Apple Music vs. Spotify: what’s the best streaming service for visually impaired people?

Streaming has become a hugely popular method of listening to music, with streams of singles and albums now contributing to the Official UK Charts. Music streaming can be done on a variety of platforms and devices, with lots of different apps available - both free and paid - but which one is best for visually impaired users?

I have been streaming music since mid 2015, when Apple Music was launched, and I have found it to have many benefits: I no longer have to spend time searching for CDs in shops and locating the one that I want to listen to when at home.

This blog post will discuss streaming music on the iPhone, and will discuss the two most popular apps that can be used to stream music: Apple Music and Spotify. These apps have been tested on an iPhone 5S running iOS 11.2.2 using VoiceOver, and will explore their usability, features, and price.

Apple Music

Apple Music is pre-installed on all iPhones so there is no need to download any apps from the App Store. It is also available to download from Android phones too. Apple Music has the largest overall library of songs (45 million), and like Spotify, you can upload songs from your own library into your playlists.

In order to gain full access to Apple Music’s features, you are required to take out a subscription. The subscription process is very accessible and you automatically have an account as your Apple Music account is the same as your Apple ID, so there is no need to create an account prior to subscribing.

White iPhone and iPad with Apple Music on the screens.

Without a subscription to Apple Music, you can only access music that you have bought and downloaded from the iTunes store.

A two-finger double tap with VoiceOver can be used to play/pause music, whether it has been played via Siri or via the app. This command works wherever you are on your iPhone, so for example you could decide to pause your music while composing a message, browsing the Internet or scrolling through social media.

How much is it?

Apple Music offer a range of subscription options: monthly individual subscription for £9.99, yearly individual subscription for £99 (12 months for the price of 10), family subscription for £14.99 and student subscription for £4.99. New users of Apple Music can take advantage of a three-month free trial.

How does it rate for accessibility?

The app itself is very accessible with VoiceOver, and is completely integrated with Siri. It is very easy to find music within your library, browse music within the ‘for you’ and ‘browse’ sections of the app, listen to the Apple Music radio stations and search for music.

As well as controlling Apple Music through the app, Apple Music has Siri integration. You can ask Siri to play songs or albums, or if you say ‘play a song I like’ it will create a personalised radio station based on your listening history. Apple Music’s integration with Siri means that you can perform Apple Music related tasks without having to launch the app.

Spotify

Unlike Apple Music, Spotify is not pre-installed on iPhones; it has to be downloaded from the App Store. New Spotify users can take advantage of a 30-day free trial of Spotiy Premium before making a decision regarding whether or not to subscribe. You are required to sign up for Spotify, regardless of whether you want to use the free version or the premium version.

The signing up process is accessible, however in order to make it more efficient I signed up using my Facebook account so that I did not have to enter any details manually.

Close-up of a phone screen with the Spotify app in the centre.

Spotify allows you to perform the same tasks as Apple Music: browse music, search for music, listen to genre-specific radio stations and play downloaded music. Like Apple Music, a two-finger double tap can be used to play/pause music from anywhere in your iPhone, providing the app is open and active.

How much is it?

The app is free to download, and the free version allows you access to over 30 million songs. With this version, you can only listen to music on shuffle, music is interrupted by adverts every 30 minutes and you cannot download music to listen to offline.

In order to gain full access to its features, you are required to take out a subscription to Spotify Premium; Spotify’s subscription costs and types are identical to those offered by Apple Music, except Spotify do not always offer the 12-month individual subscription for £99 and Spotify often have deals such as three months premium for the price of one.

How does it rate for accessibility?

Spotify is compatible with VoiceOver and it’s relatively easy to explore all the functions that Spotify has to offer using it – including browsing through other user’s playlists and recommended music. If you’re using VoiceOver whilst listening to Spotify, the music will continue to play but at a lower volume, so you don’t have to pause your music whilst using the feature.

Spotify however, unlike Apple Music, does not have Siri integration; you cannot ask Siri to play music via Spotify.

Final verdict!

Overall, both these music streaming services are accessible and offer very similar services at similar costs. I enjoy using both but if I had to pick just one, I would choose Apple Music because it is more efficient due to its Siri integration, its integration with iTunes and your Apple ID,  and its longer free trial period. However, if you  just want free basic access to a music streaming service, then Spotify is your only option.

Of course, it’s all down to personal preference – so with both streaming platforms having free trial sessions, why not try both and find the one that works best for you?

Additional tips

  • You can add Spotify or Apple Music apps to the ‘dock’ on your phone; so it can be found at the bottom of the home screen regardless of whereabouts in your menu are i.e. on a different page if your home screen consists of multiple pages.
  • If you use the three months free trial for Apple Music and then don’t renew after your subscription runs out, you lose any libraries you have saved and you’ll have to re-download your music if you start a paid subscription at a later point (with the exception of any music you’ve bought separately).
  • Apple Music is compatible with Apple Watches, but currently Spotify does not have an Apple Watch app – so if you have an Apple Watch, you can only listen to music through the watch with the Apple Music app.
Alice sat at her laptop.

If you would like further information and advice regarding digital technology, Henshaws offer a range of services including one-to-one assessments, one-to-one training and dedicated tech groups. Please visit Henshaws Digital Enablement page or call Henshaws on 0300 222 5555 for further details.

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