The Streaming Service Showdown

It is perhaps of no surprise that I am opinionated about software - especially the apps that I interact with on a daily basis. Of all of the software that graces our screens, few apps are as ubiquitous as the music streaming service.

I, like millions of other people, listen to music throughout my day. It fills the silence of so many mundane tasks, like waiting for food to cook, walking around town, and browsing what's left of Twitter. It's something I love to do - whether at my computer, walking around with my iPhone, or even playing games on my Xbox. Which means that the decision for which service gets my money is often one that can become stressful.

Most people do not pay for multiple music streaming services. In cases like Netflix or Hulu or Apple TV+, each service has its own catalog of exclusives and options, meaning that oftentimes you'll end up subscribed to three or four services at a time trying to cover your bases. Music streaming, on the other hand, is largely a one-and-done type deal. Each service has, more or less, the same library, so user selection often boils down to feature set or client preference. This is where I've been struggling the most.

I do not have the funds to pay for multiple streaming services. Recently, I've been using Apple Music, as it's a part of Apple One - $15 a month for Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and some iCloud storage. However, due to a combination of Apple One's price being increased and my own financial situation changing (moving across the country), I've decided to cut Apple One out of my life and instead just pay for a streaming service individually. The question then becomes...which one?

This post serves as an analysis of each service, their pros and cons, and maybe will even help you figure out which one you want to use.

What am I looking for?

There are a few criteria for determining what I want in a streaming service. These are generally my guidelines for picking a service. For you, these may be different. If there's something you are wondering about, like social features or audio quality, I talk about some other considerations later on.

Price. This one is obvious. I do not want to spend more than $10 a month for music, which is why I am downsizing in the first place - I barely use any other Apple One features.

Local file support. I listen to a lot of remixes and video game soundtracks that don't always make it to streaming libraries. Being able to play my own MP3 files from my own library is a huge plus. support. It doesn't need to necessarily be native, but it should be fairly easy for me to scrobble my listening to my account. I like seeing numbers go up, and even though I would desperately like to, I cannot bring myself to delete my account.

Multiplatform support. I want to be able to listen to my music on all of my devices. My Mac, my PC, my phone, my Xbox Series S. The more support, the better. And, preferably, official native clients for each of them. No web apps.

Choose your fighter

It's pretty easy to rule out a few platforms. Tidal's library is missing a lot of what I listen to, and has no local file support, so it's out of the question. Deezer's local file implementation is incredibly unreliable, and their clients are all very unfun to use, so it too is out of the race. With that, leaves three services to duke it out.

Perhaps the underdog for this fight, Google's own YouTube Music Premium. Largely unnoticed, it's got some strengths of its own - especially in the value department.

The second-most popular platform in the world, fighting to maintain its spot on my iPhone's dock, Apple Music. A flawless integration for Mac and iOS users, but can get a little picky when you ask it to play nice with other services and devices.

And, of course, the all-encompassing Spotify. The 'default' streaming service. Works on almost everything, while not being the best at almost anything. The epitome of "good enough for most people."

Now, let's meet our competitors in the ring.


This one is fun. Spotify and YouTube Music are both priced the same - $10 per month. This has been the sort of 'standard' price for music streaming services for as long as I can remember. However, just this year, Apple increased the cost of their services across the board, bringing Apple Music up to $11 per month, one dollar more than its starting price. Inherently, the $12 yearly difference isn't all that much, but it's still a little frustrating.

Especially frustrating, considering for $12 a month, you can purchase YouTube Premium, which unlocks countless features on standard YouTube as well as YouTube Music Premium. This includes ad-free videos, mobile background play, and the entire catalog of YouTube Music. Although above the ten-dollar threshold, it's arguably the best value out of any music streaming service out there.

However, for people particularly picky about audio quality, Apple Music is hands-down the best value, offering almost the entire catalog in lossless quality included in the base subscription - significantly less than Deezer HiFi or Tidal HiFi.

