What are the best music apps for iOS and Android?

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Let’s start 2019 with an overview of the available online music streaming services. As a preamble, know that a monthly paid subscription is required to enjoy ad-free, unlimited, quality music streaming. These subscriptions are engagement-free. All streaming services allow users to listen to music without being connected to the Internet using a smartphone or a tablet, and some are compatible with multiroom streaming using connected speakers or AV receivers. We will also cover Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa compatible services for connected speakers.

Spotify

As the world leader of music streaming services, Spotify’s catalog features over 50 millions tracks and stands out thanks to the quality of its recommendation algorithm. In addition to the vast selection of well-chosen playlists, Spotify performs a smart analysis of the tracks the user has listened to in order to suggest new artists for them to discover. Another highlight: Spotify has developed the Spotify Connect protocol which allows users to listen to music on a wide range of connected receivers and wireless speakers, directly using the Spotify mobile app. It is even possible to resume playback on a different device.

The streaming quality is good, but not excellent. The codec used is Ogg Vorbis which entails compression by deterioration. Lastly, Spotify is available for different multiroom solutions: SONOS, Yamaha MusicCast, and Denon HEOS. The service may be used with the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice assistants. Wireless speakers and Chromecast Built AV receivers are also compatible with Spotify: just choose the speaker or the receiver directly in the Spotify app (same principle as Connect).

Price:
Individual subscription, OGG quality: 9.99€ per month
Family plan, OGG quality: 14.99€ per month
No subscription, OGG streaming at 128 Kbps and random playback (Alexa and Google Assistant not available).

Advantages:

  • Shared playlists
  • Spotify connect mode
  • Chromecast compatible
  • The app’s interface

Drawbacks:

  • OGG streaming quality is perfectible

Deezer

Spotify’s main competitor in France. The musical catalog is just as rich and includes exclusive features such as Deezer Sessions (short private concerts). The recommendations might not be as good as Spotify’s, but the streaming quality is a bit better thanks to the 320 Kbps MP3 encoding. A monthly Deezer Hi-Fi subscription will even allow you to enjoy the lossless FLAC codec (CD quality).

Price:
Individual subscription, MP3 quality: 9.99€ per month
Family plan, MP3 quality: 14.99€ per month
Hi-Fi quality subscription, FLAC quality: 19.99€ per month
No subscription: MP3 streaming at 128 Kbps. Alexa and Google Assistant not available.

Advantages:

  • Shared playlists
  • Pleasant interface
  • Hi-Fi subscription

Drawbacks:

  • Family plan does not feature distinct accounts (each member can access all the other members’ listening history)

Google Play Music

Google’s streaming service has a catalogue comparable to that of Spotify and Deezer. Google Play streams MP3 files up to 320 Kbps and the sound quality is equivalent to that of Deezer. On the other hand, recommendations and playlists are rather poor. Google doesn’t seem to be putting much of an effort into changing this as of yet. A paid subscription to Google Play Music also gives access to Youtube Music, which lets you listen to music videos with the screen off. Google Play Music can be used with Google Assistant, but is not compatible with Amazon Alexa. It goes without saying, the Google Play Music app is also Chromecast compatible. Lastly, Google offers the possibility to upload up to 20 000 of your own files in MP3 format at 320 kbps to your personal Play Music space.

Price:
Individual subscription, MP3 quality: 9.99€ per month
Family plan, MP3 quality: 14.99€ per month
Possibility to upload a maximum of 50 000 MP3 files without paid membership.
Paid membership is mandatory to listen to music.

Les + :

  • Ultra-fast servers
  • Youtube Music included
  • High-quality MP3 encoding
  • Cloud storage of MP3 files (even without paid subscription)

Drawbacks:

  • Few artist recommendations.

Tidal

Comparable to other streaming services, Tidal stands out due to their preferential rates for students, Hi-Fi streaming, and even HD delivery in MQA format. The basic subscription is 9.99€ (4.99€ for students) and gives access to tens of millions of tracks in MP3 320 kbps format. A premium account is 19.99€ (9.99€ for students) and ensures CD quality restitution with FLAC files and HD restitution in MQA format (30 000 tracks in this case).

Price:
Basic subscription, MP3 quality: 9.99€ per month (50% off for students)
Individual subscription, CD and HD quality: 19.99€ per month (50% off for students)
Family plan, MP3 quality: 14.99€ per month
Family plan, CD and HD quality: 29.99€ per month

Advantages:

  • MP3, CD and MQA Studio quality
  • Large choice of music (concerts, clips…)
  • Competitive prices

Drawbacks:

  • None

Qobuz

Qobuz’s online catalog is more geared toward classical music, although it remains comprehensive and eclectic. Qobuz appeals to music lovers and audiophiles by offering MP3, Hi-Fi and studio HD audio streaming. It is also possible to purchase albums in CD and studio quality and download them.

Price:
Individual subscription, MP3 quality: 9.99€ per month
Individual subscription, CD quality: 19.99€ per month
Individual subscription, HD studio quality: 24.99€ per month

Advantages:

  • Eclectic selection
  • CD and studio quality
  • Possibility to purchase digital albums

Les – :

  • No family account possibilities
  • More expensive than Tidal

Amazon Music Unlimited

Amazon Prime members already have access to Amazon Prime Music (as well as Amazon Prime Video). Amazon Prime Music features a catalog of 2 million tracks and is limited to 40 hours of listening per month. Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers have access to over 50 million tracks without any time limitation. Currently, Amazon Music can only be accessed via connected receivers and amplifiers compatible with Alexa as well as Sonos devices.

Price:
Individual subscription, MP3 quality: 9.99€ per month
Family plan, MP3 quality: 14.99€ per month

Advantages:

  • High quality MP3 encoding
  • 40h of listening time and access to 2 million tracks for Amazon Prime members
  • Compatible with SONOS and Amazon Alexa

Drawbacks:

  • Not Chromecast compatible
  • Not compatible with multiroom technologies outside of SONOS

Apple Music

Apple Music offers a wide array of music to choose from with all AirPlay and AirPlay 2 compatible connected speakers and receivers as well as with SONOS devices. Compatibility with the Google Cast protocol is under development and will allow the user to use Google Assistant for example. Just like iTunes, Apple Music uses the AAC compression format (which has proved its worth despite being lossy) and the sound quality is quite good.

Price:
Individual subscription, AAC quality: 9.99€ per month
Family plan, AAC quality: 14.99 per month

Advantages:

  • Extensive music catalog
  • Quality AAC sound
  • Multiroom compatible with AirPlay 2

Drawbacks:

  • Not compatible with Chromecast
  • Compatibility with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa uncertain for the moment

Which service should you choose if…

  • You have an iPhone and only have eyes for Apple, then Apple Music is the way to go.
  • You would like to (re)discover a wide variety of tracks based on your personal preferences, with good sound quality and for an affordable price, then Deezer is your best bet.
  • On top of this, you want to ensure that you will be able to listen to music on absolutely all connected speakers and receivers: Spotify is the prefered option.
  • You want to listen to music on 5 speakers located in different areas of your home and use voice recognition (so you don’t influence the recommendations suggested to other family members), Google Play Music will do just that for you.
  • You want studio-quality files and enjoy every genre of music, from folk songs to classical music? Tidal is just what you need.
  • You are looking for an exceptional listening experience, a large selection of classical music and jazz tracks, and the possibility to download entire albums. Qobuz is the service you are looking for.

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