Music streaming round-up: Everything you need to know


WhistleOut
18 January 2017

Having trouble telling your Spotifys apart from your Tidals? We've taken a look at five of the most popular music streaming services to help you decide. We'll answer questions on how much data they use, how much they cost, if you can get them unmetered, and what makes them special.

For what it's worth, we're taking one song to be approximately five minutes. If you're listening to 20 minute jazz odysseys or one minute assaults of grindcore metal, your mileage will vary, and you might have to do a bit of maths to work out exactly how much your streaming habits will cost you.

Also, it's worth noting that music services are typically more expensive if you try and subcribe through an in-app purchase on your smartphone or tablet. To make sure you're getting the cheapest price, be sure to subscribe directly through your web browser, rather than in app. 

Spotify

What is it?

Spotify was one of the very first music streaming services, and is one of the longest lasting. While competitors like Rdio, Milk Music, and JB Hi-Fi Now have bit the dust, Spotify is still streaming on. 

What's unique?

Spotify is one of the few streaming services to still have a free, ad-supported mode, although this only works on a computer. If you're on your computer, you can listen to any song in Spotify's library, but you'll have to sit through an ad every now and again. There's also a free option for mobile users, but it's limited to shuffle.

In addition to the devices you'd expect to find it on, Spotify is also available on PlayStation 4.

How much does it cost?

Spotify's basic tier is free, it's Premium option goes for $11.99 per month, and a Premium Family plan costs $17.99 per month, and supports up to six users.

How much data will I use?

Spotify has three quality settings:

96kbps: Roughly 3.6 megabytes per song or 43 megabytes an hour

160kbps: Roughly 6 megabytes per song or 72 megabytes an hour

320kbps: Roughly 12 megabytes per song or 144 megabytes an hour

Spotify is available data-free on select Optus prepaid and postpaid plans.

Apple Music

What is it?

Apple Music, as the name suggests, is Apple's take on a streaming service. Despite being made by Apple, it's also available for non-iOS devices, including Android smartphones and Windows PCs.

What's unique?

Apple Music has had a number of albums launch exclusively on the service, including Drake's Views and Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book. While these albums have now made their way to other services, other CDs like Taylor Swift's 1989 and Dr. Dre's The Chronic are still Apple Music exclusives.

Other unique features include the Beats 1 streaming radio show, an extended three-month free trial, and the ability to automatically match your iTunes library with Apple Music tracks.

How much does it cost?

Students can get Apple Music for as a little as $5.99 per month (for up to 48 months), a standard membership costs $11.99 per month, and a family membership will set you back $17.99 per month, for up to six users.

How much data will I use?

Apple Music has a single quality setting. It streams at 256kbp, which is roughly 6 megabytes per song or 115 megabytes an hour.

Apple Music is available data-free on select Telstra prepaid and postpaid plans.

Google Play Music

What is it?

Play Music is Google's music streaming service, and is usable on Android and iOS devices, and through a web browser.

What's unique?

Subscribing to Google Play Music also nets you a subscription to the poorly named YouTube Red, Google's other streaming service. YouTube Red removes ads from YouTube, lets you keep listening to videos on your smartphone even when you close the app, and gives you access to select premium video content.

You're also able to upload up to 50,000 of your own songs to Google Play Music, which you can then stream on any device you've got the app installed on.

How much does it cost?

If you're just wanting to stream your own music, Google Play Music is free. A basic membership will set you back $11.99, which a family membership goes for $17.99, with support for up to six users.

How much data will I use?

Google Play Music tries to stream at 320kbps, which equates to about 12 megabytes per song or 144 megabytes per hour. Quality is adjusted based on the strength of your internet connection though, so if you're getting a weak signal, your data usage could drop.

Google Play Music is available data-free on select Optus prepaid and postpaid plans.

Tidal

What is it?

Tidal is a streaming service owned by rap mogul Jay-Z that also includes high definition music videos, and exclusive livestreams.

What's unique?

Much like Apple Music, Tidal puts a great deal of emphasis on high profile exclusives. These have included Beyoncé's Lemonade, Kanye West's The Life of Pablo, and Rhianna's Anti.

Tidal's other key point of difference is that it lets you stream CD-quality lossless music. Not everyone can tell the difference, but if you're picky, the pricier Tidal HiFi option could be your jam.

How much does it cost?

The standard Tidal service starts at $11.99 per month for a single user, and at $17.98 per month for a family plan that supports two users. Tidal HiFi starts at $23.99 per month for a single user, and $35.98 per month for a family plan that supports two users.

How much data will I use?

Tidal has three quality settings:

96kbps: Roughly 3.6 megabytes per song or 43 megabytes per hour

320kbps: Roughly 12 megabytes per song or 144 megabytes per hour

1411kbps (lossless, only available to HiFi subscribers): Roughly 53 megabytes per song or 636 megabytes per hour

Microsoft Groove

What is it?

Microsoft Groove is the streaming service formerly known as Xbox Music, which was formerly known as Zune Pass. In addition to a wealth of name changes, it's one of the few streaming services you can use on Windows Mobile devices.

What's unique?

As with Google Play Music, Groove lets you upload and stream your own music, although you're limited to the amount of space you've got in your OneDrive. Additionally, Groove works on Xbox One, and hooks into select games - such as Forza Horizon 3 - for custom soundtracks.

How much does it cost?

You can stream your own music through Groove for free, but a standard membership will set you back $11.99 per month. Groove doesn't have a family plan. 

How much data will I use?

Groove has a single quality setting. It streams at 192kbps, which equates to roughly 7.2 megabytes per song, or 86.5 megabytes per hour.

Need more data for your smartphone? Check out some of these big data plans!

Cabbage with headphones image from ShutterStock.


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