Apple Music vs Spotify: International Streaming

Being an iPhone user for the past 5+ years, I was excited to use Apple Music. Although it had been around for some time, I had always preferred Spotify for music streaming. 

Most people are aware that one of the biggest setbacks of using Apple is not being able to download music directly off YouTube or third party apps. For this reason, I had grown continually more distant from music over the years. 8Tracks closed down a few years ago and discovering new music became even more difficult. Soundcloud was still around but due to licensing issues, most original music had been taken down. So when I plunged back into the world of music streaming, I was looking for an app that would curate playlists according to my taste. 

For people living in America and the EU/UK, accessing music streaming apps is a pretty straightforward process. But for people from developing nations, access often doesn’t come so easy. I was surprised to find that Apple Music covered 59 more countries than Spotify did, adding to a grand total of 113 countries. Yet in accessibility, Spotify is still more easily accessible worldwide due to their 14-day abroad use rule. Most uncovered territories’ people log back into their accounts using a VPN and for Spotify Premium, this doesn’t come up as an issue at all. For desktop versions of Spotify, only the country of registration of the device matters. So if your laptop is, for instance, a MacBook from the US, you won’t face any coverage problems on your desktop site. However, Apple Music blocks access to all features after seven days in an uncovered territory regardless of whether users are being billed or not. This came up as my main issue with using Apple Music in Pakistan, despite my billing ID and card belonging to a covered territory. 

Another issue that I faced with Apple music was the playlist curation. The algorithm is nowhere near as intelligent as Spotify’s, and unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, the interface may not be as useful to you. Popular tracks are always recommended first, with mainstream American pop by well-known artists such as Beyonce the top recommendation for all users. If you’re into relatively less popular music, you will have a hard time exploring new music recommendations there. Which is surprising, considering that Apple music has 15 million more songs on its database than Spotify does. But does quantity trump quality when the extra volume may rarely reach the ears of listeners? Even Deezer can offer better playlist curation than Apple music.

As an Apple user, I appreciated the seamless integration of my library with Apple music. But is the aesthetic accessibility worth making the jump from Spotify? I am inclined to say no. even with a 64 GB iPhone, my music storage space should not take up more than 2 GBs. For people who prefer streaming on data, Spotify offers a range of streaming qualities. You can save up to 75% of the data you might use streaming on Apple music if you opt for low data mode on Spotify. This is a really valuable feature for people on shorter data plans who mostly listen to music on the go. Apart from this, Apple music is optimized for Apple accessories such as HomePod. If you decide to stream music on your PS4 or old android phone, Spotify will be your go-to application since Apple music works on a limited set of devices and won’t run on older versions of android.

From my observation, Apple music caters to a very specific demographic of listeners both genre and location wise. If you live in the United States, it may be a good option for you. But for international users, Spotify still wins the accessibility and convenience race by a fair margin. After all, we would be still streaming music from YouTube otherwise.

Noor Us Sahar
Chatty tree frog. Currently studying Economics at Lahore University of Management Sciences.

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