Amazon Music is the one streaming service you shouldn't ignore

Amazon Music hero
Amazon Music hero (Image credit: Android Central)

Everybody knows about (or already subscribes to) Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Tidal, or one of a dozen other streaming music services, but I find that people often forget about or overlook one of the biggest players out there — Amazon! Amazon has been in the online music business for a long time, from selling MP3s to delivering streaming content. I remember paying .69 cents for Amazon Music MP3s when iTunes was selling them for .99 cents or even $1.29 a decade ago, and the company even brought the "free" Prime Music service to life before bigger players like Apple got into the streaming game. Now that the market is quite crowded, why should you give Amazon Music a chance? Well, I've got my reasons, and I'll share them with you here.

Amazon Music Features

Feature for feature, Amazon's music services compare quite favorably with some of the most popular by subscription number, including Spotify and Apple Music. I've included a chart of some of their major features for a quick comparison.

Be aware that there are a number of options that fall under the Amazon Music umbrella, including student plans, family plans, and even HD-quality plans, so if you have any questions or get confused, consult this handy guide we've put together for you. For the purposes of this article, I'm going to focus on the individual tier of Amazon Music Unlimited, which runs $9.99 (or $7.99 for Prime members).

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Amazon Music UnlimitedSpotify PremiumApple Music
Monthly FeeFrom $8$10$10
Family Plan$15$15$15
Number of Songs> 50 million> 50 million> 50 million
Standard Audio Quality256 kbps160 kbps256 kbps
HD OptionsUp to 3730 kbps*Up to 320 kbpsNA
Smart AssistantAlexaNA but works with Siri, Alexa, Google AssistantSiri
Social FeaturesYesYesYes
Special FeaturesMy Soundtrack
My Discovery Mix
Side by Side
My Daily Mix
Year-end Wrapped
Favorites Mix
Friends Mix
Beats 1

Amazon Music HD is a premium add-on at an additional fee

As you can see, Amazon Music Unlimited is priced competitively with Spotify and Apple Music and even undercuts them for Prime members. It offers basically the same family plan and pricing as the others and has a similarly-sized catalog. Amazon Music Unlimited also offers an HD option (for an additional fee), as well as unique features like Auto Rip (where if you buy a CD or vinyl, you automatically get those songs in high quality in your Amazon Music account), and Alexa support.

When it comes to artificial intelligence and machine learning, you'd think Amazon wouldn't have any problems, but they've been a bit slow out of the gate in this regard. However, Amazon is quickly making up ground on its competitors when it comes to exclusives, originals, and content creation. It features a bunch of custom playlists like Control Alt Repeat (alternative) and Alexa's Most Requested that are updated weekly. It launched with an original series called Side by Side, which features interview snippets with top artists interspersed with their favorite tracks (I particularly like the U2 one). I've also found that the My Soundtrack station and My Discovery Mix playlists are getting better at predicting what I want to listen to the more I use the service.

Amazon Music Apps

Like its competitors, Amazon Music Unlimited is available on multiple platforms (arguably more than its competitors). You can get the Amazon Music app on Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, tvOS, Fire TV, Roku, Chrome OS, and more.

The desktop app is pretty bare-bones, but it gets the job done. There are tabs to browse the Amazon Music collection (with recommended content, stations, and playlists), a recently played section, a tab for your music, and a link to the Amazon Music store for those who are still interested in purchasing their music. The app also comes with a mini-player, so you don't have to look at the whole thing at once while you're working. The shot below is of the app on macOS Catalina.

Amazon Music desktop app

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

When I listen to Amazon Music on my computer, I often chose to do so in a web browser. For me, it seems to work a bit quicker than the desktop app and functions just as well. The web player shows more content and context in a single window, and it is easier for me to just bounce between browser tabs (which I already have open anyway) than it is to have another app running on my desktop.

