Streaming music is big business, but which Android apps should you use?
We know there are plenty of streaming apps out there for Android. Each one comes with pros and cons (as everything else in life does). And the streaming app that best suits your needs might vary from one moment to the next. Say you want to listen to local stations for local news and weather information one moment. You may just want to have some music playing in your office that will be uninterrupted by commercials the next moment. Different apps will better fulfill those different needs.
Join us for an overview of some of the best streaming apps out there.
Article updated March 2016
1. Google Play Music
Google Play Music offers some pretty neat features, especially if you subscribe to the All Access service for $9.99 a month.
Without subscribing you can upload a ton of your own music to a cloud locker to listen to on the go by streaming it. But with the subscription you're opened up to Google's vast library of content, allowing you to stream songs, albums, even create stations or listen to some curated ones. The latter of these comes thanks to the integration of Songza, a previous entry on this list that Google acquired.
One of the more recent additions to Google Play Music is the Family Plan. For half as much again on top of a regular subscription you can bring in everyone in your household to get their stream on without requiring an individual All Access plan.
As already mentioned you can add your own music library to Google Play Music. And it even plays nice with iTunes. The desktop app can be pointed at wherever your music collection lives on your PC or Mac and automagically upload new additions to the cloud.
If you'd like to test drive All Access before signing up, there's a free trial available.
Spotify is one of the most well known names in the space and is a strong choice to have on your Android phone or tablet. Spotify has the massive library you'd want to find, as well as a station generator and some curated, mood and genre based offerings if you don't feel like making a playlist yourself.
There's also a social emphasis with Spotify, with users being strongly encouraged to use friends' playlists to help them discover music and share what they're listening to on social media sites.
The biggest recent additions were streaming access for free, with ads and shuffle play the trade-off, and the long awaited support for Google's Chromecast. And now with Chromecast Audio on the scene, hook up a couple of speakers and you've got a Spotify powered stereo.
With the $9.99 monthly Premium subscription, you get some added perks, like no ads.
3. Slacker Radio
Slacker Radio is one service you don't normally hear too much about. It offers plenty of options, though, and it's what powers Samsung's Milk music service.
There is the free service, which plays ads (including some video ads). It offers a limited number of song skips. You can listen to stations suited to certain events or activities.
The $3.99-a-month subscription gets rid of those ads and song skip limitations. It also allows you to download full stations onto your device for offline playback.
And $9.99 monthly gives you an experience similar to that of Spotify in the sense that you can play songs and albums on demand, all without commercials. It also enables you to create playlists and download those playlists on your device for offline playback.
ABC News, ESPN and NPR stations are available on Slacker.
Of course, we can't forget about Pandora. Pandora gives you the ability to create radio stations based off of songs and bands. Just enter the name of the song or band in there and it will create a playlist with similar-sounding music. The service works without a subscription and it is ad-supported.
The app comes with a sleep timer and an alarm, which are pretty nice little features.
If you do decide to pony up $4.99 per month for Pandora One, you can get a few added bonuses. You get no ads, a higher bitrate and a special desktop application.
5. TuneIn Radio
Sometimes there are things you can only hear on local (or "terrestrial") radio stations. TuneIn lets you listen to streaming radio stations from all over the globe. You can also listen to podcasts, if you like to keep all your audio in one handy place.
Once you're up and running TuneIn allows you to follow your favorite stations, and if you can't find it you can manually add it in providing you have the URL. TuneIn also recently had a visual overhaul making it much more attractive than the slightly stale, but functional look of old.
Upgrade to TuneIn Radio Pro for a one-time fee of $3.99 to remove banner ads and gain the ability to record your stations.
There are some big terrestrial radio station companies that don't stream on TuneIn, like giants Clear Channel and Cumulus. However, they do stream stations live on the iHeartRadio app.
In addition to being a bit like TuneIn, iHeartRadio is also similar to some other services we mentioned with playlists/stations based off of activities, events and moods. It's also a bit like Pandora in the sense that you can craft stations based off of a particular band or song.
You can expect advertisements on iHeartRadio.
Deezer doesn't do much to break the mould, but it is a decent alternative to something like Spotify. It comes in free and paid forms, with your $9.99 a month opening up premium features and removing the in-stream advertising. Without paying you'll also have to play things in shuffle mode, but the ads are so frequent if you're going to use it a lot it's definitely worth paying up.
Deezer also recently added Android Auto support which is good news if you're in the position to take your music on the road, and the "Flow" can be quite useful in creating a radio station like stream based on your preferences.
The biggest issue right now is that it has been "coming soon" to the U.S. for what seems like an eternity, now. But it is coming. Apparently.
Please tell us what you think. Do you enjoy using some of our favorites? Do you prefer using other services we didn't mention? How come? We look forward to reading your thoughts!