Best streaming music services compared: Spotify, Apple, Rdio, Deezer, Tidal and more

Where should your £10 a month go?

There are so many avenues to explore, it's impossible to go down them all: recommendation engines, offline support, compatible in-car and hi-fi technology, playlist sharing and collaboration, exclusive content from specific artists, social features and so on. We've settled for a brief overview but if there are particular features you want, research them separately for each platform.

Spotify

Spotify

  • www.spotify.com
  • Launched: 2008
  • Tracks: 30 million+
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, web, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry
  • Price: £9.99 per month (full on-demand service, offline listening) or free (ad-supported, lower quality)

In brief: The long-standing poster child for music streaming, Spotify has recently added video clips, podcasts and playlists that match your running tempo - perhaps an effort to differentiate itself against an increasing number of competitors. It's one of the most comprehensive services out there, and you'll struggle to find a feature available elsewhere that Spotify doesn't have, even if the rather dark interface could use some polish.

Rdio

Rdio

  • www.rdio.com
  • Launched: 2010
  • Tracks: 32 million+
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, web, Android, iOS, Windows Phone
  • Price: £9.99 per month (full on-demand service, offline listening) or free (no skipping, radio-style streaming)

In brief: Often found in Spotify's shadow, Rdio actually has a cleaner and more intuitive interface, and can handle jumping between devices more easily. On the downside, you can't add your own MP3s to the mix like you can with Spotify, and the apps are a little more sparse. Worth a look if you want to focus on the music and prefer a well-designed interface over a series of extra bells and whistles that you're unlikely to get around to using.

Deezer

Deezer

  • www.deezer.com
  • Launched: 2007
  • Tracks: 35 million+
  • Platforms: Web, Android, iOS
  • Price: £14.99 per month (lossless quality on Sonos), £9.99 per month (full on-demand), free (ad-supported, radio-style)

In brief: Deezer is popular in Europe but yet to fully launch in the US (unless you happen to have some Sonos kit installed). On paper it has everything you could want, including a high-fidelity music tier and local MP3 support, but it's interface and functionality occasionally lets it down. There's nothing particularly wrong with Deezer but nor is there anything to particularly make you want to switch from Spotify. Worth checking out at least.

Groove Music

Groove Music

  • www.microsoft.com/groove
  • Launched: 2012 (as Xbox Music)
  • Tracks: 38 million+
  • Platforms: Windows, web, Android, iOS, Windows Phone
  • Price: £9.99 per month (full on-demand service, offline listening, support for streaming through OneDrive)

In brief: The artist formerly known as Xbox Music feels like Microsoft joining the game late, and that's exactly what it is - you get more or less the same features as you do everywhere else, but it's easier to access if you have a Windows machine or Xbox console. There is no free tier available (you do get a 30-day trial of the Music Pass if you want to try it) though you can still use the Groove app on Windows to play your local music files.

Napster

Napster

  • www.napster.com
  • Launched: 2001
  • Tracks: 32 million+
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, web, Android, iOS, Windows Phone
  • Price: £5 per month (unlimited listening on Windows and Mac), £10 per month (unlimited listening on any device)

In brief: You may not have realised it, but the Napster name lives on as a legitimate music streaming service (it's owned by the same people who run Rhapsody in the US). To its credit its plans are easy to understand and straightforward, and it has a large library of tracks available, though it lacks some of the extra functionality you can find elsewhere. There's no free tier but a 30-day trial is available if you want to see what Napster has to offer.

Google Play Music All Access

Google Play Music All Access

  • play.google.com/music
  • Launched: 2011
  • Tracks: 30 million+
  • Platforms: Web, Android, iOS
  • Price: £9.99 per month (full on-demand service, offline listening), free (local tracks stored in and streamed from the cloud)

In brief: Google's offering is perhaps the best at combining a local music library with unlimited streaming (you can upload 50,000 tracks for free whether or not you pay monthly) but as is Google's wont, there's limited desktop support - everything runs in the browser. The interface works well and the mood-based radio stations are interesting, and don't forget you get YouTube Music Key (ad-free music videos on YouTube) in the same price.

Apple Music

Apple Music

  • www.apple.com
  • Launched: 2015
  • Tracks: 37 million+
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android (coming soon), iOS
  • Price: £9.99 per month (full on-demand service, offline listening, syncing between devices via iCloud)

In brief: Apple Music's big sell is of course its tight iOS and Mac OS integration and the support of everything iTunes. On the flip side there's no free tier and it remains to be seen whether Android and Windows users will get apps as good as those on Apple's platforms. Curated radio stations like Beats 1 are another strong selling point for Apple, though as usual the company's software can be rather awkward when dealing with the cloud.

Tidal

Tidal

  • www.tidal.com
  • Launched: 2014
  • Tracks: 25 million+
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, web, Android, iOS
  • Price: £9.99 per month (full on-demand service, offline listening), £19.99 (lossless quality music streaming)

In brief: A revamped Tidal burst onto the scene last year with the backing of a long line of high-profile musicians and a promise to deal with royalties fairly (that's why there's no free tier). The lossless, CD-quality music is another headline feature but you have to pay almost £20 a month for that. Tidal is also pushing exclusive content and music videos for its users, but it's got a lot of work to do (not least on its software) to beat the competition.

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