Face-Off: Apple vs Spotify
So you want to subscribe to a streaming service (Apple Music or Spotify), but you don't know which one will suit your needs. Well, as someone who's currently subscribed to both, I'd like to share my experience (and why I didn't stick to one).
As a friend once put it, anything you have to pay for monthly that doesn't fit under the basic necessities group is a luxury in the Philippines, and I agree. I had doubts as to whether or not these services would give me my money's worth (I'm not a rich kid, and I help pay the bills at home, too), but for a music lover like me, I just couldn't resist trying them out. After months of subscription, I'm loving the experience.
Admittedly, I'm a biased Apple fan. If I had more money than I could fit under my credit limit, I'd be using Apple devices for everything (not too far behind though, as I'm already using a Mac, an iPod, and an iPhone). This isn't just because it feels great to use premium products or that I become "in" with my friends - it's about the slick, user-friendly feel the brand gives off. While Apple Music isn't perfect (I go crazy over small bugs sometimes), it still makes me happy. They've also rolled out an Android app, but it still has a lot of bugs and issues the developers have yet to face.
In terms of playlist organization, I feel AM does its job fairly well. The only problem I've encountered so far is the inability to add local songs (meaning tracks that aren't from the iCloud Apple Music library) to a playlist that has iCloud music on it. This means that the songs I've purchased in a physical shop in a CD form and then added to iTunes can't be mixed with tracks from Apple Music. This was a pain when some J-Pop tracks I have locally aren't on Apple Music.
In terms of look and feel, I am so much happier seeing light colors and a grid of my downloaded music (filtered by album). This is something all iDevices share - their ultra sleek, minimalist interface. Some updates, however, mess with the User Experience, and sometimes, I just want to revert to the previous version.
In terms of its music library, AM is quite limited in the Japanese/Korean library, but for other genres/moods, I think they have it together. It is incredibly artist-based too, and that's something I find helpful, as I usually search for the artist instead of song title. Once I trust an artist's vocal skills, I often take the leap and download almost all their tracks to sift through later.
In terms of its curated/user-made playlists, I feel there's still room for improvement. While I love the fact that I only get curated ones (and not someone's random playlist he just made public), some songs might have been better off included in another playlist. Of course, everyone's taste in music differs. I might not have been able to explore more, but so far, this is one of their weak points.
Some problems I've faced with the service is its sudden "playlist/song loss" after an update (this happened to me recently, too). After updating to its recent version (iTunes v.12.4), some tracks disappeared from my library, and some of my playlists became a little scrambled. Apple Support had an immediate cure for this though, but granted they're already a big player in the tech industry, something so simple shouldn't be an issue at all.
Before AM, there was Spotify, and for a time, I could tell you I swore by their service. I had been on Basic Spotify for years before finally deciding to go premium last year, mainly because I grew tired of the adds and not being able to download my playlists for offline listening. One great thing about this is is that it has a solid, working app for both Android and iOS, so all I'll need is a cheap android phone with a Play Store and an internet connection.
In terms of playlist organization, Spotify has you covered. They're pretty much similar (with AM) in that you can't include local songs into a playlist and expect it to also be available for offline listening on your device. I tried adding local tracks from my mac's Spotify app to a playlist, then downloading the entire playlist on one of my Androids and upon playback, they local tracks were grayed out. Other than that, Spotify playlists work fine.
In terms of look and feel, Spotify's color scheme can be a little... rough (?), for lack of a better word. Yeah, I like how the colors push the attention towards the content, which is great, but sometimes it just takes longer for my eyes to adjust. In design, we are told as much as possible (and depending on purpose) to avoid placing white text on a dark background as it strains the eyes and makes the eyes work harder to read the text. This is a minor thing, although I normally want to search for indie, alternative music whenever I see Spotify's colors.
In terms of its music library, I love how diverse it can be. I love how there are short to lengthy podcast-type tracks for books, or short stories, for poetry, and for other genres you won't normally look for. Again, I feel Spotify lacks more J-Pop/Rock tracks and artists from other parts of the world. I'd again have to rely on my local tracks to account for this. I feel Spotify relies more on playlists, than it does artist searches, and this helps me because I use Spotify to discover artists across different genres.
In terms of its curated/user-made playlists, I'd have to say it tends to be cluttered. Their curated playlists are so-so, and user-made playlists are quite all over the place. Like I said before, I love their playlist-centeredness, 'cause I discover more artists that way. I just think it would do them good to tidy up once in a while. (I'm not sure there's a feature to turn off user-made playlists, so if there is, tell me how and maybe I'll change my mind about this whole thing, haha.)
Some problems I've faced include being logged out more often than I can count on my devices after an update. I've tried posting on their support forum regarding the issue, and I still haven't been replied to (it's been around 6-7 months already). Another problem is that I've been hacked twice for no understandable reason. I change my password regularly, and I always make mine 17 characters with a mixture of symbols, numbers, upper and lowercase letters, but I still get hacked. Is this a normal thing ? Thankfully, their support team has constantly helped with my issue.
So Why Subscribe to Both?
Like sleeping under a blanket with one leg out to feel cool, I want the best of both worlds. Since my personal search style in creating playlists is artist-based, Apple Music tends to that need like a pro. Apple Music's greatest feature (well, for me anyway) is their "New" section, and that gives me an overview of the hottest artists and the tracks they're becoming popular for in a heartbeat. Spotify, on the other hand, allows me to explore and search for unknown artists through playlists (organized by genre). This means I need to focus on my mood for the day to look for new artists. The thing is, after I find an artist I like, I switch over to Apple Music and type in the artist to search for other songs under him/her.
Think of Spotify as my search pool and Apple Music as my music organizer. This works a lot for me as Spotify's color scheme often makes me blue and Apple Music's colors invite me to stay alert and happy.
Although that is generally how I use both services, I sometimes spend hours on Spotify organizing songs into playlists and syncing them to my Android. This happens most especially when I'm on the road as I trust Spotify's internet reliability more (since their app is already stable enough) and also because our network providers have special promos regarding Spotify streaming.
Do you agree, or feel that I simply missed some features of either service? Care to enlighten me (or challenge me to a duel, haha)? Comment below on what you think.