For iPhone or Mac owners, it’s only natural to be curious about Apple Music. In comparison to music streaming sites like Spotify or Pandora, Apple Music can feel a bit mysterious.
There are some limited-time “free” options and a free trial to check out Apple Music, but if you stick with the service long enough, you will end up paying. Anyone who signs up will have to pay a monthly fee to use the service. Considering that Apple Music offers live radio shows and interesting exclusives, this fee may be well worth it to the right buyers. Let’s take a closer look at how much Apple music is.
Apple Music plans
Before we dive into the different pricing tiers Apple Music has to offer, note each subscription plan offers access to the same catalog of ad-free content, offline listening, Apple Music 1 live and on-demand radio shows, and exclusive releases.
Sign up, and you can stream more than 100 million songs (all now offered in lossless audio for nothing extra) ad-free while also gaining access to exclusive playlists and live radio that you can listen to across all of your devices.
The main difference comes in the form of the Family membership (more on that in a bit), which lets you create up to six individual accounts in a subscription that’s billed as one flat fee per month — regardless of how many people you add on.
Apple Music Individual — $11
To reiterate, Apple Music doesn’t have a free plan, so if you’re looking for the most basic way to get your foot in the door — or if you don’t qualify for the following discounts — you’re going to need a $11-per-month Individual subscription.
Keen to lock people in, Apple also offers customers the option to pay for a year’s worth of service upfront for $109 — a discount of $23 — which isn’t bad. However, you should always compare with alternative subscriptions (we talk more about this below with our Spotify comparisons). Note that users don’t always see the option for the discounted annual plan until they actually sign up for Apple Music on a monthly plan and go back into their subscriptions.
Apple Music Student Subscription — $6
Just like Spotify, Apple Music offers all students (with a valid student email address from a supported educational institution) half-off an Apple Music membership. That drops the monthly subscription payment down to a modest $6 (recently increased from $5 as of June 2022). The offer is available only for college students at this time.
Apple Music Family Subscription — $17
Looking to enroll up to six people in your household in an Apple Music plan? Subscribe to the Apple Music Family plan for $15 per month. That works out to a total savings of $5 per month for two members, $15 for three, $25 for four, $35 for five, and $45 for six family members.
Apple Music Voice — $5
The Voice Plan offers an interesting alternative to other Apple Music subscriptions: It’s an affordable $5 per month, but it’s audio-only, and we mean only. You can only activate and control it with Siri, so it’s only usable on Siri-enabled devices (primarily just Apple devices). Voice has access to all the audio songs on Apple Music, but you won’t be able to watch any music videos or look up lyrics on the service. It also won’t support Apple’s higher-tier audio formats, like spatial audio (which renders the latest AirPods less effective) or lossless audio.
That makes this plan a good fit for more casual users who listen to a lot of music through HomePods, AirPods, or CarPlay. It also includes access to all Apple Music playlists and offers customization based on user preferences over time.
Apple Music with Verizon
If you’re a Verizon Unlimited customer, we have some good news: You’re eligible for a free Apple Music subscription.
If you are on the 5G Get More Unlimited plan, you get Apple Music included for free as long as you have the plan.
You can also score a six-month Individual membership for no cost. Currently, to qualify for the free six months, you must be signed up for a Verizon Unlimited Plan — Play More Unlimited 5G, 5G Start Unlimited, 5G Do More Unlimited, and 5G Play More. After six months, Apple Music will cost $10 per month per line. As with a subscription directly from Apple, you will have access to the Apple Music library, download songs for offline playback, and stream your favorite songs over 5G, 4G LTE, or Wi-Fi.
Apple Music with discounted Apple gift cards
If you look at payment options for Apple Music subscriptions, you’ll see that you can use Apple gift cards, including iTunes music cards, to pay for Apple Music. This opens up a new method to save on your subscription by paying for it with discounted Apple gift cards. The key is finding them, though.
You can look for special store deals, like Best Buy’s offer to buy an App Store and iTunes gift card. Sometimes, there will be a special promo that will include Apple Music free for six months with the gift card.
Apple Music free deals for new buyers
If you’re a brand new Apple Music subscriber, you should try to find deals that give you free months when signing up as a new user, purchasing specific products, etc. These deals can vary over time, but some of the top current examples include:
- Best Buy is offering a deal for up to six months, which new subscribers are eligible for when they start Apple Music. The only thing you need to get this deal is a Best Buy account.
- Apple also continues to offer free subscriptions occasionally for new buyers of products like Macs or iPhones, as they did with Apple TV+ when it made its debut.
- Buying newer Apple headphones — AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or Beats — qualifies new subscribers for six months of free Apple Music. Older generations, such as first-generation AirPods and some Beats models, are not eligible.
How Apple Music compares to the competition
Spotify not only has the lead over Apple Music when it comes to global reach, but in the United States, it resumes its lead over Apple Music with its 188 million Premium subscribers worldwide, compared to Apple’s 98 million. But still, Apple is by no means a slouch, offering 90 million songs, 30,000 playlists, and best-in-class human-run radio stations along with other exclusive content, giving it an extensive fan base in America.
Music and podcast selection
Spotify reigns king over Apple when it comes to its enhanced music-discovery tools, but its library is somewhat more limited (although that difference is narrowing). Many eclectic music lovers will appreciate Apple Music’s broader catalog. While Apple has exclusive releases and live radio stations, Spotify tends to have more popular podcasts and has been pushing human-curated playlist content to counter Apple’s live stations. Both services also allow for any streaming track to be downloaded offline for later listening.
Apple’s playlists are a bit more in-depth and personalized than Spotify’s, especially thanks to a 2021 update that added hundreds of new human-curated playlists for moods and activities, making it a lot easier to find a playlist for just about anything, from dinner parties to a creative drawing session to snowboarding. Apple also added enhanced Siri abilities when you tell the assistant, “Play more like this.”
The two top competitors differ in a couple of ways. Spotify remains the only one with a free version available, which still allows users to play on-demand tracks (with some limitations on mobile devices but none on desktop) in exchange for ads. That makes it an easy choice if you don’t want to pay anything for your music service. If you do, Apple Music’s Voice option is currently the least expensive option, although rumors hold that Spotify is working on its own low-cost option for a similar offering sometime in the future.
If audio format and quality are important to you, Apple is clearly at the head of the pack: The company had already offered a number of tracks in its spatial audio format as part of the iOS 14 launch (which pairs perfectly with the AirPods Max headphones). But in the spring of 2021, Apple Music announced spatial audio with support for Dolby Atmos Music as well as lossless audio across its entire catalog of more than 90 million songs. Lossless audio starts at CD quality, which is 16-bit at 44.1kHz and goes up to 24 bit at 48kHz.
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