Update on Apple Music vs. Spotify

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I’ve been an Apple Music subscriber ever since it was introduced last June. I really like the idea of an all-you-can-eat music subscription for checking out new artists and songs, but I’m not totally happy with Apple Music as it is right now. I did spend some time with Spotify last year and quite enjoyed using it, but I stuck with Apple Music because it was a first-party solution. 

I’m reviewing that decision again now.

OS-Level Integration

The two things that kept me from leaving Apple Music last Fall were the Apple Watch music browsing + Siri integration. These are still major advantages for the service, and they are useful on a regular basis. Browsing music from the Apple Watch, especially, is a really awesome feature.

However, Apple Music just doesn’t get a lot of the basics right. The views for Artists, Albums, and Playlists can all look drastically different. The Playlists on my iPad Pro are separated from the My Music tab, despite them being one and the same on my iPhone. The Playlists also feel like a view ripped directly from the iPhone and blown up to scale on an iPad Pro.

What’s more, these views aren’t even consistent. One of the awesome things about Apple Music is supposed to be the added context you get when viewing certain artists and albums. However, it took me a very long time to realize this feature even existed because most of the time I browse by artist, I only see what I’ve added to My Music.

It turns out, there’s a whole other tab named “All” that lists all of the content from that artist on Apple Music. It’s a great idea, but I’ve found I have to tap around a few times between artists to even get this tab to show up. I’m also still seeing issues where I tab on an artist or album.

No Remote Playback Control

One of the key convenience features that’s missing from Apple Music is some sort of remote functionality. I want to be able to set my iPhone up with the speakers in the living room and then pause the playback from the iPad Pro, or even change the song by using the iPad Pro.

After all, my devices would all be on the same local network and they would all have Bluetooth on. This is a big feature from Spotify that I love, and I’m really surprised it’s still absent from Apple Music. I can understand that the Music app may not be the right place to keep this functionality, but Apple also has a Remote app on the App Store that would be a perfect fit for this feature.

No Web Player

One of the limitations of Apple Music is that it always relies on native apps to use it. I bring my iPad Pro with me everywhere, but I don’t always have my headphones attached to it (especially at work). One of the irritating things about Apple’s service is that there is no web portal.

This means that when I’m on my work machine, I need to install and load up iTunes in order to stream my music to that machine. I’ve gone ahead and done just that, but it’s an extra piece of software on my work machine that I would rather not have installed. That goes double for when that software is iTunes.

Visually Browsing My Music

There also does feel like there’s something missing from Apple Music on the iPad from a UI standpoint. Not only are the navigational elements confusing as you switch between song, artist, and album, but the app also still feels very limited from a control standpoint. There is a lot of room for extra controls on a 10″ or 13″ screen, but the iPad’s Music app still feels like a set of panels that you view one at a time.

As it stands right now, Spotify just makes a far better music app for the iPad. It’s more fun to browse visually, and you always have a clear idea of where you are, and where you came from. The panels all slide from right to left, and you can always swipe right to dismiss the most recent panel and go back a step. The Touch Preview that Spotify released in 2015 is also a ton of fun to use, and there’s no equivalent on Apple Music on the iPad.

iOS 10

I’m really tempted to switch back to Spotify at this point, but I am also betting that iOS 10 will bring some sort of change to the Apple Music experience, so I’m holding off at least until June. That will prevent me from switching a lot of playlists and collections back an forth between the services. If the preview of iOS 10 doesn’t show any major improvements to this experience, I know where my money for music streaming will go.

However, if you’re on the fence right now about which music service to choose, I would wholeheartedly recommend Spotify over Apple Music. They both have a great music streaming library and both services offer offline playback. But for the same amount of money, Spotify has a better iPad app with more consistent controls and great music previews, and it even out-does Apple Music with the great Spotify remote functionality.

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