Spotify Vs. Google Play Music – The (Rather Inconclusive) Comparison

Since circa 2012, I’ve been using Spotify as my primary music streaming service, after realising that buying CD’s was not quite so economically viable for the amount of music I listen to, and my moral dials became a little more aligned as far as the Torrenting front was concerned.

After recently getting a new Android phone, on which the Spotify app sits comfortably in the ‘good-not-great’ category; experiencing a few problems with syncing, functionality and reliability, I was tempted by the Google Play Music’s offering.

Early this year, I decided to try out a free trial of Google Play Music, and bid a (temporary) farewell to Spotify’s premium service. During my trial of Google Play Music (Which I’m still enjoying) I decided that comparing the two streaming services is much harder to compare than I thought it would be, and the decision of which one to throw money at got a little more challenging. It certainly isn’t black and white - more like green and orange.

Spotify

Having used Spotify for quite a long time, I’ve slowly got to know the ins and outs of it, and after switching, really started to miss some of the functionality it offers. Here are some of the pros and cons of the service:

Pros

 
  • The social aspect of Spotify is one of the most compelling factors:
 
      • Collaborative playlists
      • The ‘follow’ functionality
      • The ability to get emails and notifications when people add new music to a playlist I follow, or an artist I like releases something new
      • My ‘profile’ on the service, which I can direct my friends to, to find all my playlists and recently played artists.
      • Being able to see, real time, what my friends are listening to.
 
  • The organisation that spotify offers (I’m a bit of a weirdo when it comes to organised music)
 
      • A search filter on playlists, allowing you to check if you have any song or artist duplicates
      • Folders for playlists, to keep the playlist hoarders like myself happy and neat.
      • Little blue circles next to recently added songs in playlists, allowing you to quickly see what’s new in someones list.
 
  • The mainstream uptake of the service, despite what the hipsters may say, is great.
 
      • Spotify is quickly becoming the go-to plate to host playlists, if you’re a company or in-the-spotlight person.
      • The likes of the BBC, artists, music magazines and more all set up on playlists on Spotify to showcase their own, or other, music. I don’t think there is a “Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record” playlist on Google Music, and if there is, I can’t find it.
 
  • Music Selection
 
    • I haven’t noticed much difference between Spotify and Google Play Music as far as music availability is concerned (apart from Taylor Swift, of course)
    • Following playlists from people in other time zones or countries is much more effective on Spotify, with very little cross-over loss from music not available in certain countries.
    • The top 5’s on an artist page are often very accurate of my taste, much more so than on Google Play Music. I often found that in the top 3, somewhere, was my favourite song by the artist.
  • Student discount
 
    • This allows you to save £5 (In the UK) of the cost of Spotify, if you're a student. This essencially halfs the cost, and at £120 a year down to £60, it's a big difference.
     

Cons

 

  • Chromecast support

 

      • Whilst to many users, this won’t even come close to pushing some away from the service and towards others, but to me this was a big factor.
      • For more than a year, the top request on the Spotify feedback forums has been for Chromecast support - they seem to be ignoring this in favour of their own Spotify Connect feature.

 

  • The App (android)

 

      • It’s blatantly obvious that spotify looks after it’s iOS users more than the Android fan base, which was fine for me - until I got an android device
      • The app often crashes, it stops playing randomly when connected via bluetooth and it would randomly reset my offline playlists, forcing me to re-download them.

 

  • The Radio feature

 

    • Streaming services, to me, are about discovery. If you want to listen to your favourite album hundreds of times a day, buy the CD. If you want to listen to thousands of new artists over the year, whilst only paying £10 a month, that’s when streaming services come in.
    • Spotify’s radio feature, which you would expect to be intended for discovery, was shoddy. Songs you ‘like’ would come up far too much, and the variety was too slim.

Google Play Music

I’ve only been using Google Play Music for a month or so, so I'm naturally not as clued up on it as Spotify, but nevertheless, here is a conclusive list of pros and cons that I’ve found over this past month:

Pros

 

 
  • So far, flawless functionality
 
      • Google Play Music works. Very well. Everything , so far, has done as it is supposed to do. No crashes, no unexpected hiccups and an active team behind it supposedly working on changes based on consumer feedback.
 
  • Chromecast support
 
      • As mentioned above, this is a big factor for me, and it works like a charm, and even includes the option to have a cosy little fireplace displaying on your TV/Monitor, instead of the album artwork.
      • Also, Google have recently announced Chromecast Speakers, which look like direct competitors for Spotify’s Connect feature, and many bluetooth speakers on the market.
 
