Personal thoughts on Spotify vs Apple Music

Published on October 12, 2020

I have been toying since the announcement of Apple One with the idea of moving into an all Apple ecosystem since I would be saving money by doing this.

Thing is… Spotify has been with me for so long that honestly, moving into an unknown UI/UX is so difficult, so that makes me think that even though I will be saving money by doing this, the annoyances and differences between the services might be enough for me to be loosing on features.

These are going to be my deep dives into the UX and UI of both apps and what makes them great or less usable in my personal opinions.

How I’m attempting to see what’s best for me

Most of the things in this list are going to be qualitative and not quantitative, which makes things very subjective and personal, so this is my take and it might not be aligned at all with your point of view.

Figuring out the difference between the Apps

Apple’s Music app, the one that comes with every iPhone and iPad, has a thing that I like, native UI components that look cohesive with the platform, follow the design guidelines of providing a Light and a Dark mode, so I can properly see things even on a bright day.

Spotify, on the other hand, has better controls in the app over which devices would you like to listen to your music with, even though you are controlling it with your phone. That “listen on my Echo device” feature is something that I’m already missing a lot every time I open the Apple Music app.

The Mac app of both services is the one that I use the most, you would think that the Mac app for Apple Music would have been a great experience but I wonder if this is one of those odd catalyst apps that aren’t fully yet backed because it displays so many odd behaviors that are so different from macOS Catalina.

On the other hand, Spotify seems like an Electron app (I’m not sure and I haven’t investigated it), but that would explain why my music player needs 800Mb-1.3Gb of RAM to just reproduce my favorite artist.

Spotify wins this round for me because it makes better efforts to integrate my musical need with my devices that aren’t designed by Apple.

Finding your regular artists/bands easier

One of the things that both apps do quite well, is searching, the search on Spotify has an advantage over Apple, and it’s the UX, finding something in the Mac app is the same experience of the iPhone app for Spotify, while doing this process on Apple Music takes time to get used to the difference between the two platforms.

Coming back to my regulars is easier on Apple Music, I can go into my library > artist and 💥 I’m presented with a list view with a small picture of the artist/band on the side letting me glance at ~13 artists without scrolling, now on Spotify, I’m presented with a better-looking UI and bigger pictures of my artists/bands when navigating into “following” or “artist” with a smaller text with the name of the artist/band, which allows me to see ~6 artists on my Phone.

That to me is a clear win to Apple’s Music app.

Ok, hear me out Apple, what do you mean with “X artist essentials”? Are these the most popular songs. I have no idea, and probably you also don’t know, there’s no way to know what Apple is using to sort these songs.

Spotify makes it transparent and simple, it shows you the most listened songs of the artist/band you are viewing and you know what, most of the time that’s probably what you want, hear the popular things that most people know, love, and enjoy.

The clear winner in this round, Spotify.

Music Recommendations based on your taste

This is the big one, how do you find music nowadays? I’m sure it’s very similar to how I do it, I let the algorithms of these companies to find things for me based on my regular artists/bands.

So how good do they fare between my taste? Hard to answer, Spotify has a big advantage intros area, they have me as a user since 2011, that’s a lot of years gathering data and improving their algorithms with my preferences. Apple Music only has me for 2 months, 1 that I did in 2019, and one that I’m doing right now with the 3-month free trial.

I will give for now no winner over this one since it’s not a fair fight, but as a fun anecdote, the other day Apple Music recommended me a list named “Turkish workout essentials” 😂, I wonder what I listened too that a fitness playlist with songs in Turkish was something worthy to recommend.

Who’s better at playing music for my workflow

As a developer that loves to have music in the background, I must admit that one thing that I hate about the whole process, is having to choose what to listen to when I sit down for the first time to work every day.

This is why I like to choose predefined lists, most of the time based on Jazz recommendations or that are made in a way that helps you focus on your tasks.

Spotify makes these Daily mixes for me, plenty of options, I believe 6 options each week + your “discover weekly” playlist, this is great, because I don’t have to do much to get some music that fits my mood going on and after that, it just takes over.

Now, Apple Music seems to only make 1 of these lists and it’s around my favorite music, so it’s the same list all the time with minor differences on a few artists if I use the shuffle option, but there’s nothing, starting Artist stations have been the better option overall with this service but I then tend to listen to the same 4-8 artist station and the music stays the same too.

With Spotify, I had to give less of my time to get feedback from my music in the way that fits my day, which is why I feel Spotify is nicer, but that doesn’t mean that Apple Music ain’t bad for the job, honestly, I now see a difference between the 2 services, while Spotify focuses on making content for you and making sure you stay engaged with the content they provide, Apple Music gives you a wider array of options when searching for music and focuses a lot on exposing little details of each song, it’s a service built around you caring more about each track and wanting to know more of each artist you follow.


Overall thoughts

After writing all these thoughts, I now realize that even though I knew making one of these services fit the broad audience they are trying to market, is way harder than I thought, there are so many little details that influence the way you listen to your music, the nuances of perfectly knowing the lyric of a song to the just give me background music so I can’t hear what’s around me.

I will stick with Apple Music for the whole trial and see what changes does it bring to the way I search and listen to music from the things I described before, I believe it doesn’t matter how much you like one service, trying a different one for a while expands your mind and your way of using the previous ones, it’s stepping out of your comfort zone and seeing what learnings it bring.