The best music streaming services: Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon Music

We have all become familiar with music streaming apps, creating playlists, sharing music, listening to radio and enjoying tens of millions of songs across Spotify, Apple Music and more.

But which music streaming service is best for you? What features do you need and what are the different offerings you can get from premium subscriptions? How long is the free trial, and what perks can you get? Which is cheaper, and how can you get a special rate when you subscribe?

Here are the best streaming services around, and the pros and cons of all the apps and sites out available:

The best music streaming services compared

Apple Music

£9.99 per month, Apple

Apple Music gives listeners access to 45 million songs and premium sounding music. It also comes with three month a free trial on most iPhones, meaning its user base has picked up significantly to around 30 million subscribers. Apple Music can stream at 256kbps AAC.

In terms of pricing, Apple Music is on a par with Spotify although it has no free option. With Apple Music, you can also link your songs to other Apple products, like the new HomePod.

  • Free trial: Three month free trial available with iPhone, iPad, Mac or PC
  • Individual, £9.99: Get unlimited ad-free music with 45 million songs, download 100,000 songs and listen to Beats 1 Radio
  • Family, £14.99: Link up to six accounts for Apple Music listening
  • Student, £4.99: All the benefits with a student discount

If buying Apple Music, we advise you pay on an annual basis. This will set you back £99.99, rather than £119.88 if you paid separately, making it cheaper than Spotify Premium for annual payers.

Verdict: One of the best free trials around and cheaper if you go for an annual deal.

Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music

£7.99 per month, Amazon

Amazon Music Unlimited is Amazon’s Apple Music and Spotify rival, while Prime Music is the version of its music app included with an Amazon Prime membership. Amazon Music Unlimited comes with 40 million songs, ad-free, that can be downloaded to listen anywhere.

Amazon Prime Music is a service with two million songs, available through an Amazon Prime subscription, which costs £79 per year. You can also get a special Amazon Music Unlimited Echo deal when you buy an Amazon Echo smartspeaker. The exclusive price of £3.99 is only available with the Echo.

  • Free trial: 30-day free trial available
  • Amazon Prime Music, £7.99: This comes as part of an Amazon Prime membership, but limits users to two million songs. You can also buy it cheaper for £79 per year
  • Amazon Music Unlimited, £7.99, or £9.99: Cheaper for those who are already Prime members, also available for an annual price of £79 per year
  • Echo Exclusive, £3.99: You can get a cheaper price if you ask an Amazon Echo: “Alexa, try Amazon Music Unlimited”

Verdict: Best for Amazon Echo owners.


Free, or £9.99 per month, Spotify

The most well-known music streaming app, Spotify launched the trend for subscription music services with its wide free offering and multiple premium options.

With Spotify you can build playlists from a collection of 35 million songs, select artist radios to hear what you love, or explore the latest music with Discover Weekly. Spotify is the largest subscription music streaming service with 70 million subscribers and 140 million users overall. Premium streams at 320kbps, a faster rate than you get with Apple Music.

  • Free: Unlimited free songs with shuffle play, but with adverts, fewer skips and no downloads
  • Spotify Premium, £9.99: Shuffle play, premium audio quality, no adverts, unlimited skips
  • Family, £14.99: Up to five premium members linked to one account
  • Student, £4.99: Unlimited music with no ads for students

Verdict: The best ad-supported service and brilliant discovery options.

Google Play Music

£9.99, Google Play

Google’s answer to music streaming, Play Music competes with Apple and Spotify on price. Having used the app for several months, Play Music is probably a little less useful for discovering new music compared to Spotify and doesn’t offer the same kind of playlist curation and sharing you get with it.

However, it is similarly priced and lets you download or upload 50,000 songs which you can listen to at any time. As well as this there are podcasts and ad-free music videos on YouTube Red.

  • Free trial: 30-day free trial available
  • Play Music, £9.99: Listen to millions of songs, artist radios and create personalised playlists from any artist or genre

Verdict: The app is not as polished as Spotify, but it has access to YouTube Red.


£9.99, Tidal

Tidal sets itself apart as the high fidelity music streaming service. It is the brainchild of Rapper Jay Z and features lots of exclusive tracks from the likes of Beyonce and Kanye West. It bills itself as offering lossless music, sounding as the artists intended it.

However all this comes at a price. The standard package, which gives you access to exclusive tracks and music videos. The Hi-Fi package gives you the improved audio, but costs £19.99 per month. Right now, you can get a 90 day free trial to try out Tidal and its exclusive tracks for yourself.

