Apple Music Review
How We Reviewed Apple Music
20 hours of research
3 services compared
2 experts consulted
Apple Music Review
As of February, Apple Music now has more paid subscribers in the U.S. than its competition, according to the Wall Street Journal. We’d credit this popularity to Apple Music’s tendency to update and iterate more often than other music streaming services. Consumers will particularly love Apple Music’s playlists, which introduce you to music in ways you wouldn’t encounter it without the service. There’s a playlist for every experience, genre, mood, inspiration, and even ones that highlight the audio engineers behind your favorite beats. You can expand your audio palette with global playlists that feature the top 100 songs from countries around the world.
With features like lyric search, a live radio station, exclusive documentaries and video series, and easy integration with the Apple ecosystem, Apple Music is one of the best music streaming services available.
Apple Music entices your subscription with a simple tagline — “Lose yourself in 50 million songs.” Not only does this promise listeners 50 million songs, but it also implies you’ll love the service so much that you’ll lose yourself in listening.
Is it true?
We think it’d be pretty easy to lose yourself in the songs, playlists, and exclusive content that Apple Music offers.
Apple Music does indeed offer around 50 million songs, ad-free. We especially like how those songs are organized into human-curated playlists. You’ll find your typical genre-based, artist inspired, and new release playlists. But Apple’s playlist experts go above and beyond to offer mixtapes curated to unique experience. You’ll find playlists made for moments so specific, that no algorithm could capture the magic — like “The 3 a.m. Drive Home” or “Getting Parents to Like Noise.”
You’ll also find yourself losing track of time while perusing Apple Music’s exclusive content. The service features originals ranging from “Carpool Karaoke” to documentaries about new artists trying to find their audience — not to mention a 24/7 live radio station called Beats 1.
Apple loyalists, album listening
Social playlists, free listening
|Price||$5 /mo. student, $10 /mo. individual, $15 /mo. family plan|
|Standout features||Upload your music, Apple ecosystem, unique content, Beats 1 Radio, lyric search|
|Free trial||90 days|
|No. of tracks||50 million+|
|Compatible with||Amazon Alexa devices, Sonos, Apple CarPlay, Apple Watch (LTE version), Apple TV, Apple HomePad, iPhone, iMac/Macbook, iPad, iPod touch|
Optimized for hosting your music library
One of Apple Music’s distinguishers is its affinity for organizing your whole collection of music. You can easily upload songs you own, either from a CD or an older iTunes account. You can sync all those files to the iCloud Music Library and listen to them on other devices. Avid users report Apple Music is great for organizing large catalogs of music and albums. If you prefer albums over playlists, and have a lot of your own records to integrate, Apple Music caters to your needs.
Search by lyric
You know that song? The one that goes “Look at this photograph.” No? Well, Apple Music probably does. Typing that phrase into Apple Music’s search bar will pull up the Nickelback classic “Photograph.” It’s the only music streaming service that has such an advanced search feature. Being able to search for that earworm by lyrics alone is a gift for the forgetful.
Integrates with the Apple ecosystem
If you already own quite a few Apple products, Apple Music is the easiest way to listen to your tunes. It seamlessly integrates with the iPhone, iPads, iMac/Macbook, Apple Watch (LTE version), Apple TV, Apple CarPlay, and Apple HomePod. In fact, if you have Apple TV or an Apple Watch, it’s your only music streaming option. Apple Music is also compatible with Amazon Echo smart speakers. Users already steeped in the Apple operating system will find familiarity and ease with the design of the Apple Music platform.
Exclusive and unique content
Though Apple Music no longer holds the only keys to Taylor Swift’s discography, there’s still plenty of exclusive content to tempt your coin.
The Apple Music playlists are human-curated by industry tastemakers and DJs. You can even expand your global taste with “World Hits”, a collection of 100 chart-topping songs from different countries. You can listen to summertime playlists curated by stars like Lizzo, Shawn Mendes, and Chris Hemsworth. And you can appreciate the talent behind your favorite songs with the “Behind the Boards” series that collects songs from the same audio engineers.
Playlists go beyond moods like “chill” and target the moments when you need music most. For example, Apple offers an “In My Room” playlist with the descriptor, “Shut out the world and get in your feelings with moody pop cuts.” There may be a smaller catalog of playlists to sort through than Spotify is known for, but we found Apple Music’s playlists to curate experiences so specific we didn’t even know to look for it.
Hit talk show gimmick, “Carpool Karaoke” has found a new home with Apple Music. You’ll still find the James Corden-hosted version on “The Late Late Show,” but Apple Music’s content is shuffling celebrities together to host their own mobile karaoke party. You’ll get to witness your favorite celebrity BFFs (like Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner) belt it out and invite you into their inside jokes, and surprising eclectic pairs like Linkin Park and Ken Jeong.
Subscribers will also have access to exclusive artist documentaries (Kesha, Wiz Khalifa, Ed Sheeran) and music videos. Apple Music also has a unique monthly documentary series called "Up Next," that follows up-and-coming artists as they get their chance in the spotlight.