Amazon Music web app

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Finally, there is the Amazon Music mobile app. In some respects, the mobile app (both on Android and iOS) is not as flashy as that from Spotify or Apple, but I have to say I kind of like that about it. There are only four main tabs at the bottom of the screen which makes it super easy and intuitive to navigate, and I particularly like that recently played content, be it songs, artists, playlists, or stations, is so easy to find from the Home tab or the My Music tab. The search tab is straightforward (and even shows you recent searches there), and there's also a handy Alexa tab that activates the voice assistant for those times when you need a little more help finding something, or you just don't feel like typing.

I've always appreciated how the app is laid out for playing music. You have play/pause and skip track buttons as well as repeat, shuffle, and add to playlist options in a mini-player at the bottom of the screen, and if you maximize the player, you get live lyrics on the top half of the screen with a transparent background for a subtle audio-visual effect. There is also an easy way to cast audio to Amazon Echo speakers, or you can stream via Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, or Chromecast. All-in-all, it's a good look, in my opinion.

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central

Amazon Music Pitfalls

Honestly, there aren't too many pitfalls for Amazon's music service. It offers pretty much the same catalog as its main competitors, along with original content, custom stations, and curated playlists. The two main areas where it stumbles a bit are with its personalization, and social functions.

With their more established AI and machine learning models, Apple and Spotify are better right now at guessing what I want to hear next and often surprise me with the playlists they put together and the artists that they feature on stations I create. Amazon is improving in this area, however. For example, it has a My Soundtrack station that is continually updated based on your listening habits, preferences, and feedback, and a My Discovery Mix playlist that it updates weekly that is supposed to be like Spotify's Daily Mix or the New Music Mix on Apple Music. Getting better, but it's not there yet.

The other area that Amazon Music trails Spotify and Apple is social/sharing. No service is better than Spotify for sharing music with the public or with friends, and their end of year Wrapped synopses are a cultural phenomenon. Apple isn't as good for sharing as Spotify, but it's got some tricks up its sleeve too. You can follow friends just like Spotify and share playlists, and Apple Music does a great job of giving artists and bands a voice in the app with its radio shows, celebrity playlists, and Beats 1 station and interviews. Just about the only social aspect to Amazon Music is the ability to share a track or playlist to your social channels, but that's a one-way move. While you can now (finally) follow friends who are also on Amazon Music, it's just not as seamless an experience as on the other services.

The last criticism that comes to mind is Amazon's confusing pricing structure for its music plans. Generally speaking, you can, in fact, get it for cheaper than competing services, but there are some caveats attached to that statement. For example, there is a $3.99 plan that you can get, but that only works on a single Echo device. This might be great if you live by yourself in a studio apartment, but if you want to listen to unlimited music on the go or in another room even, you're out of luck. And while the $7.99 individual plan is a bargain compared to other services, you have to be an Amazon Prime member to get that deal (which is a $119 per year). If you're not a Prime member, it might make more sense to get another service. However, if you are already a Prime member, it might behoove you to take advantage of these savings. Regardless of your Prime status, though, the family plan costs the same as Apple's or Spotify's, and the HD plan is an additional fee above that. So take these savings with a grain of salt is what I'm saying.

Sounds pretty good to me

When Amazon first launched its premium music service, I think it was hampered by a few things. For one, it already had Prime Music, which was limited but free for Prime members, and two, it was late behind two other behemoths in the industry. Despite all of that, Amazon Music Unlimited has continued to get better as a service and has even climbed into a respectable third place among paid music subscription services.

If you are a Prime member and you're not tied to another subscription service, I think you should give Amazon Music Unlimited a serious look. It has a comparable music catalog to all the major services, it has some pretty compelling original playlists and artist collaborations, and its curation and personalization are getting better month-by-month. There is a reason that Amazon Music Unlimited is growing so quickly, and I think you should jump on board to find out why!

Amazon Music Unlimited is a streaming service that's accessible on tons of devices and features millions of songs that you can play on-demand or download to your device. It's entirely ad-free, too. The deal is for new users of the service only.

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Jeramy Johnson

Jeramy was the Editor-in-Chief of Android Central. He is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand.