Apple Music gives listeners access to 45 million songs and premium sounding music. It also comes with a three month free trial on most iPhones, meaning its user base has picked up significantly to around 56 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.
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.
Amazon also has a brand new free tier to its music service. This version is only available when users play on an Echo smartspeaker, and includes adverts. You cannot search for individual songs, but instead must stick to playlists or radios from Amazon.
- Free trial: 3-month 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/Free: You can get a cheaper price if you ask an Amazon Echo: "Alexa, try Amazon Music Unlimited". Users can also play ad-supported playlists for free on Echo speakers.
Verdict: Best for Amazon Echo owners.
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 96 million subscribers and 170 million users overall. Premium streams at 320kbps, a better quality 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.
4. YouTube Music
Google's answer to music streaming, YouTube Music replaces its old Google Play Music and at last offers a serious competitor to Apple and Spotify on price. Having tested out this app, YouTube Music offers a mix of curated playlists with all the latest music videos to go with them, as you would expect from its YouTube namesake.
YouTube also offers a free version of its app, but only if you own a Google Home smart speaker. This version lets users play a sample of playlists using their voice to activate them. The free version has adverts in between songs, but the regular premium version is completely advert-free.
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: A serious contender from YouTube, flush with music videos and on point playlists.
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.
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 podcasts in the app. Deezer also recently announced Amazon Alexa integration, which means you can use the music app with your Echo products or Sonos One.
If you want to skip the adverts, you can get unlimited songs using its "Flow" tool, which essentially curates a discovery playlist for you. If you have linked it with a voice controlled speaker, simply saying “Alexa, play Flow” will launch your speaker into an unlimited custom playlist.
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: 3-month 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, works with Alexa and Echo products
- Deezer family, £14.99: Unlimited songs for up to six users, including kid-friendly accounts
Verdict: A free alternative to Spotify, great mixes and ad-free listening.
SoundCloud is the go-to app for music producers or those looking to discover otherwise unknown artists or DJs. It features 180 million tracks from up-and-coming artists, with many directly uploaded by the artists themselves. SoundCloud has a free version which has basic features, or an ad-free Pro version with a monthly fee.
- £7.50 per month: Unlimited uploads, ad-free listening, offline mode.
Verdict Best for wannabee artists and DJs looking to get discovered.
The best radio streaming apps
8. TuneIn Radio
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.
9. BBC Sounds
The BBC's new 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. The app lets you pause and rewind live radio, subscribe to podcasts and save music mixes. However, Telegraph reporters have had some trouble with early glitches on the app, and it has a lowly 2.2 star rating on the Google PlayStore.
Spotify vs Apple Music
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.
Spotify has had 96 million subscribers as of 2018 and 35 million songs available. Apple Music lags behind but has seen its subscriber numbers increase steadily to around 56 million, 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 who buy a new iPhone, 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.