Beats Music vs Spotify vs Rdio vs Google Play Music All Access: music streaming services compared


Apple's $3 billion purchase of Beats Music and Beats Electronics stirred the mobile music landscape yesterday, giving plenty of reasons for Spotify, the biggest music streaming out there, to feel the heat of competition. 

But what does Beats Music offer more than the others? We compare Apple’s new purchase against the three most popular on-demand streaming services out there: Spotify, Rdio and Google Play Music All Access.


Beats Music


Apple is buying more than just a streaming service with Beats Music - it is buying time, as negotiating streaming rights with the big music labels is not something that happens overnight, and nor is building a team of creative sound experts. What it also claims to put its hands on is something Apple CEO Tim Cook has said is the only streaming model that gets it right - Beats Music does not have a free streaming option, and this ‘limitation’ will allegedly allow it to pay more to artists and be a profitable venture (unlike Spotify that has both a free, ad-sponsored mode that the majority of subscribers use).

The iTunes Store has been a huge success for Apple, but more and more users seem to prefer to pay a flat, $10 monthly fee for on-demand streaming, rather than dish the same amount to buy just one album (and often times, an album costs even more), so this is a way for Cupertino to future-proof its music service, a core product for the company.

Beats Audio is getting many things right - its music recommendation and discovery system is top notch, playback quality is great (but still lossy), and it’s got a catalog the same size as the other big ones. What it lacks right now is scale (rumor is that it has around 200,000 subscribers), and that’s where Apple seems to come in.

Spotify



Spotify is the go-to music streaming service right now with a huge catalog of over 20 million songs. It stands out with its excellent music quality, availability of well-made desktop AND mobile apps, as well as the biggest community of subscribers - over 40 million at the time of this writing.

What got Spotify so far ahead? The company has been one of the first to offer a free, ad-supported streaming option in addition to the premium subscription. It has fought a fierce fight with biggest rival Rdio in the last few years, and recently it’s taken an aggressive stance, quickly filling up the blind spots in its music catalog. It’s got excellent quality on its side (you can actually pick between normal, high, and extreme quality playback on mobile, those standing for 96Kbps, 160Kbps, and 320Kbps, respectively).

Spotify is allegedly planning to go public this fall, and it would be one of the biggest IPOs of the season.

Rdio


Just a few months ago, Rdio got a new chief executive officer with one main goal - to scale the service up. After being available for years with no free streaming options, a few months ago, Rdio has added ad-supported music streaming for free, and is counting on increasing its user base quickly.

The service has had quite a few exclusive artists and albums, and some of the top 100 Rolling Stone albums up until recently were only available on Rdio, but Spotify has caught up hugely in the past few months, and the gap is much less pronounced.

Good news is that - as a runner-up with Beats Music breathing in its back - Rdio will have plenty of motivation to move forward in quick steps. We hope this to translate to some aggressive moves in the near future, which is always good for the user.

Google Play Music All Access


Google’s Play Music All Access is the only music streaming service that has had the advantage of coming pre-loaded on Android. It is just as rich as other services, and being a native Android product, comes with its huge advantages - better integration with wireless accessories, and access to Google’s cloud, where you can save up to 20,000 of your own songs.

Google Play Music All Access is also quickly expanding to new markets, and with Android’s leverage across the globe, it definitely has the potential to outcompete the other three.

The other alternatives

Deezer


We omitted Deezer from the big four for simplicity sake, but in reality, the music service has grown very large, and brags about actually having the largest catalog of all the rest with over 30 million songs on board. This, however, does not mean that it has all 20 million songs of, say, Spotify, plus 10 million more - and the gaps can be quite huge.

Still, most of the essentials are on it, and Deezer has the big advantage of being available in over 180 countries (more than any other service we know of). It is not available in the United States, though, and that’s one of its biggest issues.

Slacker


Slacker brings the best of both worlds as it delivers both radio service like Pandora and on-demand streaming like Spotify, but where it truly shines is in its radio capabilities. Slacker offers plentiful sports, comedy and talk stations to listen to, and having the rich variety of something like satellite radio. Comparing it with the big four services we talked about earlier, it's clear that this is one feature that they miss. One notable downside of Slacker is the sub-par music quality, though, and that's something that audiophiles would definitely scorn at.

