Is Google’s app mature enough?

I’ve been using Spotify for as far as I can remember, and decided to subscribe to Premium in 2014. I’ve been able to cast music to my speakers, download it offline, and find the songs I wanted with no complaints. Due to the quarantine, I’ve been watching more YouTube content, and ads started getting on my nerves. It got me wondering if replacing my Spotify Premium subscription with a YouTube Premium one was worth it, considering it would give me access to both unlimited music streaming, as well as an ad-free YouTube viewing experience.

After using Google’s service for a few weeks, I wanted to share my experience, given that each service has its pros and cons. Keep in mind you don’t necessarily have to go for the YouTube Premium membership and can just sign up for YouTube Music, which won’t give you the ad-free experience on YouTube.

Value for money

Both YouTube Music and Spotify Premium subscriptions cost the same, including family and student plans. However, if you’re considering signing up for YouTube Premium, it will cost you $12 a month, which is just $2 more than what you’d pay for Spotify Premium or YouTube Music. For that small premium, you get to watch videos without any ads, download them, and play them in the background, which is definitely worth considering, especially if you travel often or watch a lot of YouTube videos. Family and student plans are also available and cost $18 and $7, respectively, compared to $15 and $5 for a music-only membership. If you’re only two people, you could consider Spotify’s Duo offer, which costs $13 monthly, but I personally think the YouTube Premium family membership is the one that makes the most sense if you’d like to share it with loved ones.

Turn YouTube videos into songs

If you like to listen to covers, live shows, etc. you’re much more likely to find these on YouTube than on a music streaming platform. Thankfully, YouTube Music lets you browse regular videos and play them as songs, add them to playlists, and download them. Depending on what kind of music you listen to, you might appreciate finding unpopular songs more easily with Google’s offering than Spotify’s.

History

Checking what songs you’ve been listening to may make little sense, but it’s handy when you’ve heard a song and want to know its name. For example, I once remember listening to music on Spotify while cooking, it played a song I liked, but I didn’t have an option to view my history — I later found out you can do this on the desktop app. Thankfully, YouTube Music is far simpler and lets you see what songs you’ve played directly from within the app, making it much easier to find the one you liked.

Artist view

YouTube Music (on the right) offers an option to “see all” songs

Have you ever wanted to play a song from a performer without being able to remember its title? There’s nothing simpler than looking up an artist to find it, right? Well, with Spotify, that’s surprisingly a pain. An artist’s page only shows its top songs, so you’re out of luck if the one you’re looking for is less popular. YouTube Music is simpler than that, as the artist’s page does take you to their full song list, making the search a little less painful.

Lyrics

If you like singalongs, Spotify is a bit of a disappointment. Sure, it offers a feature called Behind the lyrics, which I personally find useless, but it doesn’t let you see a song’s full lyrics when listening. YouTube Music has rolled out this functionality very recently and doesn’t sync with the music, but it’s still better than having to look them up manually. This advantage may not last for long, though, as Spotify is working on showing lyrics that are synced with music, but that feature isn’t widely available yet.

Search filters

YouTube Music (on the right) has filters at the top

If you’d like to narrow down your search to display only songs, artists, or playlists, Youtube Music’s filters are clearly displayed at the top of the page, making this more intuitive. Sure, Spotify does offer the option to show just songs, artists, or playlists, but you have to scroll down and tap on one of the options, which I find a bit counterintuitive.

Better shuffle

This one remains a mystery for me. A bunch of people, including our very own Rita and several tipsters, have complained about Spotify playlists being shuffled in the same order all the time, meaning whenever you play them, and whatever device you do it from, the songs always play in the same order. I’ve personally never experienced that — and tried again by writing down the order, and it was different every time I checked. However, I haven’t seen people complain about such an issue with YouTube Music, so switching apps might be better for you — if you have that weird problem.

Search (again)

Spotify (on the left) gives direct access to songs in the search suggestions

When searching for a song, Spotify displays the most popular ones directly while you type, which allows you to immediately tap it to start playing it. Unfortunately, YouTube Music requires an extra step, as you first need to tap on the suggestion to bring up the search results and then select what you want to listen to. It might seem like I’m exaggerating, but after using Spotify for such a long time, this extra step is annoying if you spontaneously want to listen to a song.

