Updated Mar 16, 2019

Google Music vs. Amazon Music Unlimited: Which is Best?

Cam Secore

After months of testing, I determined Google Music is the better music streaming service because its music discovery algorithms are better. Amazon Music is a solid alternative for Echo users because you get a discount.

I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing two music streaming services (Google Play Music vs. Amazon Music Unlimited) while evaluating five categories: music discovery, apps, compatibility, library, and bonus features.

google play music

Google Play Music

6
  • Discovery: It becomes good at predicting what you want to listen to and when.
  • Apps: The phone app is ugly with weird cover art and bright white. No desktop app.
  • Compatibility: You can “cast” music to any speaker or TV with casting capabilities.
  • Library: You can add up to 50,000 songs from your personal library.
  • Bonus: There's a free ad version of Google Play Music.

Best for you if...

You’re an Android user, have a well-established music library, and know the music you’re looking for. Google Music might not be perfect, but it has decent algorithms and you can upload your own music for free. The mobile app could be improved.

amazon music

Amazon Music Unlimited

6
  • Discovery: They have limited radio stations and playlists with bad curation.
  • Apps: The phone app is similar to Apple but more confusing. The desktop version is bad.
  • Compatibility: It works best with Echo devices.
  • Library: You can’t upload your old songs to Amazon as you previously could.
  • Bonus: It’s only $8/month for Amazon Prime members or $4 for the "Echo Plan."

Best for you if...

You know what music you want to listen to and have Alexa devices. $4/month is a great value if you ONLY want music on your Echos. It's not for you if you want to discover new music, have a great interface, need to upload your own music, or need a desktop app.

Google

6

Music Discovery (B-):

  • If you use Google Play Music enough, it becomes good at predicting what you want to listen to and when on the Home tab. Occasionally, you see something interesting in the Home tab that you haven’t heard.
  • You have radio options for days, and their algorithm gets good at learning your preferences.
  • When searching through an artist’s songs, Google will show you the top 20 songs ranked by popularity.

Apps (D):

  • Google Play Music mobile app is solid and similar to Google’s other apps.
  • It’s bright white everywhere, with awkward, zoomed-in cover art.
  • If a song you’re listening to has a music video, there’s a button that will bring you to that video and pick up the song where you left off.
  • When you tap the “Identify what’s playing” button, the app starts listening to the song playing in the background and pulls it up in the search results.
  • You can’t rate songs in your library. There’s only a thumbs up and down option. That’s a smart system for radio but not for songs in your library. Why would I ever thumbs down a song in my own library?
  • I hate not having a desktop app because you have to keep a browser tab open all of the time and you can’t listen offline while on your computer. Google’s servicing people who are in their ecosystem (Android phones and Chromebooks).
  • You can share playlists by making them public, but it’s seamless, like Spotify or Apple Music.

Compatibility (C):

Library (C):

  • When you click on an artist, it doesn’t show you the songs saved in your library until you scroll to the bottom. It’s a strange method which takes too much effort.
  • It’s hard to distinguish what’s available for offline listening.
  • You can add up to 50,000 songs from your personal library to mesh with your Google Play Music library. This is huge if you have music that’s mislabeled, unreleased or from an artist who’s unavailable with streaming.

Bonus (C):

  • There’s a free radio version (with ads).
  • You no longer get YouTube Red (now Premium) with your purchase.
  • There’s a 30-day trial.

Amazon

6

Music Discovery (D):

  • Amazon has limited radio stations but they’re not bad. It learns your preferences similar to the way in which Pandora does it, allowing you to give a song a thumbs up or thumbs down.
  • The playlists are lacking. The human curation isn’t updated often and there’s no algorithmic curation unless you count their radio.
  • When browsing an artist’s songs, you get an unlimited list ranked by popularity, which is a nice feature.

Apps (D):

  • Amazon’s app setup is similar to Apple Music, but it’s more confusing than Apple’s, and you can’t see where the audio’s being played without an extra tap.
  • Inside the app, you can ask Alexa to find a song, and it’ll do so. However, I’m not sure when that would be useful considering you have a screen interface right in front of you.
  • There’s an extra step to add songs for offline listening instead of automatically adding it to your library.
  • There’s a “Stream only when on WiFi” button that’s helpful to preserve data.
  • Song lyrics show up in the app as a song plays.
  • The Mac and PC apps feel like they were put together haphazardly. Sometimes it doesn’t load.

Compatibility (C):

  • Amazon Music works best with Echo devices.
    • If you don’t know a song’s name, Alexa can find it if you say some of the lyrics. It’s a neat feature, but there are phone apps for that.
    • Even if you have very particular music tastes, Alexa will find you something to listen to.
  • You can AirPlay to HomePod, but it won’t work with Siri.
  • You can play Amazon Music inside the Sonos app.

Library (B-):

  • You can store as many songs as you’d like for offline listening on up to 10 devices.
  • You can’t upload your old songs to Amazon as you previously could. You can match your collection of songs with Amazon’s library. However, if there’s something Amazon doesn’t have, you’re out of luck.

Bonus (A+):

  • It’s only $8/month for Amazon Prime members.
  • The “Echo Plan” lets you play music only on Alexa devices for $4/month. This means you can’t create a library of music or listen in an app, but it’s a budget-conscious option.
  • Amazon Radio stations can be listened to for free (with ads).
  • There’s a free version called “Prime Music” that has 10 million songs that you can play for free on demand. (You have to be an Amazon Prime member).
 

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