User interface and mobile experience
Despite Apple’s penchant for minimalist design, Apple Music’s mobile interface was less than intuitive out of the gate. With the subsequent releases of iOS 10 and iOS 11, however, the cumbersome layout became a more streamlined experience that music lovers should appreciate. The library is now on the homepage of the Music app — all the music you own can be accessed in this tab, and you can easily filter by Playlists, Artists, Albums, Songs, and Downloaded Music, just in case you don’t want to waste your precious mobile data.
Tapping on the For You tab now brings up several different personalized options. The My New Music Mix and the daily themed playlists provide even more ways to discover new tunes, while the Browse tab gives you an avenue to explore popular music, videos, and Apple exclusives. Those looking for something specific can use the Search tab, which allows you to quickly search through either your personal library or the Apple Music library.
Apple has also integrated Siri with Apple Music, allowing subscribers to issue voice commands through their Apple TV, iPhone or Mac. If you were to ask Siri to play the No. 1 song from 2001, for instance, Lifehouse‘s Hanging by a Moment would quickly start playing. It’s a cool feature that Android users won’t get, as they don’t have access to Siri.
The Android version of Apple Music is aesthetically different from the iOS version, in that it hides its menu to the left side of the screen as many Android apps do. If users need to navigate, they can pull the menu into view like a drawer. This keeps the layout clean and makes good use of your phone’s limited real estate. Though Apple Music is available for iOS and Android, Apple Music works best on iOS, especially with the added Siri functionality. Spotify, on the other hand, is more device agnostic.
Spotify has long been the industry leader in terms of sheer usability. The mobile and desktop applications provide users with an easy way to browse music, access playlists, listen to internet radio, and discover new music. Running on the left side of both the desktop client and mobile app is the program’s navigation bar, which is broken into three separate sections: Main, Your Music, and Playlists. Each section features its own set of straightforward subcategories, which gives users easy access to the service’s many features. The search window actively populates the results field, much like Google’s search engine, often providing exactly what you’re looking for after simply typing just a few characters.
Speaking of outside integration, both Apple Music and Spotify also support Amazon’s Echo ecosystem, allowing subscribers to play songs on the company’s smart home systems with simple Alexa voice commands like, “Play songs by Mumford and Sons.” Spotify even offers Google Cast integration, which is especially handy for those who like Google’s streaming devices like the Chromecast, allowing for a quick and easy way to stream music from your home theater system; whereas Apple Music has exclusivity of the Apple TV and HomePod.
Both have the option to display the lyrics of the song playing, as well as the reasoning behind them where possible.
Spotify’s social functions allow subscribers to follow friends, and see what they listen to and who they follow. It also gives users the ability to share or recommend playlists, along with the ability to publish their listening history to Facebook, which then gives their Facebook friends an opportunity to Like or Comment on the activity.
While these features do give Spotify some social clout, we would like to see the service add an easy way to chat with who you follow. It has also now removed the Inbox/Messages feature, which allowed users to privately message each other inside the app — something the company said most users simply weren’t using and therefore was too expensive to maintain.
Apple Music’s main social feature comes from what it calls the Connect function, which brings artists and fans closer together and effectively serves as an all-access pass to your favorite bands. From candid backstage photos to early cuts of an upcoming music video, artists can share with their fans a host of exclusive insight and information. Apple also allows users the ability to comment, like, or share any artist’s messages, with the artist having the opportunity to respond back. These posts can also be shared on Facebook and Twitter, along with individual songs and albums.
Still, Apple Music doesn’t offer much in the way of social components. While Connect is a cool feature, other friend-to-friend social aspects are relatively bare. Even without messaging, Spotify’s solid social media integration, as well as the ability to see what friends and followers are listening to, gives the service the upper hand.