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The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

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Opinion | Streaming showdown: Apple Music vs. Spotify

Jillian Arnyai

Music is one of the most universal languages there is. As famous philosopher Plato put it, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” Now, it may not be that deep for us today—or perhaps it is. The bottom line is that music allows us to feel indescribable emotion and gives us the purest of highs. It ignites fires in our souls and gives us company when times are difficult. It is undoubtedly one of the centerpieces in our lives. 

Today, our intense love for music has formed one of the greatest rivalries of all time, one that—interestingly enough—highlights not how you enjoy your music, but instead where you get your music. That’s right: it’s Apple Music versus Spotify.

As an avid Apple Music user who gets clowned on every time Spotify Wrapped comes around, I am shocked by the sheer confidence of Spotify users who are certain that their music streaming service is the king of all others. Sure, it’s the most popular music platform in the world, but Apple Music deserves much more recognition and respect than it gets. In fact, the battle is far from the one-sided affair that Spotify users think it is. Apple Music doesn’t just put up a good fight; it might just have Spotify beat.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the free version of Spotify is much, much worse than Apple Music, and most people who argue for Spotify as the GOAT of music streaming services use some level of paid tier. Six skips per hour compared to Apple Music’s unlimited, and a user can’t even select a specific song for playback. Instead, they have to choose an album or playlist and shuffle the songs within it. 

The sound quality is lower as well, but most notable are the ads. Freshman Heath Lennon acknowledges the disparity between the free and premium versions of Spotify. 

“I would use Spotify if I had premium. But without premium, it’s just horrible,” he says.

While Apple Music does not offer a free version of its service, it is safe to say that the free version Spotify offers is not worthy of being a part of the comparison conversation.

With that dealt with, let’s discuss the most contested part of this debate: pricing. Surprisingly, it’s very close. Both are $10.99 per month for a single account, and while Apple Music doesn’t offer a duo plan (Spotify’s is $14.99), both of their family plans are $16.99 per month. It seems like the two are at a standstill regarding their prices, but it’s here when things start to get a bit more nuanced. 

For iPhone users, Apple Music offers bundles and other Apple features that simply don’t come with Spotify. Luca Beretti, an Apple Music user on a Family Plan, notes that he also gets Apple TV+. As for my own family plan, it also comes with special perks, most notably Apple Fitness+, News+ and the aforementioned Apple TV+. If you are an iPhone user, you could be missing out on countless benefits and discounts by subscribing to Spotify.

All that being said, it’s fair to say that if you’re on any tier of Spotify Premium, you’re most likely fine with the price that you’re paying every month. However, Apple Music offers even more in its content and features. For one, Apple boasts 100 million songs to Spotify’s 80 million. Although you are likely to find the most popular artists on both platforms, those with refined tastes may have trouble finding what they’re looking for on Spotify. Another point worth mentioning is the sound quality. Apple’s tracks are currently encoded with 24-bit/192kHz (hi-res quality). Spotify’s 320kbps simply can’t compete with Apple’s “Lossless Audio,” which incorporates special surround sound technology to immerse you in the music fully. 

Surprisingly, Apple Music and Spotify do a pretty even job when it comes to recommending new songs you like, curating playlists for you and tracking your listening habits. To be honest, it’s rare that I find a song I love from a mix created by Apple, but it’s not for the app’s lack of trying. Apple makes and updates chill, upbeat and miscellaneous playlists all curated to your listening tastes. This is very similar to Spotify’s mixes, although Spotify now boasts AI DJ, a notable addition to the ways Spotify attempts to personalize your listening experience. Both apps have discover pages, personalized playlists of new releases and playlists that include your all-time favorites. 

Ultimately, the truth is that die-hard Spotify users will remain die-hard Spotify users, and die-hard Apple Music users will certainly remain die-hard Apple Music users. It’s a fierce rivalry that will stay alive as long as both of these streaming services exist, and as an Apple Music defender, the unwavering belief held by Spotify users that their music app is superior to any competitor is respectable. Just don’t be so quick to wave off Apple Music; give it a go and you might find that it’s just the right app for you.

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Isaac Peng, Opinion Columnist
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