  • Tidal Premium, £9.99: More than 50 million songs including exclusives from Jay Z, Beyonce and more in regular definition.
  • Tidal Hi-Fi, £19.99: The more expensive version of Tidal includes Hi-Fi audio quality for lossless audio.

Verdict: Premium pricing gets you exclusive music access you can’t find anywhere else.


Free, or £9.99 per month, Deezer

Deezer, the French music streaming company, has a similar music offering to Spotify. It is free upfront with adverts supporting listening. You can also listen to and discover a handful of podcasts in the app, but there are more adverts here than you would find on Spotify.

If you want to skip the adverts, you can get unlimited songs using its Flow tool, which essentially curates a discovery playlist for you. On mobile you only get mixes and playlists, but on desktop you can get unlimited access to songs with adverts. This is one of the only truly free options out there next to what you can get from Spotify, so it offers a cheap alternative, although having used the app I’ve never found it quite as user-friendly as Spotify.

  • Free trial: 30-day premium free trial available
  • Free: Free songs on mobile and desktop, with adverts. Only mixes and playlists on mobile
  • Deezer Premium+, £9.99: Unlimited songs, higher quality audio, offline music
  • Deezer family, £14.99: Unlimited songs for up to six users, including kid-friendly accounts

Verdict: A free alternative to Spotify, not quite as handy as it but good mixes and ad-free listening.

The best radio streaming apps

TuneIn Radio

Free, TuneIn

TuneIn radio lets you stream live radio to your phone or smartspeaker. It features thousands of stations from all over the world. In the UK, you can get access to the BBC, TalkSport, Capital, Classic FM. With the online service you can go even deeper to listen to local radio stations from your area.

There are other radio apps, such as iHeartRadio and Pandora, but these are almost exclusive to the US and have no UK stations. It is compatible with Amazon Alexa.

BBC iPlayer Radio app

Free, BBC

The BBC’s own radio player app offers live listening to UK radio stations to your smartphone or tablet. You can download programmes and podcasts anywhere to listen offline, discover audio and video clips and live performances. However it is not compatible with most smartspeakers.

Spotify vs Apple Music

Spotify music website screen shot
Spotify app design

The main battle for your music streaming attention is between Apple Music and Spotify. The Swedish streaming upstart has won users over with its free, advert supported streaming setup, while Apple Music has always billed itself as a more premium service.

Key facts | Spotify

Spotify now has 70 million subscribers as of 2018 and 30 million songs available. Apple Music lags behind with around half that, but it does feature more songs thanks to Apple’s history with iTunes, numbering around 45 million.

So what’s the difference between the two services?

Spotify has a tiered structure that makes it initially cheaper for its service than Apple Music. You can get free ad supported listening, which is not available from Apple. Some of Spotify’s most popular features include its discovery playlists, like Discover Weekly which puts together a playlist of old and new music that you will love, or its mood-based playlists, such as for workouts or revision.

Apple Music meanwhile comes with an offer of a three month free trial for most users, where you can get access to all its premium services. You can stream all your music to any compatible device, which includes Apple AirPods, iPhones and the Apple Watch. It is also the only service that is compatible with Apple’s new HomePod smartspeaker.

You can download any song to listen to offline. It also features Beats 1 radio, can be used with Siri to create a voice-activated playlist and you can find friends profiles.

Streaming services for Sonos, Amazon Echo and smart speakers

Smartspeakers have given a new avenue for your music streaming services, and a minefield for which one is best depending on your purchases. Different smartspeakers integrate with different streaming apps, meaning you might have to pick one.

Speakers such as the voice-controlled Sonos One can access a wide range of music apps, while Amazon’s Echo is better tuned to Amazon Music Unlimited, and offers a cheaper £3.99 subscription service for Echo owners. Apple’s new HomePod will only work with Apple Music for now.

Sonos, Amazon Echo and HomePod | Streaming services


The big battle is still between Spotify and Apple Music. Both have huge music choices, but if you refuse to pay for your music, Spotify remains the best way to go, but even if you do want to pay the app and Discover Weekly playlists make Spotify a favourite. That said, if you are happy to pay on an annual basis you can get Apple Music for less, from £99.99 for the year. It’s ultimately a better price if you are happy to pay in one go.

Amazon Music Unlimited hasn’t been around as long and doesn’t quite have the social element of Spotify. That said, if you are an Amazon Echo owner that £3.99 special subscription rate makes it the cheapest offer on a monthly basis