and it’s not as straightforward, obvious, and accessible.
Spotify offers an equalizer and crossfade support. I particularly miss the latter — I miss having songs smoothly transitioning into each other. The Sweden-based company also allows users to collaborate on playlists. This enables you and your friends to have playlists that you can all add songs to. I wish Apple would implement a similar solution because the Friends Mix playlist is not it.
In Apple’s defense, its music service offers lossless audio and Spatial Audio at no additional cost. I especially love listening to Dolby Atmos songs with head tracking enabled. The music becomes as lively as it gets. Otherwise, both companies offer almost the same sets of main features that you’d expect from a music streaming app.
It’s hard to fully explain what I miss about Spotify — I look back to the overall experience. No list will be as convincing as using both platforms actively for a significant time period. In general, I’m just not as satisfied with Apple Music as I was with Spotify.
Why don’t I switch back? Apple Music is included in the Apple One Premier bundle that I use. Additionally, you still can’t set default music players on iOS. Using third-party music apps on iPhone is a struggle. Also, Apple Music has more system privileges and is better integrated into the OS — despite it being worse than Spotify, in my opinion. I use Apple Music not because I want to, but because — in a way — I feel helplessly forced to. Apple’s tight ecosystem is a double-edged sword, and this only becomes apparent when you’re stuck with a service that doesn’t meet your expectations.
Which music streaming service do you use, and why? Let us know in the comments section below.