No Spotify Connect — duh!

I’m lucky to have a speaker that’s compatible with both Google Cast and Spotify Connect. However, I’ve only used Google Cast when launching music from Assistant or for multi-room audio. Otherwise, I’ve always preferred using Spotify Connect, because the music just plays instantly on the speaker, while Google Cast needs several seconds to connect. That’s no big deal when you haven’t started listening to music yet, but it’s extremely annoying to have your song cut for a few seconds if you want to transfer it from your phone to your speaker.

No desktop client

I remember starting to use Spotify on my PC many, many, many years ago, and there’s been a desktop client for as far as I can tell. Sure, that’s an extra app to download and install locally, but it’s reliable and avoids inadvertently closing your browser and stopping your music. YouTube Music, on the other hand, just offers a web app, which works, but isn’t as convenient as a full-featured desktop client. For instance, I haven’t been able to move from one song to the other using my Mac’s TouchBar when streaming music through Safari and found out I had to use Chrome. I shouldn’t have to go through the pain of changing browsers with something as simple as listening to music.

Downloading all your liked songs

Both Spotify and YouTube Music let you like songs very easily, which automatically adds them to your library. Sadly, while Spotify allows you to download all of your “Liked Songs,” YouTube Music only lets you do that with playlists. Depending on how you manage your music, that may be a major pain. I personally haven’t figured out a solution yet, and I know I will have to, as I like to have all songs I liked handy on my phone when I travel without necessarily having to create a separate playlist for them.

Swiping gestures

Ever since Apple introduced the first iPhone in 2007, we’ve been used to swiping left and right to navigate from one image to the other. That same gesture has become natural in many apps, including Spotify, which lets you swipe on the album cover to go the previous or next song in your queue. Google is apparently unaware of such a gesture and still requires you to tap the icons to move from song to song. It might sound like a detail, but it’s incredibly frustrating when you’ve been doing this for a while.

No folders

Rita’s folders on the left, and the Chart folder’s content on the right

Spotify offers a little-known feature that lets you organize your playlists into folders. While most people don’t know or use these, the ones who do will be disappointed, as all YouTube Music playlists are shown in the same list, without the option to create a hierarchy. Few people will ever notice their absence, as you need to create these folders from the desktop client for them to show on mobile, which can be painstaking, to begin with — wasn’t the search function created for a purpose?

Better way of recommending songs

I’ve actually debated this with Rita for a while and finally decided to give Spotify the advantage here. I’m actually more pleased with the songs YouTube Music recommends, as these are more in line with what I’m likely to listen to and like. However, since I listen to different types of music, I prefer Spotify’s way of recommending songs. Let me explain: If you’ve read this far, you probably figured out I like listening to acoustic covers. Thankfully, that’s not the only genre I listen to, and while YouTube Music’s suggestions might be spot-on, I may not be in the mood for that type of music when I open my recommendations. However, with its daily mixes, Spotify’s way of categorizing songs makes more sense, even though the songs themselves may be slightly less interesting.

Now that you know what I enjoy with YouTube Music and what drives me crazy, you’ll probably have to figure out which features are more relevant to you, and whether some are dealbreakers in your daily usage. Do I think YouTube Music is mature enough to face the competition? Yes, it is and will probably suit most people’s usage. However, Spotify has been the market leader for much longer and has had more time to work on advanced features for power users. That being said, music is very personal, and the way you organize and consume it may vary significantly.

If you watch a lot of YouTube videos, the value you’d get out of Google’s offering is probably more interesting, provided some of these drawbacks aren’t too annoying for you. In any case, I highly recommend giving both services a try, since the two of them offer free 30-days trials. If you’re ready to switch, I recommend using Soundiiz to transfer your library and playlists from one service to the other. It’s dead-simple and takes away the hassle of manually having to do so.

YouTube Music - Stream Songs & Music Videos
YouTube Music - Stream Songs & Music Videos
Spotify: Listen to new music, podcasts, and songs
Spotify: Listen to new music, podcasts, and songs

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