Listening to music has been a favorite pastime for millions of people all over the world for decades. And while you once had to go to a concert or have a record to listen to music, this eventually evolved to many other means of listening to your favorite songs. Technology has evolved so much in the last few decades that most of us carry something in our pockets that can be transformed into the ultimate music player.
And while you used to have to buy songs on iTunes or download them onto your computer and then on your phone to listen, music streaming services are turning that into a thing of the past. These services have millions and millions of songs at your disposal with a simple click of a button. Sounds great, right? Well, there is only one problem. There are dozens of different music apps out there that you can download to your iPhone, some good and some bad. There is a lot of thought that should go into which one you choose as many are quite different and/or offer different features and benefits. Thankfully, this article is here to help you select the best music app for your needs. While there will be a winner and a runner-up here, any of these apps on this list are worth a download.
While many of these apps on the list will be marked “Free”, some of them require a paid subscription to access all of the features and to be able to listen to music without ads or interruptions. However, there are some that are indeed truly free. When you consider the cost of buying CDs or individual songs through iTunes, it is a great idea to subscribe to one (or a few) of these services. While they can be used for free, the subscriptions is when you truly unlock the greatness of the apps on this list.
Without any further ado, here are some of the best of the best when it comes to music apps on your iPhone
The winner for the best music app out there for your mobile device goes to Spotify. When it comes to streaming music on your phone, Spotify has been doing it for years and is one of the most popular and recognizable names in the space. It will not only work in an amazing fashion on your mobile device, but it will also work very well on your computer or tablet too. So wherever you are, you will always have your favorite music within arms reach.
The app is free to download and you can listen to songs on shuffle for as long as you want with the occasional ad included. While the app can be downloaded and used for free, it can get fairly annoying to hear ads after every few songs, especially when you skip a song evert now and then. To combat this, I recommend that you subscribe to a premium membership. A Premium membership to Spotify will cost you $9.99 a month. While that may seem like a lot to spend at first, once you see what you get with that, it is a steal in every sense of the word. For the price of less than 1 CD or only a few songs on iTunes, you get unlimited access to almost any song out there. Also, you get 30 days for free so you might as well give it a try for that first month without being charged. If you don't like it, no harm is done at all.
This app gives you access to a whopping 30 Million songs and if you get the premium feature, it allows you to download and save as many songs as you want to as many playlists as you want. This is a great option if you are traveling or need to have your data off for some reason. Also, it keeps all of your favorite songs in one convenient place for ease of access in the future.
But if you are looking to discover new music through the app, it has you covered there too! There are dozens of different playlists and radio stations that are constantly updated with new tunes so they will never get stale. Some of these playlists focus on a specific genre, others focus on a specific year or time of the year, and some are even tailored to fit with whatever activity you are doing. For example, if you are running and want a fast-paced playlist, you can find it with ease. But if you are studying or want to relax, you can easily find a playlist with calming music too. No matter your musical needs or tastes, you can be sure that you will find something on Spotify.
While the radio stations on this app may not quite be as creative or good as the ones offered by Apple Music or apps that are specifically designed for streaming radio, they are still there and feature a nice mix of music and are updated quite a bit. If listening to popular music is your thing, Spotify also has your back in terms of charts. They offer top 50 charts in a number of different genres and for a number of different countries around the world. This is a very cool feature as I have found myself at times listening to music that was popular in other countries just to see what it was like.
While the focus of the article is music, the fact that Spotify offers you a ton of extras is very nice too. Things like getting some audiobooks and many different podcasts for no extra charge is a very cool feature. This basically means that whatever you ears desire (whether it be music, audiobooks or podcasts), this app has you covered with a ton of content. And don't worry, these aren't all obscure and small-time podcasts and audiobooks, some of the most popular content in those areas are offered on Spotify.
So now that you know about the cost of the app and the boatload of content and features you get included, let's look at how the app works. Because let's be honest, an app can have as many cool features and content as possible, but if it is clunky and doesn't work well, it's not a good choice. Thankfully, Spotify doesn't have this problem. The app itself is very reliable and hardly ever do issues such as it crashing or malfunctioning happen. Also, the UI is extremely user-friendly and the app is incredibly easy to navigate. You can quickly jump from your own personal music library, to playlists, to the radio all in only a few seconds time. Also, it is incredibly easy to save songs or album for future reference. So while the app may not have any crazy animations or look extra gorgeous or anything like that, it does it's job exceptionally well without any unnecessary additions or distractions.