Winner: YouTube Music.

Local file support

Not every song in the world is on streaming platforms. Oftentimes, some tracks aren't in every region, or a video game soundtrack never gets an official release, and sometimes you just want to enjoy an unofficial remix of a track. Whatever the reason, local file support is a great thing to have.

Apple Music has the best implementation of this, by far. Being built on top of iCloud, Apple Music comes with the iCloud Music Library feature. Just drag your music file into iTunes (or Music on macOS), and it'll automatically upload it to the cloud, where it seamlessly integrates with your streaming library. Songs can be streamed without downloading, and can be selected and played on any device - even video game consoles or smart speakers.

In second, YouTube Music has it's own cloud library feature. Risen from the ashes of the beloved Google Play Music, the file uploading in YTM is far from seamless. You upload your files through a web browser, which is slow and often interrupted. On top of this, your uploaded files are relegated to their own section of your library. Though they can be added to playlists alongside your streaming service library, uploaded songs struggle to play on some devices (like consoles, TVs, and smart speakers).

In last place, comes Spotify. Notably lacking a cloud library feature at all, Spotify instead depends on Wi-Fi syncing to play local files, and it is incredibly clunky. The desktop app lets you select local music folders, and will then create a section for "local files" in your library. If you want to listen to these on the mobile app, you have to add them to a playlist, and be on the same WiFi network as the device running the desktop app. From there, you can stream it or save the playlist for offline to save it to device. However, there is no way to play local files on anything other than the desktop or mobile apps, which is rather disappointing.

Winner: Apple Music. Support

This one is a personal preference, and for many people can be skipped., for those who don't already know, is a service that tracks listening habits by keeping record of what songs you've listened to. It then parses that data and makes it super easy to compare stats, find new song recommendations, or just get a feel for your kind of taste.

Many platforms integrate with it directly, and some require external tools or software to do so.

Spotify has native support for, and scrobbles are processed server-side, instead of being handled in the app. This means that regardless of which client you're using - smart speaker, mobile app, desktop, consoles - your listening stats are reliably getting tracked. It's one of the most seamless integrations for I have seen for any service.

Predictably, Apple Music does not have any form of native integration with the service, meaning third-party software is necessary to scrobble from your Apple Music library. On Windows and macOS, there are plenty of scrobblers to choose from, for iTunes and respectively. Android users can use PanoScrobbler or the official scrobbler, which work fairly reliably. iOS users, however, have to result to either incredibly unreliable dedicated scrobbling apps, or by using third-party Apple Music clients like Marvis Pro or Soor. Far from ideal, but still fairly doable.

YouTube Music is the worst at this. On Android, it can be reliably scrobbled once again with PanoScrobbler or the app. The web app can be scrobbled using a variety of extensions for Chrome and Firefox, although Safari users are left in the dust. However, iOS scrobbling is completely impossible (as of November 2022), meaning iPhone users who care about should probably consider the other options.

Winner: Spotify.

Multiplatform support

This is where things turn bleak.

By far, the service with the most multiplatform is Spotify. With native, official desktop apps for Windows, macOS, and Linux, alongside clients for iOS, Android, video game consoles and smart TVs, the support offered by Spotify is unmatched.

Apple Music comes in a somewhat distant second. macOS, iOS, and Android have pretty decent official clients. Unfortunately, outside of those platforms, the experience is subpar at best. The current desktop app for Windows users is still iTunes, which is bloated, slow, and just unpleasant to use (Apple even replaced it in macOS three years ago). PlayStation 5 got an Apple Music app in late 2021 (no PS4 support, though), and as of a month ago, the Xbox received one too. Linux users are left with a slow web app, with little support from Apple. There is some hope, though - a new official Apple Music client is slated to launch for Windows in 2023, and there's a fantastic open source third-party client for Linux, macOS, and Windows called Cider.

