Spotify vs. Google Play Music: Which should you subscribe to?
Which music service is right for you?
Music subscriptions can help set the tone for your life, as the music you listen to day in and day out can help keep your energy up, your mood stable and bright, and your fingers tapping out a rhythm. As someone who never, ever leaves home without headphones, I’ve taken a deep look at Google Play Music and Spotify so as to help you figure out which service is more deserving of you and your jam sessions.
Here are the perks and pitfalls for Spotify and Google Play Music, by category.
Look and Layout
- Spotify’s dark theme beats Play Music’s retina-searing white. Spotify’s dark theme gives the app a cleaner, crisper look, and makes the app far easier on the eyes during late night jam sessions or nightly drives.
- The tabs at the bottom of the Spotify app make it easier to jump between sections of the app than Google Play Music.
- Google Play Music’s playback screen features zoomed in album art, which looks awkward and obscures some of the playback controls for albums with busier artwork. Spotify’s playback screen shrinks the artwork a bit, but slivers of other album art give hints at the next and previous songs, however some playlists and albums on Spotify have started adapting the zoomed-in full-screen album art like Play Music.
- Play Music’s Now Playing Queue is standard and straightforward, and you can see ahead several songs on radio stations, and you can swipe away songs you don’t like. Spotify doesn’t always show you what’s coming up, and its queue management is ever so slightly insane.
Sound Quality and Device Limitations
- Spotify offers audio streaming qualities up to 320 kbps when Spotify Premium users set their quality up to “Extreme quality”, and audio quality up to 256 kbps while playing on Chromecast. Google Play Music offers audio streaming qualities up to 320kbps on both the streaming library and uploaded music, though the quality of uploaded music is dependent on the quality of tracks uploaded. Of course, actual audio quality will depend on your streaming settings, the system you’re listening on, and the quality of the music that was uploaded into the library.
- Google Play Music offers to option to stream at a lower quality while on mobile data to conserve data; Spotify has the same audio setting for streaming on both Wi-Fi and data. Google Play Music also features a Stream only on Wi-Fi to help further preserve your precious mobile data.
- Spotify lets you stream Spotify on as many devices as you like but you can only download music for offline playback on three devices, and only up to 3,333 songs. Meanwhile, Google Play Music has a 10-device limit and a four-device de-authorization limit per year, you can download as much music as your device can hold.
- Google Play Music has an app for Android TV, both Play Music and Spotify have apps for Android Wear, and both support Google Cast. Spotify uses Spotify Connect to connect to a wider variety of speakers and devices than just Google Cast, including Sonos and car systems.
Library and Features
- Both Google Play Music and Spotify have over 30 million songs available to their users to stream. Google Play Music offers links to music videos for millions of songs on YouTube, which are ad-free in countries with YouTube Red. Spotify offers a handful of Spotify Original Video Series, which highlight local music, exclusive performances, and more. Both services have also expanded their podcast offerings in recent years, and Spotify can even help you find upcoming concerts in your area.
- Spotify doesn’t let you upload your own music library, but you can 10,000 songs from the streaming catalog to Your Library. Google Play Music lets you upload 50,000 songs to your Play Music library and stream them wherever for free, and you can add as many subscription songs to your library. If you are a paid subscriber, Google Play Music lets you mix and match uploaded content and subscription songs.
- Spotify’s automatic stations and suggested songs seem to be slightly more accurate in their predictions than Google Play Music’s. Spotify also offers up Discover Weekly and Daily Mix playlists to help you keep your music fresh.
Playlists and Sharing
- Google Play Music’s playlists are private by default; Spotify’s playlists are public by default and can allow collaboration. Every song you add to a playlist in Spotify, everyone can hear. Google Play Music only shares subscription songs in public playlists, not uploaded songs.
- Spotify doesn’t allow users on Android (or web) to reorder songs within a playlist without deleting them and re-adding them in the order desired. Spotify doesn’t even allow web users to rename playlists, either. Google Play Music allows you to edit, reorder, and rename playlists on mobile and web platforms.
- Playlist sharing on Spotify lets users listen to the playlist directly on some websites and social media platforms like Twitter and Reddit. Google Play Music’s playlist sharing is just a normal hyperlink.
- If you have friends on Spotify that you follow, you can see what they’re listening to and what playlists they’re building. If you want to listen to something on the down-low, you can start a Private Session and what you’re listening to won’t be shared.
Plans and Pricing
- Spotify Premium for Family and Google Play Music family plan are both $14.99 a month and give up to 6 users their own premium subscription account. You can’t change addresses on a Spotify Premium for Family Plan; if you move, you have either go to individual plans or delete your accounts and start over.
- Google Play Music’s family plan does not require everyone to live under the same roof, which Spotify Premium for Family not only requires, but enforces.
- Google Play Music comes with YouTube Red in the United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea, eliminating ads on YouTube and allowing you to save YouTube videos for offline playback.
- Spotify offers a student discount (and Hulu basic access) for college kids for $5 a month; Google Play Music does not offer any student discounting. Spotify also offers a Spotify and basic Hulu bundle to Spotify Premium subscribers for $13 a month.
Where Spotify is better
Spotify is for shufflers and sharers that don’t buy music and just want Spotify to serve up what’s popular or stations based on their genres and artists of choice. It’s great for users who just want a bit of music to fill their lives and tech fiends that switch devices too frequently for Google Play Music’s device limit policy. The app’s dark theme and easy layout are easier for casual listeners to browse. It’s also good for students who need a cheap solo plan and Hulu users looking to save money on a bundled subscription.
Sign up for Spotify
Where Google Play Music is better
Google Play Music is good for families, users with well-established music libraries, and those with particular playlist tastes that they can satisfy between purchased, subscription, and uploaded music. Google Play Music’s family plan doesn’t have nearly the strings that Spotify’s does, and is a better bargain. If you’re in the U.S. even if your family isn’t big on Google Play Music, everyone can ditch the ads on YouTube, which is almost worth the subscription price by itself.
Sign up for Google Play Music
What’s your choice?
Which streaming service do you prefer? Does Spotify have your number with its Daily Mixes and Discover playlists? Do you need the library blending powers of Google Play Music to bring your old-school library to the 21st century? Tell us which service you’re using and why in the comments.
More: Spotify Free vs. Spotify Premium vs. Spotify Premium for Family
Updated May 2018: This article has reflected some updates to the Spotify app and the Spotify-Hulu bundle for Spotify Premium members.