The app is also very quick at getting new music up in good fashion. Many of the recent big releases like The Weeknd, Kid Cudi and more all had their albums up on Spotify very quickly. One negative in this area though, is that sometimes artists will choose a specific streaming service to release their music on first, and rarely is that ever Spotify. For example, Kanye West's most recent album debuted on Tidal about a week before it came to Spotify. But rest assured, all the popular music will eventually find it's way onto Spotify, but it would be nice to see them get some exclusive releases here and there too.
With all things considering, this app has to be at or near the top when it comes to music apps. It has about all you could ever hope for in a music streaming app and as of September of 2016, the app had an impressive 40 million paying customers. While Apple Music might be the "sexier" and "newer" option, Spotify has been doing it for years and doing it well for millions of people across the world.
Coming in at the number two spot is none other than Apple Music. In the argument about the best music app out there, there seems to be two distinct sides. There are those who prefer Spotify and those who prefer Apple Music. As you can tell by their ranking, I prefer Spotify. However, that doesn't mean Apple Music is bad, in fact, quite the opposite is true.
Before getting into the app, it's features and more, let's make something clear from the beginning. Everyone who has an iPhone gets the Music app, this isn't the same as Apple Music. So while "technically" the Music app is free, the streaming service offered by Apple will cost you $9.99 a month. You can still add songs to your Music app on Apple like you have been doing for years, but now they just added the option for you to subscribe to their streaming service.
And just like I said for Spotify, I think it is a no-brainer to subscribe to Apple Music for only $9.99 a month. With that $9.99, you have a near endless catalog of music to choose from, without you having to download them to your phone anymore like you had to do before Apple offered a streaming service. In addition to the $9.99 level, there are a few other options you can choose when it comes to subscribing to Apple Music. In addition to the standard subscription, there is a student option for $4.99 a month and a family option (up to 6 people) that costs $14.99. Either one of those are just as good an option as the standard subscription, so you really can't go wrong.
Now that you know a bit about the difference between the Music app and Apple Music the streaming service and the different cost options, let's get into why it is one of the best music apps in the business.
With a subscription to Apple Music, you get unlimited access to any and all the songs in the massive iTunes library (over 30 million songs). In addition to this, you also get a ton of customized playlists based on previous listening and are free to customize your own as well. Also, like Spotify, you are able to download music to your device to use when you are not online.
While their catalog of music and list of other features are great, it is their integration with Beats 1 Radio that really shines through. Beats 1 Radio is a 24-hour worldwide radio station that has world famous deejays playing their favorite songs. A lot of different songs and albums get debuted on this app first, so you know that basically any album that comes out, you will be among the first to get it. The fact that you get that included in Apple Music puts it a step above most streaming services.
On top of the content you get with the app, the way it functions and looks is very satisfactory (something you would expect out of an Apple product or service). Also, if you are used to using the Music app on an iPhone, getting used to the UI of this service will be a breeze. All in all, Apple Music is a great choice for your primary music app, even if it has only been around a little under 2 years and is still relatively new in the space.
Google Play Music is another streaming service that offers millions and millions of songs, right at your fingertips. Like the other apps listed so far, this app can be downloaded and enjoyed for free, but the true benefits such as creating playlists and downloading songs for offline use come when you subscribe. It also includes customized playlists for your listening habits as well as a number of impressive radio stations that span various different genres and styles.
A Google Play subscription costs $9.99, but unlike the other services, this subscription comes with a huge bonus. Being as Youtube is also owned by Google, a Google Play Music subscription gets you ad-free Youtube (as well as a free Youtube Red membership, which is a massive benefit if you use the app a lot. Ads during and before Youtube videos are extremely annoying and the fact that you can eliminate those by buying this service is very attractive.
