If you see me without headphones, RUN. Music subscriptions can help set the tone for your life, and I’m very, very particular about the one that soundtracks mine. I’ve taken a deep look at Google Play Music and Spotify to help you figure out which service is more deserving of your money and music.
$10/mo. at Spotify
- Top-notch subscription catalog
- Best-in-class playback handoff between devices
- Best streaming bundle for students
- 10,000 song library limit easy to hit over time
- No cloud integration for purchased or uploaded music
- Inferior support experience, especially on Android
Spotify is great for social listeners that don’t buy music and trust Spotify to serve up what’s popular or what the algorithms say they like. It’s also 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.
Google Play Music
$10/mo. at Google
- Best integration of purchased/uploaded music
- Stable, consistent performance with quick bug fixes
- Cache while streaming builds offline library effortlessly
- Uncertain future with YouTube Music ‘replacing it’
- Low device de-authorization limit
- App has gotten a bit bloated and stale
Google Play Music fits users with well-established personal music libraries and those with particular playlist tastes that can’t be satisfied by subscription music catalogs alone. For $2 more, you can also unlock premium features on YouTube and YouTube Music.
Sound Quality and Device Limitations
Spotify Premium offers audio streaming qualities up to 320 kbps on “Extreme quality” and up to 256 kbps while playing on Chromecast. Google Play Music offers audio streaming qualities up to 320kbps on both subscription and uploaded music, though the quality of uploaded music is dependent on the quality of tracks uploaded.
|Wear OS app||✔️||✔️|
|Android TV app||✔️||✔️|
|Desktop client||Download/upload only||✔️|
|Google Assistant compatibility||✔️||✔️|
|Max audio quality||320 kbps||320 kbps|
|Offline limits||5 devices 10,000 songs||10 devices|
|Device limits||Only for offline (5 devices)||10 devices|
Spotify lets you stream Spotify on as many devices as you like but you can only download music for offline playback on up to five devices, up to 10,000 songs. Meanwhile, Google Play Music has a 10-device limit for authorizations with a four-device de-authorization limit per year. Luckily, on your 10 authorized devices, you can download as much music as can fit on your device’s storage.
Both Play Music and Spotify have apps for Wear OS and Android TV, and both support Google Cast and Android Auto. 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 40 million songs available to their users to stream. Spotify doesn’t let you upload your own music library, and you can only add 10,000 songs from the streaming catalog to Your Library. Google Play Music lets you upload 50,000 personal songs to your Play Music library and stream them wherever for free, and you can add as many subscription songs and purchased songs to your library as you wish.
|Songs available||40 million+||40 million+|
|Library limit||10K||Unlimited subscription music, 50,000 song uploads|
|Playlist size limits||10K||1,000 songs|
|Lyrics||Genius Lyrics (display on device and Chromecast)||Only accessible via Google Search|
|Gapless playback||Crossfade only (and not when casting)||✔️|
|App theming||Dark theme, bottom tabs||White theme, hamburger menu|
|Support Quality||More new features, very slow to fix bugs on Android, less responsive support staff||Quick bug fixes, very responsive support staff, few new features|
Spotify’s dark theme gives the app a cleaner, crisper look that’s far easier on the eyes during late night jam sessions, and its bottom tab layout is easier for jumping between sections of the app than Google Play Music’s hamburger drawer — especially on the newest gesture system on Android Q Beta. Play Music’s Now Playing Queue lets you see ahead over a dozen songs on radio stations and you can swipe away songs you don’t like. Spotify doesn’t really show you what’s coming up on radio stations and queue management is ever so slightly insane.
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, which trounce Play Music’s Feeling Lucky radio station easily.
Considering how heavily we rely upon our music apps, it is worth mentioning that while Google Play Music is not receiving as many shiny new features as Spotify, bugs are fixed far, far faster on Google Play Music. Google Play Music also has instant chat support as well as over-the-phone support, whereas with Spotify, you can either tweet your problems to @SpotifyCares or using a standard contact form and hoping for a speedy email back.
Plans and Pricing
Spotify Premium for Family and Google Play Music’s family plan are both $14.99 a month and give up to six users their own premium subscription account. Everyone on a Spotify family plan has to live at the same address, and you can’t change addresses once it starts; if you move, you either have to 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.
|Student Discount?||$5/month w/ Hulu||Only on YouTube Premium|
|Music integration offerings||❌||Upload 50K songs for free, Google Play music store integration|
|Video bundle offerings||Hulu (Students only)||YouTube Premium ($12/month)|
Spotify Student bundles Spotify Premium, Hulu (ad-supported), and Showtime for $5/month, making it the best deal in media streaming, but if you’re not an American college student, the next best deal on the market is YouTube Premium. For $12/month for an individual — or $18/month for the family plan — you can unlock premium features in Google Play Music, YouTube, YouTube Music, YouTube Kids, YouTube Gaming, and YouTube VR.
Buy-one-get-one music service: A word about YouTube Music
Google Play Music comes with premium access to the revamped YouTube Music, which is eventually supposed to replace it. There are a few very important things to keep in mind:
- There’s a lot to like in YouTube Music, but even a year on, it’s still very much a beta product with a whole lot of bugs and missing features that it needs to get in order before any migration could occur.
- If/when that migration occurs down the road, your library will migrate over at that time including your uploaded/purchased music locker.
- Google Play Music and YouTube Premium both come with YouTube Music Premium, so you can use both apps and take advantage of their individual strengths — YouTube Music’s unbeatable YouTube-powered selection and Google Play Music’s normalcy and stability.
$10/month at Spotify
Magical mixtapes and student signups have made Spotify a juggernaut.
Spotify’s student bundle is the best in media streaming today, and it’s hard to break away from the siren song of Spotify’s shuffles once that discount ends. Between its many exclusives, famous algorithms, and the simple magic of Spotify Connect, Spotify is a music service with a lot to love, even if Spotify’s support on Android isn’t quite as good.
Google Play Music
Despite the uncertain future, it’s still a solid value.
- $12/month — YouTube Premium
- $10/month — Google Play Music
Google Play Music is the last of its kind on Android: a music service that allows you to integrate subscription music with a personal music locker of purchased and uploaded music. With YouTube Music still a work in progress, Google Play Music is a two-in-one service that’s well worth your time, money, and music. It’s also part of the best non-student streaming bundle around: YouTube Premium.