For the past seven months, I have used Google Play Music to stream all my music from all my devices—Chromebook, Nexus, iPhone, whatever. It worked pretty well most of the time. Sometimes it would freeze, stutter, or something similar. All was smooth sailing up until a few weeks ago when it would crash multiple times a day and freeze all the time on my Nexus 6P. After being fed up with all these issues, I decided it was time for a change. Having used Spotify previously, I decided that would be a good platform to go back to. Additionally, with the Chromecast deal (now expired), I couldn’t resist. So, I took the plunge and after several hours of manually moving my music from Google Play Music to Spotify, I was all settled in. That’s when I decided to write this article about the differences, positives and negatives, to each application.
Speed & Stability
Starting off is the speed and stability of the applications. For me, a fast and stable app is the most important part. If an app isn’t fast, chances are, I won’t like to use it even if it is absolutely required that I do. Right from launch, Spotify is flying, and it never slows down. No lag, regardless of the constant stream of music being streamed to the device. The only time where I’ve seen Spotify lag is while using the web application and, in general, web apps tend to be sub-par in performance. I don’t remember any times that Spotify has crashed on me, and if it did, it wasn’t major. Google Play Music, on the other hand, can be quite laggy both on mobile (Android & iOS) as well as on the web. Many times I’ve seen it not connect to my Chromecast Audio properly, freezing and crashing is common on mobile, or sometimes it will refuse to play a track. On any given day, I will run into most, if not all, of these issues multiple times.
So the winner in this category? Spotify.
Next is the music quality. For me, this isn’t that important. I don’t have $200 headphones or speakers that I listen to my music on. In fact, most of the time I only use my built-in speakers on my phone or Chromebook. But for those of you who do care, I can say that I have not seen a discernible difference between the two. Spotify even offers streaming quality options with options ranging from “Normal” to “Extreme”. Google Play Music offers the same option, with individual options for mobile network quality instead of just general quality as seen on Spotify. There isn’t a clear winner here, but I’m a big fan of the mobile network quality option in Google Play Music, so it wins this round.
Ah, the design. My favorite part. Design is very important to me because it is the means by which I interact with an app. Prettiness is one thing, and the layout of buttons and menus is another, but they are both design. Starting off with Google Play Music, you find a fully material interface with orange as the primary color, with an overall light theme behind the orange. It is quite a pleasing look, and is very functional and well laid out. Spotify, on the other hand has a dark on dark theme. It’s not my favorite, but I’m OK with it. What I don’t like is the app layout. I find it confusing most times, and annoying most other times. The app is certainly not fully material design, but it has a few material elements mixed in. I much prefer the tab oriented layout of Google Play Music to the screen oriented layout of Spotify. The winner here is clearly Google Play Music.
There isn’t too much that separates Spotify from Google Play Music, but there are a few minor differences that add or detract from the user experience. The biggest plus Spotify has is the feature called Spotify Connect, which links your devices together. The way it works is simple – if you have multiple devices playing Spotify on the same network, you can start on one device and pick up on another. This includes where the music is playing from, and music controls. Another difference I could find coming to Spotify from Google Play Music was the lack of the genre tab. I’ve grown to like having my music broken down into different genres, and not having that as an option in Spotify is a little annoying. Another minor difference is in uploading your MP3’s to either service. With Spotify, this is possible, but you’ll need a Windows or Mac with Spotify downloaded in order to add your MP3’s to Spotify. Once in Spotify, you can get them on your phone (provided you have Premium). On the other hand, with Google Play Music, you can upload up to 50,000 songs, and have it synced to all your devices for free. Besides those differences, there are few differences between the two apps. Sure, buttons are in different places but I like the way Spotify does certain elements of the UI, primarily the ‘add to library’ process. In Spotify, adding a piece of music to your library is a very focused element. But, in Google Play Music, ‘thumbs up’ is much more focused than adding music to your collection. With all of these bonuses combined, I think that Spotify is the winner when it comes to app features.
The core of both of these services is music, and it would be hoped that both services offer a wide array of music. Thankfully, this is the case and both services offer about 30 million or more songs. When I first started using Google Play Music, this was not the case as I discovered several songs not available on Google Play Music that were available on Spotify. There’s no clear winner in this category as both Spotify and Google Play Music offer the same amount of music accessible via their service.
Chances are, if you are a current Google Play Music subscriber, you got lured in by a three month trial if you bought a Nexus or Chromecast. Google has been known to add in a three month trial of Google Play Music with the purchase of one of those devices. Of course, that only applies to new subscribers. However, one of the perks you’ll get as a Google Play Music subscriber is full YouTube Red access. If you’re already a YouTube Red subscriber, then you have access to Google Play Music as part of that subscription. With Spotify, they rarely have similarly scaled deals going on. However, I got pulled back into the world of Spotify with their “buy three months of premium, get a free Chromecast” deal. And that deal is no hoax. I did get my voucher within a few days of signing up for Spotify, and then a few days later a lemon colored second generation Chromecast showed up at my door. I also got a $10 Google Play Credit out of that purchase, but I have no clue if that was random or tied to the Spotify promo. Regardless, paying $30 for three months of music and getting $45 in stuff back is a sweet deal, so I’m going to have to hand this section winner to Spotify.
To sum this all up, both services are great. Google Play Music wins at app design, but the app tends to be buggy. Spotify is very reliable (and fast!), but a little lacking in the UI department. Both services offer just about the same library of music, but Spotify breaks out in the lead with some neat features. Between the two, I would highly recommend Spotify over Google Play Music. While Google Play Music isn’t bad, it just isn’t as great as it could be, at least not now. Right at this time, Spotify offers a solid platform for you to grow your music on. In the end, it’s up to you as to what you decide to go with but know that more frustrations might result from Google Play Music vs. Spotify.