Apple Music Old and New App Icon

Apple Music vs iTunes Radio, Google Play Music, Spotify. What is the difference?

July 1, 2015
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The number of streaming music apps available on our mobile devices is increasing and big players like Apple and Google are carving their niche in the market. Apple released their new streaming service Apple Music on June 30th. One week earlier Google announced a free version of Google Play Music.

Where does the popular streaming services Spotify and others fit into the mix? What are the key differences between Apple Music, Spotify and Google Play? And, how does Apple Music compare to iTunes Radio? The recent flurry of the activity in the streaming market place makes it is difficult to keep up with the features, benefits and costs of streaming music options.

Apple Music Streaming Service

Apple Music Old and New App IconApple Music is not a new app but a new membership service that becomes available in the existing Music app when you update to iOS 8.4 operating system. When you upgrade to iOS 8.4, which released June 30, the Music App gets updated with new features including the new Apple Music streaming service. You will get an updated icon and a redesigned music app loaded with features.

You can update to iOS 8.4 by going to Settings App > General > Software Update.

Once you have upgraded and launch the new music app you have the ability to play music without having to pay for the subscription service. The app essentially launches into radio where you have the ability to search, browse through thousands of music tracks. If you want to have access to the music offline, have an extended library of millions of songs and socially engage with artists then you will need to upgrade to the subscription service.

Music purchases are still made in the iTunes Store. When listening to a song tap . . . (bottom right corner) for more options. Then tap “Show in iTunes Store” to make a purchase.

Apple Music Screen ShotAdditional features available in the Apple Music app, even without the membership include:

  • A new Beats 1 Global Radio Station – Music, interviews, culture, available anywhere in the world 24×7
  • Enhanced Siri Integration – Ask Siri to play a song, album, playlist, play top 20 R&B songs, ask for genre playlist or launch a radio station similar to an artist you like
  • Browse and find new music by genre, theme, new releases, top charts
  • Includes music by Taylor Swift and beatles ;-}

Key features unique to the Apple Music membership include:

  • Unlimited listening to over 30 million songs
  • Unlimited skipping of songs
  • Download option for offline listening
  • Artist can share thoughts, photos, music and videos to their fans. Fans can see, like, share, comment.
  • Receive personalized handpicked music recommendations
  • Play your iTunes purchased songs, Apple Music and playlists all in one place

Apple Music Price

  • Free 3-month trial
  • $9.99/month after trial
  •  A family membership is available for $14.99 a month for up to six member of the family.

Supported Devices

  • iOS 8.4 – iPad, iPod, iPhone
  • Apple Watch – Play your music from your Apple Watch even if your iPhone is not nearby.
  • Mac & PC users need to upgrade to the latest version of iTunes
  • Apple TV – Available fall 2015
  • Android – Available fall 2015?
  • Windows Phone – Not supported

Apple Music Radio Beats 1 StationiTunes Radio is now Apple Music Radio

In the new Music app, iTunes Radio is simply titled Radio. The primary feature difference of what was called iTunes Radio as compared to Apple Music Membership is that Apple Radio (without the membership) streams music in an ad-supported radio format. You will hear ads for McDonald’s, Lowes, iTunes, etc. However, in my experience there are not a significant number of interrupting ads.

In addition you cannot download music locally for offline playing and are therefore restricted to streaming music only. If you are on a cellular connection this can quickly use up data in your Cellular Data plan and may be costly. Using streaming data while on Wi-Fi is recommended in most cases.

In the new updates to Radio you can view and follow an artist’s feed but you cannot “Like” the artist’s content or radio songs. You can listen to Apple Music radio stations but you have limited skipping capabilities unlike the Apple Music Members. And you do not have access to the entire 30 million songs in the Apple Music library.

Lastly, you will not get personalized music recommendations like you get with Apple Music membership.

The new Beats 1 radio station, which offers worldwide 24×7 progressive music programming, is available on Radio without the Apple Music Membership.

Key Features

  • Free, ad-supported radio
  • Browse and search through radio stations, artists


  • Free, ad-supported

Google Play Music

The new release (as of June 23rd) of Google Play Music has the added feature of providing free, curated, ad-supported radio for US only. The default radio stations are based on what you are doing or how you feel: Workout, Summer Break, Unwinding, etc. You can also create radio stations based on songs, artists & albums.

You can upload up to 50,000 of your own purchased songs and listen to them on your phones, tablets or the web, for free. You will also receive recommended music options based on your playing history.

If you desire ad-free, uninterrupted listening you can pay a $9.99/mo. You receive on-demand access to over 30 million songs and the ability to download music to your device for offline listening. You can also skip as many songs as you like.

Supported Platforms

  • iOS 7.2 or later – iPhone, iPad, iPod
  • Android


  • Free – Ad Supported
  • $9.99/mo – No ads, listen to songs on demand, create playlists, offline listening

Key Features

  • Stream pre compiled music for specific moods or activities
  • Specify the type of music you like for recommendations
  • Activate with OK Google…Play Music
  • Create radio stations by searching for songs, artists and genres.
  • Add your purchased music (up to 50,000 songs) from your computer and stream it from your phone, tablet or web, for free.
  • Tell Play Music what kinds of music you like for recommendations

Subscription Features

  • Download option for offline listening
  • Ad-Free, uninterrupted listening
  • Unlimited skipping
  • On-demand access to over 30 million songs


Spotify has been around since 2008 and is estimated to have over 75 million users with an estimated 20 million subscribers. Similar to Apple and Google’s approach, Spotify offers a free ad-supported service and a paid subscription model for more features.

There are a few key differences in Spotify vs Apple Music. First Spotify is available on a wide variety of platforms (see the list below). Apple Music is primarily available on Apple and Android devices. The Spotify user interface is much simpler. This can translate to easier to use or less features. It may benefit to some or less desirable to others. The number of tracks is similar for both services – over 30 million songs but the free version of Spotify streams in a lower quality audio. Apple Music streams the same quality on the paid or free platform. One of the most notable features is the exclusion of Taylor Swift and the Beatles from Spotify. Lastly, the Apple Music membership is a new service where Spotify has a well-established user base.

Free Features

  • Shuffle through playlists and albums (can’t select the song you’d like to hear)
  • Access to over 30 million songs

Subscription Features

  • Higher quality audio
  • Skip through songs
  • Listen offline
  • No Ads

Other notes

  • Cannot listen to iTunes library through Spotify
  • Can add your own music through a Mac or PC
  • Does not include Music by Taylor Swift or Beatles ;-}


  • iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Windows Phone, Roku, PlayStation 3 & 4, and many other streaming devices.


  • Free – Ad Supported
  • Subscription – $9.99/mo and $5 per month for each additional family member.


Streaming and Cellular Data

As I frequently warn, watch out for streaming apps that can eat up data on your cellular data plan. Streaming music (or any streaming content) requires and Internet connection and if you are not on a Wi-Fi network it can use cellular data that can be costly. A benefit of the paid subscription services through Apple, Spotify or Google are the ability to download music locally and listen to it while offline.  Buying the subscription may save you more than the cost of going over your cellular data plan.


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