Digital DJs for Your Phone
Thanks to the wealth of quality audio apps available for download, your smartphone or tablet can become the ultimate music-discovery tool with the push of a button. Apps like Apple Music and Spotify put massive libraries at your fingertips, while dynamic radio offerings like Deezer and Pandora will unearth the best band you haven't heard yet. Other up-and-comers, such as YouTube Music and Tidal, add video and other features. There are tons of other music apps that deserve your ears, so here are 20 of our favorites.
Also, we've got our eyes on newcomer Qubuz, a high-fidelity offering currently in its public beta. We'll update our guide if it's worth recommending.
(Image Credit: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock)
Apple Music (Android, iOS: Free)
Built on a backbone of iTunes Radio and Beats Music, the Apple Music (Android, iOS) streaming service offers subscribers a vast library of more than 30 million songs. Users can create custom playlists, try out new tunes in the "For You" category (which builds recommendations from your listening habits), check out featured content uploaded by artists through the "Connect" or explore curated playlists and the Beats 1 radio station. Free listeners can check out Beats 1, Apple Radio and content on Connect. Those who pony up for the $9.99 monthly subscription get the whole shebang, and an Apple Music subscription is now included with Verizon's Beyond Unlimited and Above Unlimited monthly wireless plans. (The cheapest of Verizon's unlimited plans — Go Unlimited — includes six free months of Apple Music.)
YouTube Music (Android, iOS: Free)
Google's also stepping up its game with YouTube Music (Android, iOS), a music streaming and discovery app that builds on the vast community of users that use YouTube. Available on Android and iOS, and formerly known as Music Key, YouTube Music provides users with access to more than 30 million music videos. You can search for artists, videos and albums to automatically generate a non-stop station, with personalized stations learning from your preferences. Offering more then just music videos, the app nets you remixes, covers, full albums and classic recordings. YouTube Red subscribers get ad-free listening, as well as offline music, background listening and an audio-only mode that skips video downloads.
Tidal (Android, iOS: $9.99/month)
Tidal's (Android, iOS) claim to fame is the ability to stream high-fidelity music (either at CD quality 320kbps AAC or lossless FLAC audio) to your mobile device. Translation, if you're not an audiophile? It sounds fantastic. Tidal features an extensive library of more than 25 million songs, and users can also watch any of more than 75,000 ad-free music videos. Other extras include curated lists and music identification, discovery tools and exclusives like co-founder Jay-Z's recent 4:44 album. The catch? There's no free tier, with Tidal Premium (320kbps AAC) costing $9.99 monthly, and Tidal Hi-Fi (lossless FLAC) setting you back $19.99. If you happen to be a Sprint subscriber, you can get Tidal Hi-Fi included with the Unlimited Plus and Unlimited Premium monthly plans.
Spotify (iOS, Android: Free)
Spotify has become synonymous with online streaming music, thanks to its familiar interface, Facebook integration and massive song library of more than 30 million tracks. The Spotify mobile app (Android, iOS) has been updated to allow for more free music streaming than ever, and a $9.99 monthly subscription allows you to save an unlimited number of songs for offline listening. Factor in Spotify's Party DJ mode, pace-matching Running feature and personalized Discovery Weekly playlists, and you'll likely be hitting Play on this app for a long time to come.
Amazon Music (Android, iOS: Free as part of $119/year Amazon Prime subscription)
Amazon's music streaming offering, Prime Music (Android, iOS), allows you to stream the music you've purchased from Amazon, as well as music stored locally in your smartphone or tablet. Prime subscribers ($119 per year) can also access a library of more than 1 million songs along with convenient playlists all through ad-free streaming. Perhaps the best part, users have the option to download Prime songs, albums and playlists to your device for easy offline listening.
Google Play Music (Android, iOS: Free)
Google Play Music provides subscribers to its $9.99 monthly service with ad-free streaming and downloading from a pool of 30 million songs from numerous genres and artists. You can create your own radio stations with your favorite albums and artists, check out staff picks, or listen to pre-made playlists on your mobile device, with Play Music improving its music recommendations based on your listening habits. All this is on top of the free features of Play Music (Android, iOS), such as the ability to upload up to 50,000 songs from your music library to a cloud locker for streaming and download. Additionally, paying subscribers also get access to the premium YouTube Red service.
IDAGIO (Android, iOS: $9.99/month)
IDAGIO (Android, iOS) is taking on a fairly untapped market — high quality classical music streaming. IDAGIO subscriptions cost $9.99 per month, and let users stream lossless FLAC audio of new, exclusive and rare recordings of concerts and opera performances, all searchable by composer, soloist, ensemble or orchestra, or other parameters so that you can easily track down and compare recordings and performances. Users can check out curated playlists or create their own, and they can stream music through AirPlay, Chromecast, or Sonos, as well as download music for offline play.
Deezer (Android, iOS: Free)
Deezer (Android, iOS) is another popular music streaming option, with users able to stream an unlimited amount of ad-supported music on their desktop or tablet. On smartphones, users can access Deezer's signature Flow, a personalized stream of music that adapts to the songs you like and suggests artists and albums that are similar to your preferences. Premium subscription plans remove advertising, improve the audio quality of tracks, and allow users to download songs for offline listening away from Wi-Fi or mobile networks.