  • Radio
 
      • It has to be said that the radio feature of Google Play Music is second to none. Often, whilst listening to a radio station generated in one-click using an artist I like as a baseline, I will find that every other song is new to me, and good!
      • Radios seems to be a heavily pushed feature on Google Play Music, and rightly so.
 
  • For the money, you technically get more
 
      • Whilst on the surface, it may seem like Spotify and Google Play Music, both being £10, cannot be compared on price, however with the integration of YouTube Music Key, included in the price for Google Play Music, it seems like it edges the deal in value for money.
 
  • The ‘Thumbs Up’ feature
 
      • The thumbs up feature in Google Play Music works like I wish it did with Spotify radio. It remembers your likes and dislikes, changing your radio station, and any future stations, based on this, and also compiles a list of all your ‘thumbed’ music.
 
  • The pop-out music player
 
    • This little feature is really useful when I’ve got a bit of spare screen real estate and want a constantly open, glanceable, box telling me what I’m listening to, with the option to pause, skip, go back a track, thumb up or thumb down.
    • There are also rumours of it starting to work without the Google Play Music tab open, which is a bit like Spotify working, without spotify even being open - cool.
 
  • Upload your own music
 
    • Being able to add your own tracks, up to 50,000 now (It used to be 20,000) is a huge factor.
    • In the very few instances where Google didn't have an album that Spotify did, I simply rifled through my old CD collection, and imported the album. A big long winded, but if all your music is already on a hard drive, you can upload the whole lot in no time. Easy!

Cons

 

 

  • No playlist specific search

 

      • This may be something that very few people actually care about, but being able to search for track within my own playlist is really important to me, and Google Play Music doesn’t yet offer it.

 

  • Bad Organisation

 

      • Personalised organisation in Google Play Music is somewhat none existent. There are no playlist folders, and no real markings of new tracks added to playlists you’re subscribed to.

 

  • The queue

 

      • This is wholly biased towards myself, but the queue feature doesn’t behave like it does in Spotify, and I’m not yet used to it. Alas, with time I’m sure this will drift from a con to just another feature, as I get to grips with it.

 

  • The social emptiness

 

    • The social side of Google Play Music is almost none-existent. I can view, after being sent a link, someone elses playlist, but they cannot see if I subscribe to them or not, and the playlist search isn’t the best
    • You cannot follow artists, friends, or influencers
    • Hovering over the share button gives an option for either ‘Google+’, or ‘link’. Fair enough, it is easy to copy the link and go to facebook to share your playlist, but offering this functionality internally would be an easy and welcomed edition.

Which one is best for you?

Something I noticed, whilst writing this, was how much I repeated myself in the respected pros and cons of each, although alternating between the two, depending on the service. What Spotify offers, Google Play Music doesn’t, and vice versa. It’s difficult to give a straight up answer on which one is ‘best’, as they certainly cater towards different needs.  

The reason I loved Spotify, and I hate to admit this, was faint underlying narcissism. I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily narcissistic, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like to believe that people gave a shit about the music I was listening to and adding to playlists. Spotify is an addictive social media of the music world, and I like that. I also value the opinion of my friends, as much as a computer. If my friends stars a track, I’m more likely to listen to that track than if a computer tells me I’ll like it, naturally.

The reason I love Google Play Music is much more simplistic than above. To put it bluntly, I can listen to what I want, when I want, how I want, and find new artists by the shedload at the press of a button. That’s exactly what streaming services should be about - the freedom to take your music with you anywhere, and find new artists on command.

What am I using?

At the moment, I’m planning to use Google Play Music at my streaming service of choice, however I wholly plan on keeping my Spotify playlists updated with music I discover.

What's your opinion on Spotify or Google Play Music? Feel free to drop a comment below.

Follow me on Google Play Music

Follow me on Spotify!

This post was written in February, 2015. Some of things mentioned may be out of date at time of reading.
Laurence Kellett
Laurence Kellett
Cats, coffee, bikes, boards, martial arts and modesty. Question Everything .

51 Comments

  1. HD says:

    Nice review but I hate to say that both of these easy to use services are unavailable in my country.

    • fleff says:

      Wow, where do you live? South Pole? Sorry, I’m not trying to be rude. Maybe you will be able to subscribe to Dr Dre-iTunes-streaming soon?
      Or try Wimp, which is a great norwegian service.

  2. John Richard says:

    One of the most critical features of Google Play Music’s service that Spotify doesn’t have (and what keeps many with google over other services) is the ability to upload 20,000 songs to your account. This is an incredible way to keep a full library when the service does not offer tracks from a particular artist you enjoy.