The app is also laid out in a very clean and streamlined manner, which helps it become very easy to navigate for almost anyone. If Spotify and Apple Music aren't your thing for whatever reason, giving Google Play music a try is a fantastic idea.
When an icon like Jay Zpurchases and re-launches a service, you know audio will be king and the music will be the most important aspect of it. And if you are a big time audiophile, this is the app for you. Tidal not only has millions of tracks, but it's audio quality is better than any of the other apps we have looked at so far. So if listening to the crispest audio out there is important to you, Tidal is a good bet.
However, this impressive audio comes with a price as unlike the other apps we have looked at, there is no free tier here at all. $9.99 will get you a premium membership while $19.99 a month will get you the top of the line lossless FLAC audio.
On top of an impressive library of music, Tidal offers curated lists of music, various discovery tools and more. The app even includes interviews and exclusives (like getting the Kanye album first which I mentioned earlier), which is ambitious and cool for a music streaming app. While there is no doubting the audio quality here, I'm not sure that quality is worth the extra $10 a month, at least for me personally.
No, this isn't the Napster from many years ago. The original Napster was a pioneer in the P2P file sharing genre and then ran into some legal issues with copyright. After those issues, it began to operate as a music store, and was eventually purchased by Rhapsody.
Now, Napster is an on-demand streaming service that offers a large catalog of music as well as features like an offline mode, customized playlists and more. In fact, this app is very good at populating new playlists for you to check out based on your habits as a listener, without you having to do the heavy lifting. Like most of the other apps we have looked at so far, Napster charges a monthly fee of $9.99 for its services.
Napster is a great option for newcomers to the space as it is very "no-frills" and is easy to navigate and operate. It's not going to have the bells and whistles that some of these apps on this list will, but it is very simple and straight forward, which is definitely something that certain people look for in their apps.
While most of these apps so far specialize in getting you access to the biggest stars in music, this app takes a different approach. The community of Soundcloud is built by lesser-known artists trying to get their big break. This app has tons and tons of new music being uploaded every day from Soundcloud users and you never know, someone you find might just hit it big in the future.
Artists like Future, Bryson Tiller, Post Malone and more used Soundcloud which helped propel them into superstardom. The app also has a large social aspect and is great at connecting the artists with their fans in a way a lot of the bigger apps wish they could do. You can share artists and songs and even record your own audio and put it up on the app for others to hear. Who knows, maybe you'll be the next big star Soundcloud creates!
Best of all, this app is completely free to use. While it may not be your main music app as it won't feature some of the biggest stars or songs, it is a great way to listen to some up and comers and show support to those who need it the most, before they hit it big.
This app was one of the first to be popular in the world of streaming and the name of the game here is discovering music you didn't know about. They have been providing personalized radio for years and they have a great algorithm for determining what kinds of music you may like. However, make sure you are thumbing up and thumbing down songs so the apps know.
But if you want to listen to only a few different kinds of music/songs, you can create your own playlists. The app is available for free, but that only allows you a few skips a day, so the better option might be to pay the $4.99 a month subscription fee. This subscription allows unlimited skips and ad-free playback on the music.
While you can't listen to full albums or listen to Pandora offline, it is a still a great option if you want to expand your music horizons without having to constantly switch stations or albums. You can easily start Pandora and listen to music for hours and hours without it being stale or needing to interrupt or change the playlist or station.
This app has seemingly been around forever and has one meaning that almost everyone knows and many people use. If you hear a song and don't know what it is, simply fire up this app, hold your phone towards the music and it should not only tell you the song name, but also who sings it in only a few short seconds.
The app is used by as much as 100 million people every month and is completely free to use. In addition to the feature that made it famous, Shazam now allows users to discover and listen to music as well. While their listening experience can't match some of the other apps on this list, it is a pretty cool addition for them to create.
You can also automatically add songs you Shazam into playlists in Spotify and can also follow what your favorite celebrities are Shazamming too. While the "music discovery" feature is definitely the big star here, their other features aren't too bad at all either and definitely warrant a spot on your device.
If listening to radio from all across the country and the entire planet is your thing, TuneIn might be for you. This is a radio streaming service that offers live streams from over 100,000 different stations from across the country and the world.