Pandora (Android, iOS: Free)
Pandora (Android, iOS) has been providing personalized online radio for years, and while it's no longer as dominant as it once was, it's still a solid choice for users looking to stream music straight to their tablet or smartphone. This free app allows you to create stations based on your favorite artists, with users able to stream an unlimited amount of ad-supported music every month. Users who sign up for the paid Pandora Plus get unlimited skips, replays, and the ability to download stations for offline listening, while the slightly pricier Pandora Premium removes advertising and more options.
Napster (Android, iOS: $9.99/month)
One of the longest running online music providers out there, Rhapsody has rebranded itself into another familiar name: Napster. No, it's not a file-sharing service anymore, but the reborn Napster (Android, iOS) instead delivers a premium, ad-free music streaming experience with its library of more than 30 million songs. Users can stream music on the go or download albums and playlists for offline listening, and the app includes support for a variety of hardware, such as streaming through Chromecast or Sonos.
Jango Radio (Android, iOS: Free)
Jango Radio (Android, iOS) takes the unlimited ad-free listening route for its music streaming, with users able to listen to any of a selection of curated genre stations like Hip Hop or Indie Dance. They can also create their own custom stations based on favorite artists. You can further refine your custom stations by adding or removing artists, and share your custom stations with others, as well as stream music at a variety of quality settings.
Primephonic (iOS: $14.99/month)
Primephonic (Android, iOS) is another service looking to tap the market for classical music streaming, with a subscription streaming service at $14.99 per month. There's a downloads market feature as well. The iOS app allows users to stream CD quality classical tracks to their iPhones, with search functions for different recordings of the same work. You can also filter searches by soloist, album, composer, orchestra or music label. You can save albums for offline listening, create custom playlists, or check out curated playlists by the Primephonic team. If you're worried about blowing through your mobile data cap, you can opt to stream in MP3 format instead.
Stingray Qello (Android, iOS: Free)
If concert performances are more your thing, then check out the Stingray Qello app (Android, iOS), which lets you stream concert recordings from a vast array of artists, including Queen, The Rolling Stones and Coldplay. Besides concerts, you can check out concert films, documentaries and episodes of live music shows such as MTV Unplugged. The free tier of the app includes one or more free tracks from each show, 30-plus channels of concert moments and highlights and a selection of free concerts. A $7.99-per-month All-Access Pass unlocks the whole library of concerts and documentaries as well as the ability to check out or create curated Setlists.
iHeartRadio (Android, iOS: Free)
If you're looking for an app that combines the spontaneity of radio with the convenience of smartphones, iHeartRadio (Android, iOS) deserves a spot on your device. This free app allows you to tune in to tons of local stations, as well custom-built ones that deliver tunes based on your listening habits. iHeartRadio also builds playlists based on specific activities and moods, such as relaxing and working out, so finding the right song for the occasion is effortless. Premium subscriptions allow you to save and replay tracks, create unlimited playlists, and download music for listening offline.
TuneIn Radio (Android, iOS: Free)
Another great option for a curated radio streaming experience is TuneIn Radio (Android, iOS), offering listeners streams from more than 100,000 radio stations from around the world. It's got music, talk radio, sports, news radio and podcasts. There's even a good chance you'll be able to get your local radio stations streaming straight into your device. Premium subscriptions provide access to live games from the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB, as well as unlimited audiobooks and a variety of ad-free stations.
SoundCloud (Android, iOS: Free)
Plenty of apps let you listen to such heavy hitters as Lady Gaga and Drake, but SoundCloud (Android, iOS) provides access to a special community built by lesser-known artists. With tons of music being uploaded by SoundCloud users every minute, you just might discover great new artists before they hit it big. This is also a handy app for aspiring creators, as you can record tunes right into your smartphone and instantly share them with the world. A premium SoundCloud Go tier allows downloads for offline listening and an ad-free experience for $9.99 a month.
Slacker Radio (Android, iOS: Free)
Slacker (Android, iOS) stands out from the crowd of radio apps by featuring finely crafted stations from top artists such as the Plain White T's and Patrick Stump. This free app is constantly updating with new playlists that adapt to your tastes, and it provides access to news, talk and weather stations from the likes of ABC and ESPN. A $3.99 subscription nets you ad-free and offline listening, while a $9.99 premium sub throws in on-demand playback and custom playlists.
MusixMatch (Android, iOS: Free)
Another option for getting lyrics on screen as your favorite songs play is MusixMatch (Android, iOS), which works either as its own local music player app or in conjunction with streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, or Google Play Music. iOS users can link their music service accounts to stream music and lyrics to MusixMatch, while Android users can enjoy a Floating Lyrics feature displayed on top of their favorite music or streaming app. In addition to music streaming and song lyrics, MusixMatch also includes song identification and TV streaming through AirPlay or Chromecast. Premium subscribers get an ad-free experience for $3.99 a month, as well as the option for downloadable offline lyrics.
Shazam (Android, iOS: Free)
If you can hear a song but can't remember what it's called, Shazam (Android, iOS) is willing to lend its digital ear to help. Just open the app, hold your phone in the air towards the music and Shazam will work its magic to identify the track. Shazam can automatically add songs to a Spotify playlist, as well as create a Pandora station based on the music it's recognized. You can find out what people nearby are using Shazam to discover in the Explore tab.
SoundHound (Android, iOS: Free)
Another old reliable app in the music identification game is SoundHound (Android, iOS). It uses your phone's mic and data connection to help identify songs, as well as stream music or provide live song lyrics. Hands-free controls allow you to start a search just by saying "Ok Hound, what's that song?" Users can then stream the music, view live lyrics, or check out buy links. You can also look up related or similar tracks on your favorite music services like Apple Music or Spotify.