    • Good point, John. Thank you. I never bothered to upload my own music to the service, and so completely forgot about that when I was writing this.

      • Anton Gully says:

        I wonder if the ability for users to upload their own music is part of the reason why the social side of GPM is so limited. I mean… some guy has a share going of what he’s playing and there’s a bunch of bootleg stuff on there, instantly the music companies are accusing Google of encouraging piracy – I mean they already are but it would be just another stick to beat them with.

        Oh, really helpful article BTW. I went to see which speakers are available with the GPM casting support and it’s still kinda stark. I’m really after something like Amazon’s Echo with voice recognition and multi-speaker, multi-room support. Maybe next year… which will give me time to win the lottery.

        • I have never though of this side of it at all, but you put forward a really good point!

          Yeah, I’m always on the lookout for Cast support speakers – so far non of them are very low-end. Considering how cheap a Chromecast is, I expect some budget-deals to be honest.

    • Victor Bergsten says:

      I agree!! However, in my opinion this is also Google Play Music’s most buggy feature.
      The recognition is often very bad, and I end up having to manually edit all album names etc. after the uploads finish.
      Also, for some reason the “drag and drop” upload often gives very little information on upload progress and such.

    • Maurice says:

      This! It’s been a key part of why I chose Google Music.
      Knowing that if necessary I can cancel my subscription for a period, I can still stream my personal music collection.
      The Radio feature is a fantastic reason to get the subscription.

  3. otooo says:

    The lack of chromecast support isn’t spotify’s fault. Basically, they don’t want to deal with google restriction on chromecast platform (read bad music experience).
    Anyway, spotify connect is a feature you can’t miss, if you are a music addict.

    • I didn’t intend to throw any blame around. Whatever the reasoning for it, It was a feature I wanted, but couldn’t get, so added towards the reasons to switch to GPM.

      As for the Spotify connect feature, I searched around for some speaker with compatibility, but found that they were either too expensive for me, or they were cheap but ONLY compatible with Spotify connect, which isn’t what I wanted in a speaker.

      Cheers for the clarification about the Chromecast issue!

    • Jan Matz says:

      What do you mean by bad music experience on Chromecast ? Plug it into the HDMI port of an AV Receiver and you will get, depending on your equipment, a much better experience than any Sonos or other Spotify speaker could give you.

      • I don’t want to be fiddling around with wires when the functionality is there to use Connect, Chromecasts or Bluetooth to play music, if I’m bluntly honest.

        • Jan Matz says:

          Sorry. Didn’t get that. You don’t have to fiddle around.
          The Receiver is connected to my TV and to my BlueRay. So I can use it for music and all other stuff chromecast offers, use it for bluerays and for the TV. Great surround sound with mighty basses plus great Music experience.
          Fiddling around with cables was once and no changes since then.
          Of course it is not that mobile as Sonos but for mobility I can take some Bluetooth box.

      • otooo says:

        It’s not a limit, but:
        1) very poor computational power
        2) Impossible to run native code

        ..and other no technical issue 🙂

    • ArchangelRenzoku says:

      Also note there is a third-party app called Spoticast that has the functionality you require.

  4. George says:

    Nice review. I’m using Google Music since beta times and I’m very happy with it. I couldn’t care less for any of your Spotify pros. I don’t need social features in my music service and the Google Music radio works better then any friend of my could. So for me Google Music is the perfect fit.

  5. Siema says:

    You might have missed the biggest issue with GPM (at least) I have encountered during each of my 3 attempts at switching: catalogue size. GPM’s music selection is miniscule compared to Spotify, especially if you count lesser bands. Every time I tried to move my Spotify playlists I discovered that about 1/3 of tracks doesn’t exist on GPM. And no, upload is not a solution here. You can’t share your uploaded tracks to friends. Heck, you can’t even share GPM tracks to non-GPM users. To listen to shared track, you have to register to GPM along with entering payment details. What sane person would enter their card details anywhere only to listen to one track their bud shared?
    Somehow, Spotify CAN allow free playback, even to unregistered users and Google, with their ridiculously massive cash backend, can’t?

    • I would have to politely disagree with you on the music selection point. When I switched, I individually re-created my two favourite playlists (Both with around 500 tracks in) and saw at most 2 or 3 songs that I couldn’t find on GPM. Now, this could be because I have reasonably mainstream music taste, although I wouldn’t say I do.