WiMP Music


As good as 320kbps “extreme” (in Spotify’s terms) quality music, it is still far from the experience you get from lossless music (or vinyl for that matter). WiMP, a Norwegian company, is currently the only music streaming service that offers truly lossless (FLAC on most devices) music streaming. Its one gigantic downside is the very limited availability. WiMP is only available in a handful of European countries, and it’s not offered in the United States.

Samsung Milk Music (powered by Slacker)


Samsung’s recently introduced Milk Music is powered by Slacker and free to use (with ads) on Samsung (and only Samsung) devices. It’s more of a radio streaming service rather than on-demand one, and its catalog is even shorter than the full one of Slacker, but it compensates with a gorgeous user interface.

Samsung has promised a premium option with - hopefully - true on-demand streaming, but until then, you’re limited to the free one only.

Pandora


With a massive music library and great radio recommendation engines, Pandora is a radio-only service with no on-demand option, so you can only start a radio station based on a song or an artist, but cannot, say, play a full album of that artist when you want to. We dislike its intrusive ads, but it only costs $3.99 to get rid of them, and for all else it works great.

Rhapsody


Another all-you-can-eat music service, Rhapsody cannot brag about having the clean and elegant user interface of the rest, but has a similarly large music catalog and capabilities.

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58 Comments

1. NokiaFTW

Posts: 2072; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

There's a mistake there. Beats Music has a WP app.

7. Felix_Gatto

Posts: 942; Member since: Jul 03, 2013

Only exclusive for HTC.

10. Liveitup

Posts: 1798; Member since: Jan 07, 2014

Beats is available on all WP devices. I have it on my Lumia. Xbox music should have been there in m'y opinion, it was the first native music streaming service on any Platform.

13. Felix_Gatto

Posts: 942; Member since: Jul 03, 2013

l searched Beats Music in Windows Store but l cannot find it, maybe it's not available for my country.

22. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

Owned it....lol

12. Gemmol

Posts: 793; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

got it on my Lumia 1520

2. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

You could have at least added Music Unlimited to the "alternatives" list.

3. InJuxHurYlem

Posts: 28; Member since: Oct 07, 2009

What about Xbox Music?

8. sgodsell

Posts: 7531; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Only for Microsoft. Just like iTunes is only for Apple.

9. xq10xa

Posts: 810; Member since: Dec 07, 2010

That is not true. I have it on my Android phone.

31. Sauce unregistered

Speaking of iTunes Radio, it just hit 40 million listeners….Impressive for one platform / just being released, compared to Spotify.

4. wilsong17 unregistered

for google if you go herehttps://play.google.com/about/music/allaccess/#/ you can listen online via internet which doesnt require a desktop app

5. alvinashcraft

Posts: 14; Member since: Jul 23, 2012

You say you don't like Pandora's intrusive ads, but you don't mention that it's only $3.99 per month to get rid of them.

30. bigdawg23

Posts: 467; Member since: May 25, 2011

My thoughts exactly. I have been a Pandora One Subscriber for a few years now. Tired Beats because ATT had a 90 day trial, didn't like app layout or music selection. I have iTunes Match and seldom use iTunes Radio. Used Slacker before and didn't care for it. Same thing with Rdio and Spotify. End of the days it's personal choice.

32. Sauce unregistered

Or a quick Jailbreak to get free Pandora One listening / song downloading off Pandora. IDK if Root works, but probably also.

46. andynaija

Posts: 1264; Member since: Sep 08, 2012

Does Pandora still offer the yearly One subscription?

6. waqarzec

Posts: 77; Member since: May 09, 2013

why is pa going crazy about beats......u know why? bcuz they are know owned by apple pa is an apple fan......and opposite of HTC

18. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Before this acquisition, the largest purchase Apple had ever made was $429 million for Next (and Steve Jobs), and that was 18 years ago. $3 billion is a huge deal, no matter if it is Apple buying Beats or Lenovo buying Motorola from Google.

