The best streaming music services 2018: Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Google, Deezer, Tidal and Groove | T3

The best streaming music services 2018: Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Google, Deezer, Tidal and Groove

Which streaming music service most deserves your monthly subscription fee? We take a closer look

You really are spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a music streaming service, with major players like Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple competing with independent operations including Spotify, Tidal and Deezer. So how do you start going about trying to choose between them?

It's easy to get lost in the detail of all these services: the maximum audio quality, how many devices you can sync to, how much a family plan costs, how good the recommendations are, the intricacies of playlist management and so on. The truth is, they're all broadly offering the same kind of service and quality, so we've tried to sum up the main strengths of each one rather than compile a laundry list of features.

The devices and platforms you already make use of will play a part in your choice as well - there's still no Spotify app for the Apple TV, for example - but the good news is that they all offer new users a free trial, so you can test them all out for yourself and see which one suits before parting with your £10 (or $10) a month.



From: Free

Best for: All-round features, music recommendations.

The name that brought streaming music to the masses and still, probably, the best option for most people: the apps are numerous and robust, the catalogue is comprehensive, and there's still the option of a free plan that lets you listen without paying anything in return for a few adverts. You can incorporate your own local audio files into Spotify's apps too.

Whoever's running the music recommendation algorithms inside Spotify deserves a pay rise, because its Discover playlists continue to impress, while extras such as Spotify Connect make it simple to switch between devices and speakers. Despite increased competition from the other streaming platforms here, Spotify remains the app to beat.

Google Play Music


From: Free

Best for: Importing your own library, access from anywhere.

As you would expect from Google, Play Music is best experienced as a web app, although it works well on Android and iOS too. Because you can load it up in your browser, you can get at your music from pretty much any computer, and because all your tunes are stored in the cloud, you don't have to worry about managing folders or making any library backups.

If you don't want to pay monthly for millions of songs on demand then you can import and stream up to 50,000 of your own audio files for free. The music recommendations are strong here too, and benefit from all the personalised data Google holds on you - so you can get suitable tunes served up whether you're at the home or the office, for example.

Apple Music


From: £9.99/$9.99 a month

Best for: Those heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, iTunes fans

Apple's Spotify killer doesn't have a free tier but does offer a three-month free trial so you can give it a whirl, and discounts for family members and students. It also has a decent stab at letting you combine a local iTunes library with an on-demand streaming catalogue of millions of songs, although sometimes the combination can get a little confusing.

One difference from Spotify and indeed Google Play Music is there's no web player, so everything has to go through iTunes - great if you like its smart playlist handling and iPhone syncing, but not so great if you like clean and clear software. Apple Music only really comes out on top if you already use iTunes heavily or mainly rely on Apple gadgets.



From: Free

Best for: Choice of platforms and choice of bit rates.

Deezer doesn't have the same high profile as a lot of its rivals, but it has most of the same features: local audio file imports, apps that work across the web, the desktop and mobile, and a free tier to ease you in (basically with radio-style mixes you can't control). The Flow feature, which pipes through tunes based on your listening history, is worth a go too.

You can even pay a little extra to get ultra-high quality (1,411kbps) streams, so Deezer really does have something for everyone. The interfaces across its apps are clear and responsive too, and we can't really think of much that counts against Deezer - integration with other hardware and software is the only area where Spotify really has an edge over it.

Amazon Music Unlimited


From: £7.99/$7.99 a month

Best for: Prime members, Amazon loyalists.

Amazon's music services are tricky to get your head around: Prime Music gives you a limited streaming library of two million songs and is included with a Prime subscription, and then Amazon Music Unlimited, which is more like the other services we're covering here, costs an extra £7.99/$7.99 a month if you have Prime or £9.99/$9.99 a month otherwise.

Got it? When it comes to the actual (Amazon Music Unlimited) service itself, it gives you most of the features and options you get elsewhere, though it's not quite as polished or as intuitive as what Google, Spotify and Apple are offering. Music discovery is a little lacking too, but you can get it for a cut-price fee if you only want to use it through an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot.

Groove Music


From: £8.99/$8.99 a month

Best for: Heavy Windows and Surface users.

You get the feeling that Microsoft only develops Groove Music because it feels it has to compete with Apple and Google against Spotify, but to be fair it's slowly getting better. All the basics are covered, though they are pretty basic, so you can stream and cache songs across multiple devices, get recommendations, build your own playlists, and so on.

Where Groove Music is different is in the Windows 10 app Microsoft has developed, which means it's optimised for Surface tablets and other devices, and indeed for the Xbox consoles. If you spend a lot of time using Windows and Microsoft kit, then Groove Music is going to fit in snugly with everything else you already do, which may appeal to you.



From: £9.99/$9.99 a month

Best for: High fidelity music, some exclusives.

As you might be aware if you noticed its flashy relaunch, Tidal's major selling point is the high quality of its streamed music - up to CD-level 1,411kbps. The service also seems to have more than its fair share of exclusives, from streaming tracks to videos and artist interviews, perhaps thanks to the influence of Tidal owner and sometime rapper Jay Z.

Look beyond the high fidelity and the high-profile exclusives and there's not much else to recommend Tidal: its apps and features aren't bad, they just don't quite match the slickness of some other services. Considering you need to pay £19.99 or $19.99 a month for the top audio quality, most people are best off doing their streaming elsewhere.