Beats 1 Radio
Apple Music is really set apart from the competition with a live, 24/7 Beats 1 radio station. “Radio” stations from other music streaming services are typically just a shuffling algorithm based on an artist or genre. Every Beats 1 station is human-curated by music experts and artists. It has stations anchored by popular DJs and artists like Elton John, Ryan Adams, and Pharrell, who will offer commentary on the songs they broadcast and give you a taste of what your favorite artists admire. Annie Clark (of St. Vincent) has a particularly interesting format. For her station, called “St. Vincent’s Mixtape Delivery Service,” she asks fans about what’s going on in their lives and will assemble the playlist to suit them. You can also tune in to news stations from CBS, NPR, ESPN, etc.
No free version
The biggest downside to Apple Music’s service is its lack of a free version. Many music streaming services offer a completely free version of their service, with ads and a few restrictions (no offline listening, no smart speaker streaming, etc.) Though you can take advantage of a 90-day free trial, if you don’t pay for the service afterward you’ll no longer have access to any playlist or streaming content. Casual listeners who may not want to commit to a monthly fee for music streaming will be better off with another service.
Timothy J. Trudeau, CEO of Syntax Creative, offered some direction here when we spoke with him: “There are essentially two types of music consumers, active and passive. The active listener is the type of person that knows what they like. They attend concerts and wear their favorite artists’ merch. Inside of a digital service provider, they know what they are looking for and they make their own playlists for just the right time and moods. The passive listener likes music, but can’t remember what band sings what song and doesn’t really have the time to seek out music directly. They would rather be served music by just pushing a button and then letting the service do all of the work.” The active listener is more suited to Apple Music, while passive listeners will probably be fine with a free version of Pandora or Spotify.
Limited third-party integration
Apple is much more than just a music streaming company and is reluctant to offer compatibility to its competitors. The company has a lot of direct rivals in the tech space, which translates to limited compatibility. You can stream Apple Music on any Apple device, Amazon Alexa speakers, and Sonos.
For comparison, Spotify is purely a music streaming business and thus has no qualms allowing its service to be played on Google, Sony, or Microsoft devices. Spotify also works on video games consoles like Xbox and PS4, while Apple Music has yet to offer a solution for those devices. Before cashing in on Apple Music, survey the technology you already have in your home to be sure you’re choosing a service that can easily integrate.
Apple Music vs. Spotify
Spotify’s biggest edge is its free version. You can sign up and stream music on Spotify without paying a cent. You’ll have to suffer through a few commercial breaks, which could put a big damper on a dance party, and can only skip six songs per hour. For some playlists with a “Shuffle” icon, you have to listen to the content on shuffle. Upgrading to its premium service will lift any parameters and enable offline listening. You can also stream Spotify on a wide variety of devices — Bluetooth speakers, smart TVs, game consoles, etc. One of Spotify’s most-loved features is its personalized playlists. At the end of the year, Spotify pools together your listening habits and trends in fun infographic form. It also uses algorithms to make weekly “discover” playlists and tailors a “Release Radar” playlist to your tastes. The downside is that you won’t often encounter new and exciting music outside of your purview. We found Apple Music made it a bit easier to expand outside of your typical rotation. But casual listeners and those who don’t own many Apple products will likely prefer Spotify.
Apple Music vs. Tidal
Tidal, owned by Jay Z, is the only streaming service to offer high-fidelity music streaming. In a nutshell, this means the music files hold more of the original data recorded in the studio (and theoretically sound better). You’ll need the proper equipment to really take advantage of higher-quality streaming, and it’ll cost you $20 per month for that “HiFi” plan. Tidal is also the only place you can stream both Jay Z and Beyonce’s discography, and hear early releases from hip hop artists like Kanye West. Apple Music, on the other hand, has moved away from album exclusives. Hip-hop heads and audiophiles are likely to find Tidal suits their streaming habits best.
Apple Music FAQ
Does Apple Music work on Android and Windows?
Yes. There are apps for non-Apple operating systems that will allow customers to stream Apple Music. If you don’t have an iPhone, Mac, or iPad, you can still enjoy Apple’s music service. You’ll still need an Apple ID account, but it only takes a few simple steps to sign up.
How does the end of iTunes affect my Apple Music?
Apple has announced an official end to iTunes. Apple content will instead be divided into separate apps for music, TV, and podcasts (a lot like the current iPhone setup). Your previously purchased, downloaded, or CD-imported tunes will be transferred to the Apple Music app. You’ll be able to access it without a subscription for the Apple Music streaming service. Any TV or movie purchases will move to the Apple TV app.
Can you keep downloaded music from Apple Music?
Only while you are actively subscribed to Apple Music can you play the downloaded music offline. Streamed music is protected by digital rights management (DRM), which means you don’t own the music unless you purchase it. If you ever cancel your Apple Music subscription, the downloaded music will no longer play. This doesn’t apply to albums and songs that you purchase through iTunes/Apple Music.