YouTube Music has the worst support out of the three. iOS and Android users get official clients, but that is the extent of YTM's support. No app for consoles, a terrible TV app, and, what I personally consider a complete dealbreaker, there is NO dedicated desktop app. If you want to do anything with YouTube Music on the desktop, you're stuck with either a web app, or with unreliable third-party clients (that mostly just load the web app with some tweaks). It is not a fun experience on anything other than mobile. If you care about music on the desktop, skip YouTube Music.

Winner: Spotify.

Other considerations

I didn't bring up audio quality in this conversation, largely because there's a very clear-cut winner here, and that wasn't what I wanted to focus on. I'm more concerned with the features surrounding the music at this moment in time. However, I will say - out of the three, Apple Music sounds the best thanks to lossless, YouTube Music comes in second, and Spotify comes in last. Most people won't notice the differences, but for those who do, there you go.

On the topic of algorithms and recommendations, Spotify mostly takes the cake. Many of its algorithmic playlists and recommendations have been pretty spot on. YouTube Music comes in behind it, notably with its Offline Mixtape feature, which picks a decent selection of music it thinks you'll want to listen to, and then downloads it. Apple Music's recommendations aren't the best, and pale in comparison to either platform.

One thing to note is that many users have complained about Spotify's shuffle feature being almost too predictable and algorithmic. A video by YouTuber Gabi Belle does a fun dive into this topic for those interested.

Social features, I think, are largely overlooked when it comes to picking a service. For most people it just doesn't matter, but each service does things a bit differently. Undoubtedly, YouTube Music is the worst at it. Apple Music is a bit better, but it still kind of feels closed off.

Spotify, however, is incredibly good at being a social music app. Between good integrations with apps like Discord, Instagram, and Snapchat, fun social events like the yearly Spotify Wrapped, and fantastic tools for sharing and collaborating on playlists, it's no surprise Spotify is the top pick for people who like sharing music with friends.

Picking a winner

Now, with all that out of the way, which service have I decided to give my money to? And which one should you pick?

If you're on a budget and already have YouTube Premium, then YouTube Music is a solid option. YTM does its job as a music app, just without many of the bells and whistles that come with the other two services on this list. It may not be the best, but it is a fantastic value. If you have YT Premium already, give it a shot. Otherwise, I'd skip this one.

Apple Music is a pretty solid choice, but it has its drawbacks. If you're into collecting a library of tracks, I've found that its library management is the best in the business (especially compared to Spotify's), and the audio quality is supreme for the price. However, it definitely does fit into Apple's walled garden, and is just a cut more expensive than Spotify. If you're an audiophile, critical listener, or music collector, then Apple Music is the service for you - if you're already an Apple user. Until the situation improves on Windows and Linux, it's harder to recommend to people outside of the ecosystem.

And, for the rest of us, there's Spotify. It's ubiquitous for a reason. For most people, it is the music streaming service - and for good reason. Although it may not excel in terms of library management or audio quality, it does its job of being a music player incredibly well. It's quick and easy to just get right into the music, with good desktop and mobile apps, as well as ways to listen on almost any device under the sun. Good enough for most people.

As for me, I'll be moving to Spotify for the foreseeable future. It may not sound the best, or have the best local file support, but otherwise, it's quite usable and has almost all the other features I could want. But, I'm not known for sticking to any one specific service for too long.


Thanks for reading this long-winded piece about something that is rather mundane! It's weird reading back and proof-reading all of it, because it really does feel kinda...bland? Compared to other things I've written. But, I wanted to document all of this, because my poor girlfriend has had to listen to me rant and ramble about Spotify this and Apple Music that for the past three days.

Anyways, a few new posts coming soon(tm). I was able to dig up an old review of Sonic Forces that I started writing in 2021 that I never finished, and I'd like to...well, finish it. On top of that, I'd like to get a review out for Sonic Frontiers, and also an update log on me and my life - I recently moved across the country and it's been quite a ride.

That's all for now! See you soon.

Amber out.