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So with Apple in the mix, how does the music streaming landscape look?

In short, it’s looking pretty good for the consumer.

Jimmy Iovine speaking about Apple Music at WWDC in San Francisco last month.
Jimmy Iovine speaking about Apple Music at WWDC in San Francisco last month.
Image: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

WHEN YOU THINK about it, we’re really spoilt for choice when it comes to music streaming.

An area that was almost unthinkable a few years ago has become a crowded field as numerous companies jump into the field, even though consumers haven’t quite warmed to the idea of paying for the privilege.

While there are any music streaming services to list here, here are the most noticeable services out there.

Apple Music
No of tracks: ~30 million
Cost: €9.99 p/m for single, €14.99 for family (offers 3 month free trial)
Platform: iOS (Android version coming soon)

The latest competitor to launch, Apple Music’s big differentiator is its focus on human curation, offering playlists put together by experts and its own radio station (which despite sounding silly has potential).

The latter is a nice add on but the playlists themselves are the real stars. There has been some real care being put into not only the songs featured, but the order they’re placed in, giving playlists a clear structure.

Although as far as Apple products go, the format is a little dense for users to get to grips with immediately and there might not be enough here to convince others to jump from Spotify or other rivals.

Pros
- Curated playlists have a clear structure.
- Algorithm is great at knowing what type of music you want.
- Siri integration is a nice touch.
- Will likely have a number of exclusive tracks and albums featured over time.

Cons
- On Mac and Windows, it’s baked into iTunes and isn’t innovative at all.
- Design and interface is raw, tries to cram too much into a small space.
- Apart from the three-month trial, there’s no free version.

Source: Apple/YouTube

Spotify
No of Tracks: ~30 million
Cost: Free, €9.99 p/m for premium
Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Phone

The one to beat in the space, Spotify has the greatest number of people using the service and it’s easy to see why. A large music collection, easy social sharing tools and a large collection of user playlists makes it the most tempting prospect for users.

It’s also bringing in a few new additions like video, podcasts and music that adjusts its tempo based on your pace giving it an extra dimension.

Pros
- Great interface.
- Large collection of playlists and good discovery features.
- Easy to use social sharing features and available on lots of devices.
- Will soon include podcasts and music based on your running.

Cons
- Free version is incredibly limiting on app.
- App and web version can feel cluttered with too much going on.

Source: Spotify/YouTube

Google Play Music/YouTube Music Key
No of tracks: ~30 million
Cost: Free, €9.99 p/m (YouTube Music Key trial only)
Platform: iOS, Android

Launching its free version a week before the launch of Apple Music, Google Play Music has a few things going for it. For one, its context-driven playlists – based on factors like the day, the time and your mood – is pretty sharp and Google’s own algorithm means searching for and finding songs is pretty good.

Linked to that is YouTube Music Key for Android which is still in beta and allows users to play music videos in the background and save them for future listening. It’s still in beta despite arriving late last year but with Google extending the free trial for all users, it shows that it hasn’t quite figured out how best to tap into this section of the video site.

Pros
- Context-driven playlists are useful.
- Clean interface. Makes full use of Android’s Material Design.
- Integration with YouTube is handy for finding more obscure songs.
- Can upload up to 50,000 tracks from your own music collection.

Cons
- No real variety with context-driven playlists.
- Suggestions can be a bit hit and miss.

Source: Google Play/YouTube

Tidal
No of tracks: ~25 million
Cost: €9.99 p/m, €19.99 p/m
Platform: iOS, Android

With the focus on lossless audio, Tidal has aimed at the audio connoisseur who has the equipment to appreciate the jump in quality.

Yet its relaunch will have rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, and both that and its pricing structure means it’s facing an uphill struggle.

Pros 
- High-fidelity music contains a noticeable jump in quality.
- Interface is straightforward and clear for anyone to use.

Cons
- High-fidelity sound only comes with the €19.99 tier.
- No free tier (and only a 30-day trial) will put people off.

Source: TIDAL/YouTube

Deezer 
No of tracks: ~35 million
Cost: Free, €9.99 p/m, €19.99 p/m
Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Phone

Quietly going about its business, the French streaming service has built up a collection of songs while other competitors get the limelight. That’s a pity as Deezer has a number of features that makes it worth looking at. Its radio channels is great at picking songs, it has a strong editorial slant and it also offers CD quality audio for elite users.

It shares a lot of similarities with Spotify making it a worthy rival.

Pros
- Like Spotify, it’s available on a large number of devices.
- Wide catalogue and offers CD quality audio for all tracks on elite.
- Intelligent radio selection and curation.

Cons
- Free version is extremely limited compared to other rivals.
- Elite service is also limited considering how little changes between free/Premium and it.
- Apps could do with a bit of fine-tuning.

Source: Deezer/YouTube

MixRadio
No of tracks: ~36 million
Cost: Free, €4 p/m
Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Phone

While Microsoft already has Xbox Music (now Shuffle), it also has MixRadio, a former Nokia product which focuses solely on providing radio playlists of both chart toppers and music genres.

There’s no adverts but if you go for the premium version, you gain access to both unlimited skips and offline mixes but high-quality audio.

Pros
- Straightforward and clean interface.
- Can download mixes (playlists) for offline listening.
- Cheaper than most services and no adverts in free version.

Cons
- Music choice is limited to shuffle.
- Limited number of options compared to larger music streaming services.

Z Source: MixRadio/App Store

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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