      The point about not being able to play just one song – I can see how that might be a problem, but if I was only sharing one songs, I’d be much more inclined to use a service like Youtube or Soundcloud anyway.

  6. kim says:

    I have used Google Play Music for years for free (uploading my iTunes catalog). So it was natural for me to sign up for the paid version. If for nothing else, because they offered 20% discount to existing users. I have used paid versions of Deezer, Rdio and Wimp before, but only the free version of Spotify. I am perfectly happy, and do not want to change. Should I change, it would be for Deezer that comes second for me.

    • Interesting. I can’t say I’ve ever checked out Deezer. It’s something I’ve always sidelined along with Rdio and Pandora. I’ll take your comment as a recommendation and check it out.

  7. Jan Matz says:

    The main reason I left Spotify about 2 years ago was the frequent loss of offline music, which is totally annoying when your on a commute or anywhere else without proper internet connection.
    Sad to hear Spotify didn’t fix this yet.
    Rdio was pretty good only switched to Google because of the discount and haven’t had any problems with it so far. Probably since one year or so.

  8. Olav Rønnestad Birkeland says:

    One more thing to consider:
    Spotify 320kbps Vorbis beats Google Play Music 320kbps MP3
    I actually use 160kbps Vorbis when streaming outside the house, and there is no problem. I can hardly ABX Vorbis at 160kbps. Mp3 on the other hand.
    So, in my opinion, Spotify offers both higher quality music, and more saving of bandwidth. Can you even choose quality in google music?

    • In terms of poor bandwidth streaming, I team with Google. Spotify’s desktop app loaded the entire song and played it straight through, regardless of inter (I love this!). However, after buying a chromebook, which doesn’t support desktop apps, I have to use the online streaming service. Spotify’s is terrible with poor connection, and is infuriatingly stop-start. GPM is good, even with crappy bandwidth.

    • Günther Pirker says:

      Yeah you can choose quality and therefore bandwidth used in the google music android app.

  9. First day Google Play music user! It’s way more flexible aka I can upload every mp3 I can imagine!!

  10. Irish says:

    You also cant forget the fact that multiple users can use the same google music account at the exact same time (2 devices playing music from one account at same time) while that is not the possible with spotify

  11. Mukul says:

    Yea google music is nice. But I found spotify`s library to be more exhaustive. Specially if you listen to world music

  12. Mr. Bill says:

    Google music for me over spotify subscription because:

    Chromecast support.
    You tube music key – offline save and listen with screen off. And you tube is amazing for live stuff.
    music upload/match – i did it once and that’s it. Worked fine. I never buy/rip CDs anymore.
    you can still always use spotify free tier (with ads)
    no noticiable difference in music availablity – in fact more, because artists like taylor swift pull from spotifiy due to the free tier. Then if neither has it, you tube always does.

  13. OF says:

    I tried both for two months. as much as I wanted to love GPM, it just wouldn’t let me. First, the app is crazy buggy. It’s constantly loading assets and scrolls like ass. my biggest gripe with it is the playback. whether I have a song downloaded onto my my device or streaming, it buffers. Skipping tracks? Buffering. Spotify never does this. Spotify plays just like a music player that just plays local files. No buffering, no delays, even when skipping forward in a song. My only beef with Spotify is that it doesn’t recognize songs I have stored on my phone.

  14. Ivo says:

    I tried switching from Spotify to GPM but I can’t bear how slow it is. I just measured it. When press play on random not downloaded song on Google it takes about 5 seconds to start playing. On Spotify takes about 1 second on the same song. Do you have the same experiance or it’s just me?

  15. spajdo says:

    For offline listening I use play music (purchased albums) and for online I use spotify (free account)

  16. ErZillio says:

    Good comparison! I love Spotify (premium since 8 months) but I don’t have problem with app crash or lost playlist. All my music is on the external SD and works fine! I use always a bluetooth receiver (Sony mw600). Spotify is super to discover new music!!

  17. ArchangelRenzoku says:

    I feel like the only one who cares that Spotify has crossfading, gapless playback, and support for 3rd party equalizers.

    I loved GPM as it was a way to connect my music and Google World together, but I just feel like I’m still getting more bang for the buck on Spotify.

    Not to mention the *collaborative * playlists feature. I share my playlists with my roommates and we play it on anyone’s device when we have a party.

    There is a 3rd-party app out there called Spoticast that will help with your Chromecast woes, but it has its bugs right now (depending on your handset) and also doesn’t support the crossfade/gapless function just yet. In fact, you’ll have to turn it off in the app to get normal playback working correctly. But… In addition, you could just cast your screen using the Chromecast app and play Spotify. Works just as well with a small drop in audio quality. Turn it up and you probably won’t notice.

