Our Pick

Google Play Music

Algorithmic powerhouse

Spotify Premium

Google Play Music fits users with well-established personal music libraries and those with particular playlist tastes that can't be satisfied by subscription music catalogs alone. For $2 more, you can also unlock premium features on YouTube and YouTube Music.

$10/mo at Google

Pros

  • Best integration of purchased/uploaded music
  • Stable, consistent performance with quick bug fixes
  • Cache while streaming builds offline library effortlessly

Cons

  • Uncertain future concerning YouTube Music migration
  • Low device de-authorization limit

Spotify is for social listeners that don't buy music and trust Spotify to serve up what's popular or what the algorithms say they like. It's great for users who just want a bit of music to fill their lives and tech fiends that switch devices too frequently for Google Play Music's device limit policy.

$10/mo at Spotify

Pros

  • Top-notch subscription catalog
  • Best-in-class playback handoff between devices
  • Best streaming bundle for students

Cons

  • 10,000 song library limit is easier to hit over time
  • No cloud integration for purchased or uploaded music
  • Inferior support experience, especially on Android

Sound Quality and Device Limitations

Spotify Premium offers audio streaming qualities up to 320 kbps on "Extreme quality" and up to 256 kbps while playing on Chromecast. Google Play Music offers audio streaming qualities up to 320kbps on both subscription and uploaded music, though the quality of uploaded music is dependent on the quality of tracks uploaded.

Google Play Music Spotify
Wear OS app ✔️ ✔️
Android TV app ✔️ ✔️
Web client ✔️ ✔️
Desktop client Download/upload only ✔️
Chromecast compatibility ✔️ ✔️
Google Assistant compatibility ✔️ ✔️
Max audio quality 320 kbps 320 kbps
Offline limits 10 devices 5 devices 10,000 songs
Device limits 10 devices Only for offline (5 devices)

Spotify lets you stream Spotify on as many devices as you like but you can only download music for offline playback on five devices, and up to 10,000 songs. Meanwhile, Google Play Music has a 10-device limit for authorizations with a four-device de-authorization limit per year, but on your 10 authorized devices, you can download as much music as can fit on your device's storage.

Google Play Music has an app for Android TV, both Play Music and Spotify have apps for Android Wear, and both support Google Cast and Android Auto. Spotify uses Spotify Connect to connect to a wider variety of speakers and devices than just Google Cast, including Sonos and car systems.

Read more: What is Spotify Connect and why do I want it?

Library and Features

Both Google Play Music and Spotify have over 30 million songs available to their users to stream. Spotify doesn't let you upload your own music library, and you can only add 10,000 songs from the streaming catalog to Your Library. Google Play Music lets you upload 50,000 personal songs to your Play Music library and stream them wherever for free, and you can add as many subscription songs and purchased songs to your library as you wish.

Google Play Music Spotify
Songs available 35 million+ 35 million+
Library limit Unlimited subscription music, 50,000 song uploads 10K
Playlist size limits 1,000 songs 10K
Lyrics Only accessible via Google Search Genius Lyrics (display on device and Chromecast)
Gapless playback ✔️ Crossfade only (and not when casting)
App theming White theme, hamburger menu Dark theme, bottom tabs
Support Quality Quick bug fixes, very responsive support staff, few new features More new features, very slow to fix bugs on Android, less responsive support staff

Spotify's dark theme gives the app a cleaner, crisper look that's far easier on the eyes during late night jam sessions, and its bottom tab layout is easier for jumping between sections of the app than Google Play Music's hamburger drawer. Play Music's Now Playing Queue lets you see ahead over a dozen songs on radio stations and you can swipe away songs you don't like. Spotify doesn't really show you what's coming up on radio stations and queue management is ever so slightly insane.

Orange vs Green

Spotify's automatic stations and suggested songs seem to be slightly more accurate in their predictions than Google Play Music's. Spotify also offers up Discover Weekly and Daily Mix playlists to help you keep your music fresh, which trounce Play Music's Feeling Lucky radio station easily.

Considering how heavily we rely upon our music apps, it is worth mentioning that while Google Play Music is not receiving as many shiny new features as Spotify, bugs are fixed far, far faster on Google Play Music. Google Play Music also has instant chat support as well as over-the-phone support, whereas with Spotify, you can either tweet your problems to @SpotifyCares or using a standard contact form and hoping for a speedy email back.

Plans and Pricing

Spotify Premium for Family and Google Play Music's family plan are both $14.99 a month and give up to 6 users their own premium subscription account. Everyone on a Spotify family plan has to live at the same address, and you can't change addresses once it starts; if you move, you have either go to individual plans or delete your accounts and start over. Google Play Music's family plan does not require everyone to live under the same roof, which Spotify Premium for Family not only requires, but enforces.

Google Play Music Spotify
Standard Price $10/month $10/month
Student Discount? Nope $5/month w/ Hulu
Family plan? $15/month
Music integration offerings Upload 50K songs for free, Google Play music store integration
Video bundle offerings YouTube Premium ($12/month) Hulu (Bundle is $13/month)
Available countries 63 65

Spotify Student, which bundles Spotify Premium, Hulu (ad-supported), and SHOWTIME for $5/month is the best deal in media streaming, but if you're not an American college student, the next best deal on the market is YouTube Premium. For $12/month for an individual — or $18/month for the family plan — you can unlock premium features in Google Play Music, YouTube, YouTube Music, YouTube Kids, YouTube Gaming, and YouTube VR.

Read more: YouTube Premium is Google's bundle future

Buy-one-get-one music service: A word about YouTube Music

No. Stop it. Bad!

Google Play Music comes with premium access to the "brand-new" YouTube Music, and some YouTube executives keep slipping out bits and pieces about Google Play Music being replaced by YouTube Music. There are a few very important things to keep in mind:

  • There's a lot to like in YouTube Music, but it still very much a beta product with a whole lot of bugs and missing features that it needs to get in order before any migration could occur.
  • If/when that migration occurs down the road, your library will migrate over at that time including your uploaded/purchased music locker.
  • Google Play Music and YouTube Premium both come with YouTube Music Premium, so you can use both apps and take advantage of their individual strengths — YouTube Music's unbeatable YouTube-powered selection and Google Play Music's normalcy and stability.

What YouTube Music means for the future of Google Play Music

Our Pick

Google Play Music

It may not be the most popular, but this two-fer has the best features and value

Google Play Music is the last of its kind on Android: a music service that allows you to integrate subscription music with a personal music locker of purchased and uploaded music. With YouTube Music making a splash, Google Play Music is a top-notch two-in-one service that's well worth your time, money, and music. It's also part of the best non-student streaming bundle around: YouTube Premium.

Algorithmic powerhouse

Spotify Premium

Magical mixtapes and student signups have made Spotify a juggernaut.

Spotify's student bundle is the best in media streaming today, and it's hard to break away from the siren song of Spotify's shuffles once that discount ends. Between its many exclusives, famous algorithms, and the simple magic of Spotify Connect, Spotify is a music service with a lot to love, even if Spotify's support on Android isn't quite as good.

Updated September 2018: This guide has been consolidated to help you make your music subscription selection faster and to reflect changes in pricing and Spotify's upgraded offline limits.