Amazon has just taken the streaming music game up to another level of competition, bringing its free ad-supported version of Amazon Music to the iPhone and iPad.
While Amazon Music has been available on iOS for a while, this was limited to customers who were paying in some way for the service, making it a less attractive alternative to Apple Music or Spotify. Now, however, iPhone (and iPad) users will be able to listen to top playlists and thousands of music streaming stations via the Amazon Music app at no charge. The catch, of course, is that you’ll have to “pay” by listening to audio advertisements, much like on Spotify’s free tier.
Amazon launched its free ad-supported music streaming tier earlier this year, however it was limited to Echo speakers and other Alexa devices as a way of adding value to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant platform. Today, however, it’s coming to iPhone, iPad, Android, and Amazon’s Fire TV products. Users can also listen on the web.
To be clear, the free experience is different than what you’ll get if you’re a paying subscriber, but it doesn’t even require an Amazon Prime membership, much less a subscription to Amazon’s Music Unlimited service. Only an Amazon account is required to get started.
Amazon Music Plans
In contrast to Spotify, which only has basic free and paid subscription models, and Apple Music, which offers the service to paying subscribers only, Amazon Music’s offerings are slightly more complicated, since they also include a limited version of the service for Amazon Prime subscribers as well.
The company’s top tiers, Amazon Music HD and Amazon Music Unlimited, compete most directly with Apple Music and Spotify, offering a selection of millions of songs available for on-demand streaming, with the “HD” version promising 50 million songs in lossless quality. Prices for these range rom $7.99/month to $14.99/month depending on whether you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber or not.
However, if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you can also take advantage of on-demand access to a much smaller library of songs — around two million — which may be a compelling alternative for some since it’s basically “free” for users who already subscribe to Amazon’s Prime service for its other benefits.
On the other hand, while Amazon’s actual free tier may sound good on the surface, it’s important to point out that in addition to including audio ads, it’s not an “on-demand” service. Instead, you’re limited to “top playlists” put together by Amazon, and streaming radio stations. Amazon Music Free is also currently only available in the U.S., the U.K., and Germany.
Spotify already offers a free, ad-supported on-demand service that’s available in over 70 countries, so it’s difficult to see how the more limited Amazon Music Free offers anything more, but it seems likely that Amazon is hoping to use it as an enticement to getting users to sign up for its paid services.
Apple Music, of course, is only available via a paid subscription, but it’s available in more countries than all of the others put together — well over 100 at this point. It also seems likely Apple will be offering a bundle soon that will allow Apple Music subscribers to pay a lower price if they also want to subscribe to Apple TV+, Apple News+, or Apple Arcade. Apple is also currently offering Apple TV+ for free to Apple Music student subscribers, effectively bringing the price down even more for those who want to subscribe to both services anyway.