Choosing a streaming music app for your iPhone isn’t easy, and there’s no one-size-fits all option. Since most of them ask for a paid subscription, the choice can be even more stressful. Which you choose depends on your musical tastes, whether you prefer on-demand listening or radio-style streaming, and many other factors. While it’s impossible to say exactly which service will be best for you, it’s possible to help narrow your choices – here are our favorites.
Pandora offers radio-style listening and great curation. You can type an artist in, press play, and you’re done. If you give a track a “thumbs down,” Pandora does the best job of weeding out similar artists from the playlist. While it would be nice if there weren’t so many repeats, it’s worth dealing with them in exchange for Pandora’s expert curation. Pandora is also free (if you accept the ads) or you can get a premium subscription to eliminate the ads.
Rdio delivers more than 30 million songs on demand, in a beautiful package. It has one of the nicest interfaces of any streaming app, and gives you some 32 million songs with options for offline playback and plenty of ways to find new music. It might not have all of Spotify’s exclusive content, but if you’re willing to accept that Rdio delivers a better experience overall. You can start using Rdio free as a radio-style service, or upgrade to premium where it gives you zero ads and unlimited listening.
Spotify has more exclusive content from more artists than any other service, it’s reliable, and the free options are decent. It also gives you access to 30 million+ songs, options for offline playback, and more. It’s not quite as pretty as Rdio but Spotify usually gives you new music when it comes out faster than any other service. It’s not quite as good as having Rolling Stones concert tickets but it’s close! For free playing, Spotify is a little more flexible and you can play artists, albums, and playlists on demand on shuffle – something which Rdio and others won’t let you do. Of course there is also a premium subscription option.
Probably the best for party playlists dating to any decade, Songza is the go-to app whenever you need to entertain a group of people. It’s one of the only apps which lets you sort music by genre, decade, and specific music subsets. The concierge service is also great and gives you fantastic playlists in a handful of taps. Plus, you can use Songza for free, there aren’t any listening limits.
When you want to discover music that has a community behind it, SoundCloud is the way to go. It’s also completely free to listen. You’ll find fabulous remixes from DJs, indie artists, and regular people — plus unheard and live tracks from popular artists. It’s not simply an on-demand listening service, it’s a whole music community. You’ll find more amazing indie artists browsing through SoundCloud than you will with almost any service. It’s nearly limitless, especially if you like electronica.
For indie artists, sports, and comedy, Slacker is the place to go. It doesn’t have as many tracks as the competition but it’s great for radio stations. From comedy to ESPN, slacker has them. The UI has recently been redone and offers a very pleasant experience. Ad-free premium subscriptions are also a good bit cheaper than some of the other apps.