While it indeed offers a ton of music in just about every genre you could imagine, it also offers a wide range of other audio including news, sports, talk shows, current events and more. Even your own local radio station is likely going to show up on this app.
It is very different than most of the music apps here, but you know that with over 100,000 different channels and stations, you will always have something to listen to and enjoy.
While Amazon might be pretty late to the audio streaming game, they have a pretty good app for being newcomers and is one that definitely deserves a spot on this list. If you are a subscriber to Amazon Prime, which costs $99 a year, you will automatically get a membership to Amazon Music.
Here you can either stream the music or download it for some offline listening. While you can select your own music and create your own playlists you can also listen to playlists specifically crafted for what you are doing such as reading, working out or hosting a dinner party.
The app is ad-free and has more than a million tracks at your disposal. That sounds like a lot, but they definitely lag behind some other apps in terms of their content numbers. But for something that is thrown in with an Amazon Prime membership at no extra cost, it is a very good service.
This app is a great way to stream AM and FM radio stations right from your smartphone. This app is completely free and not only gives you streams to existing radio stations, but also creates some based off of your listening habits.
Like some of the other apps here, iHeartRadio lets you select songs and playlists based on your mood, so your music will always be able to match up with how you are feeling.
They are also great because they have a wide variety of stations that range from news to country music to hip-hop. If you love the spontaneity of the radio as opposed to a structure online music streaming app, this app is definitely a great option. And while it is not related to the app that much, iHeartRadio puts on a great music festival and awards show each and every year.
8Tracks might just be the easiest and most streamlined way to listen to handcrafted radio over your smartphone. This app helps you discover music through short playlist called a "mix", with at least 8 tracks in it, hence the name.
All of the playlists in this app are all hand-made by a real human being, no algorithms and computer-generated playlists here. The app is completely free, but if you hate the ads, you can pay the small fee of $4.99 a month to get rid of them.
The community here is also pretty good, so think of it as almost like a smaller and lower scale version of Soundcloud. With 5 million monthly listeners and tons of new playlists being made every week, you will always have new music to listen to on 8Tracks.
In the crowded space on mobile radio apps for your smartphone, Slacker manages to stick out. They have a number of exclusive stations and their stations are crafted from some top artists.
The playlists here constantly are adapting to your always-changing tastes and in addition to offering you great options when it comes to music, this app also contains radio stations that keep you up on news, pop culture, current events and sports.
The app itself is free, but Slacker offers two different subscription prices that are definitely worth a look. They have a $3.99 per month subscription which allows you to listen without ads and the ability to use the app offline. They also offer a $9.99 premium subscription which allows users to use on-demand playback and lets them create their own custom playlists too.
Deezer got its start in Europe and is now making waves in the USA. This is a music streaming service not unlike Spotify, Apple Music or the others that have been mentioned in this article. However, there are also a few things that make the app fairly different than those.
First of all, there is your "Flow". Flow learns your personal music preferences over time. After a time, it will intelligently be able to play you a mix of your music, music in genres you enjoy from artist it thinks you will appreciate.
In addition to that feature, this app also includes lyrics on the screen when you play music, which is a very cool feature that you rarely see in apps like this.
This is a free app, but also has a number of different premium memberships that range from $5.99 a month to $12.99 a month. The $12.99 a month plan includes offline playback, no ads, greater sound quality and more. While it is a fairly new app in the U.S space, it is definitely worth a download if you love to sing along and learn the lyrics to your favorite songs.
While most of the streaming apps in this article focus on streaming individual songs, this app doesn't. Qello Concerts is an app that can turn your phone into a live music experience. Qello gives people all-access to full-length concerts and documentaries about your favorite musical acts.
While the app is free, you are only allowed to listen to one track per performance. Because of this, buying the $7.99 a month subscription package makes a ton of sense. With that subscription, you get a ton of concerts included from some of your favorite acts like Queen, Pink Floyd, Tupac, Beyonce and many more.
$7.99 a month is a minuscule price to pay for hours and hours of video and audio content. The app also features new content each and every week, so you will never run out of great things to see. While this is much different than most of the apps on this list (and likely won't be your primary music app), it is a great option for those concert lovers out there.