  18. jabba says:

    I have been using and advocating Spotify for a number of years now, but using less and less and finding even less reasons to recommend to friends. Even now when I got a full year free through my mobile provider, I prefer using Deezer and Google Play Music. Spotify’s success is going to be its downfall. They are becoming more and more a fully locked platform and that surprises me because there are so many other cool options out there and devices where their music could be enjoyed. For a start, Spotify does not support saving to SD card on Android, that is a biggie for me, with Deezer and Google Play Music, I can fully utilise my 64GB microSD. No Chromecast was already mentioned, but my concern is that they already said that they won’t be supporting Audio Cast, which will be the next big thing. Another minus for me is they manage to have the worst and featureless app on Sonos platform. So, as soon as my subscription is over, I will be leaving Spotify for good. I like Google Play Music a lot, but with the announcement of Deezer Elite outside of US, I will probably be 90% Deezer and 10% GPM (for my uploads).

  19. Tracy Holland says:

    Try spoticast from the google play store. It allows chromecast streaming of your spotify music.

  20. Leon Overfield says:

    GPM is the greatest IMO. I only use the free version and it does everything I need. My 2c

  21. gpzbc says:

    I hate this dilemma. I think I prefer Spotify’s music discovery and social features, but the mobile app for GPM is so much better. And I loathe the fact that Spottily doesn’t support Chromecast. I use GPM with Chormecast all of the time. On the other hand, I hate the fact that GPM doesn’t have a proper desktop program. I don’t want to have to open up a web browser to listen to my music. I honestly can’t decide which one I like better. Ugh.

  22. Matthew K says:

    Also the fact that you can get a student discount with Spotify ($5 vs the $10 from Google Play Music/month) is a huge deal saver.

  23. I have to say, you nailed this one. I am as equally undecided as I was before reading this but, having used both services, your pro/con list is as spot on as it gets. I do like the fact that Google Play will automatically add new songs from specified folders on your computer—not sure if Spotify offers a similar feature or not.

  24. Troy Johnson says:

    i have used both, and paid for both, spotify looks so much better and the variety of music is so much better, but if play music doesn’t have a song you can download it and it in to your library. but my biggest reason for choosing play music is that when you have a queue you can rearrange all the songs in the queue not just the ones you added, you can also remove any songs you wish where as you can only do it with added ones on spotify. you also get the option to play the song next or add it to the bottom of the queue on play music. i can also say to my htc one m8 “ok google play (the name of there song you wanna play, even if it isn’t in your library) and it will play it

  25. Dan says:

    Google Play is optimal for voice-activated Android devices. Integration with Google Now allows me to call up a track, album or playlist without having to fiddle with the touchscreen, which is a great feature to have when driving. The library storage feature is nice, although I notice that GPM will call up a cover version of a song when I have the original sitting in my library (it only access the user’s library if it doesn’t have the requested track on file, at least through the voice interface). Also, I listen to a lot of comedy albums and old-time radio shows, and I find that the selection between the two services can vary. Some collections available on Spotify are not available on GPM, and vice-versa. Still, it’s not enough of a difference to dish out the cash for both services. The social aspect of Spotify is irrelevant to me since I have no interest in sharing what I listen to. Both have an easy-to-navigate interface, and I’ve experienced no streaming or download problems with either. In the end, I prefer GPM just because it’s the most Android-friendly app, and being that it’s all part of Google, I’m sure it’s designed that way.

    • I agree. GPM works perfectly on my android device, Chromebook and Moto360. All of which need to sync together, work well with voice search and tie into Google Now.

    • srini1990 says:

      You can add “On Spotify” and Google Voice will pick it up.

      For example the OK Google App, I just say ‘Play California Love by 2Pac on Spotify” it will search within my offline tracks, if Spotify is in Offline Mode.

  26. Linda Miller says:

    I’m relatively new to streaming and Spotify Premium. Have loved it so far and want to be loyal – and have a dislike of the behemoth Google. However, you can’t use the Spotify radio / genre feature on the Sonos app / speakers, which I’ve just bought into. Why???? Have looked at the various on-line forums, and quite a few people have pleaded with Spotify to get this sorted, and in the meantime have recommended GooglePlayMusic. So I’m now a day into 30 days free trial.? It will be one or the other in a month. Heart wants to stay with Spotify but need genre/radio streaming function on Sonos. Thanks Laurence for the comparison. So helpful.

Leave a Reply