21. jibraihimi

Posts: 816; Member since: Nov 29, 2011

What an idiotic comment, PA is posting news about beats acquisition by Apple because it's fresh news and biggest deal by apple, and people want to know about this.......... If posting articles about latest news makes PA, owned by apple, then what you will say about acquisition of Motorola by google....??? That time also PA covered the news extensively, and more recently even motorola's acquisition by lenovo was covered extensively...now you can say PA is owned by Google...... One day back PA was full with the news about LG G3,that doesn't make PA, being owned by LG,...... They were just covering the latest flagship launch by LG...... Same they are doing with this news...... If you hate apple so much, try to keep away from apple related articles.......

26. waqarzec

Posts: 77; Member since: May 09, 2013

hey u apple fan....I am not talking about recent post.....see in the back u will came to know.....and see when the beats will come outn iphone....then beats will be so much hyped.....when an android model is not waterproof or is having non removable battery ....pa points out......but can't they see iPhone...which is not waterproof as well as having non removable battery.

33. Sauce unregistered

How about you quit these accusations. You're embarrassing yourself. Not to mention, you look / sound like a moron. Didn't even bother finishing reading your silly comments.

37. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

And this was two weeks ago. Why bother talk bout the same crap when no one is talking bout the G3. And we don't care if it's a 3 billion dollars deal

36. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

It's because they love anything that is apple OWN.

11. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

I have Google Play All Access, and it rocks. I've actually discovered new albums and songs that I love that I never really would have known existed without it. I haven't tried the radio option, really; I just find an album I want to listen to and bam, done.

14. Gemmol

Posts: 793; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

People have beats music mixed up, this is whats wrong with this website and the so call people that say they use it.......Beats music is more like Xbox Music, Google Play All Access......where there are albums from all the way back then in the past to album that come out today and you get to choose what songs you want to hear......its not a radio that play random songs......for example I have different playlist with tons of songs from different albums that do different things for me, some for setting mood with lady friend, some for energizing me when it comes to exercising, and etc.......the reason I choose Beats Music over Google Play All Access, and Xbox Music is because of the AT&T deal 15 dollars for 5 different people to use.....while Google Play and Xbox Music is 10 dollars for one person.....to me thats a steal 15 dollars for 5 people, come on theres nothing better than that and there is no way you can down play it......so people .....it is not a radio stop comparing it to radio all it do is make everyone look dumb.........if Spotify and Rido let you pick songs to make a playlist then I take my comment back, but from what I can tell using beats its not a radio........I can go thru all Michael Jackson albums and songs and make a playlist calling it Michael Greatest Hits and put it in random

15. Gemmol

Posts: 793; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

This is why Beats Music cannot be free because since its just like Xbox Music and Google Play all access, you are picking songs to play, theres no way you can let that service be free, I can understand if you made radio stations that play songs in random that are similar to the songs you like be free, but letting people choose any song out of 20 million to play will never be free, for no music streaming program........lets be honest if you can pick any album to play and listen for free, why would you pay for the service........there's no desktop app, but you can stream on the website like pandora

17. Gemmol

Posts: 793; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

remember the difference between beats music, is picking your own songs....another example for people who are confuse, say you want to hear LL Cool J first album, type in LL Cool J and it will show you every album he made, then you pick the one you were looking for........another example you want to hear albums from people in the past that they do not sell on the streets no more, you type in the name of the group, and it will show all their albums then you pick the album you want to hear...................if you do not want to hear their albums, you can pick Top Songs section where it only show their top songs and you can listen to those.........if you like any song from any artist you can make a playlist making the biggest playlist in the world adding songs from huge amount of artist, put it in random and you may never hear the same artist twice because you got so much songs on it.........then theres the option beats give you where you can save your playlist to your SD card to play on your phone for when you do not want to use your data plan so you can save your internet for other things

16. Michaelsalaets

Posts: 27; Member since: Feb 09, 2014

i have had all of them. spotify is the only one i have kept. and i hae had it since beta in US

23. BattleBrat

Posts: 1476; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Same here, I kept Slacker too though, and The audio addict stations (Sky.fm, DI Radio, Rock Radio, Jazz Radio)

42. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 2014

I've had Spotify for years and it is by far the least bad of the streaming services. The chart above doesn't show it, but Spotify also has a Linux client. I wish Spotify didn't have a limit for offline music and offered lossless streaming like some European services do.

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