Apple Music vs. Spotify. What's the difference?

Apple recently announced the June 30 launch of its new music streaming service, Apple Music. How does it differ from leading music streamer Spotify?

Jeff Chiu/AP
Apple CEO Tim Cook, right, hugs Beats by Dre co-founder and Apple employee Jimmy Lovine at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Monday.

How does Apple's new online music-streaming service, known simply as Apple Music, differ from Swedish streaming giant Spotify?

For one thing, Apple Music uses Siri, an automated personal assistant with voice recognition capabilities. You'll be able to ask for the "best songs from the 90s" or "the top song in 2010." Spotify doesn't have anything comparable.

And unlike Spotify or Pandora, which boast their easy accessibility, Apple is calling itself a hub of music "curation," using human experts – not just algorithms – to create your playlists. 

But beyond playlists and voice recognition, Apple's actual service looks a lot like Spotify's. 

Spotify, the current king of on-demand music streaming, allows listeners access to a catalog of over 30 million songs, with more than 20,000 added each day. Apple Music's library of tunes is just about the same size.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told the New Yorker that his goal was to make music consumption "frictionless." If you find yourself pausing before buying a song on iTunes, just listen to it for free on Spotify – as long as you're okay with a few ads and song-skipping limitations on the mobile app. 

Their ad-free service, Spotify Premium, costs $9.99 per month and gives you the ability to download music and listen to it offline, unlike the free service which requires an internet connection. Apple Music's full feature-set comes with an identical price tag: $9.99 per month.

As far as the competition goes, Spotify isn't very worried.

“We’ve been doing this for years,” Mr. Ek told the New Yorker. “And what we’ve built is the largest set of data of the most engaged music customers. I think it would be really hard for anyone to come in and do what we do better. Maybe someone could lower the cost of a streaming service and make it hard for us to survive. But am I concerned that someone will build a better product? No, because they can’t.”

Spotify features mobile apps, desktop apps, a web interface, and boasts 60 million active users, of whom about 25 percent pay for monthly subscriptions. Apple Music, expected to launch on June 30, will come pre-installed on all iPhones running the soon-to-be-released iOS 8.4 operating system. This could give Apple a healthy jump start – 25% of American cell phone owners have iPhones. 

At least initially, Apple's service will run only on Apple devices. An Android smartphone version is planned for the fall. There's no news yet about compatibility with Windows PCs, by far the most common computers in use.

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