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Best free music apps: free music on Android and iPhone

Best free music apps: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best free music apps you can get in 2020.

Portable music used to mean carrying around a single album on CD or cassette. Now you can now walk around with millions of songs in your pocket without worrying about storage space at all. And the best bit? You don't even need to pay.

Most major music streaming services have a free tier, barring Tidal, Qobuz and Apple Music. While these free music services inevitably include adverts, and have more limited functionality than their paid-for stablemates, they're still pretty great. 

They give you access to millions of songs. They let you test the service for a while before deciding whether to take the plunge and pay for a monthly subscription. And if you're only an occasional listener, they make a lot more sense than paying for something you barely use. We've rounded up the best free options around so you can see which suits you – a worthy list, particularly for those looking for an alternative now that Google Play Music has died.

What about Black Friday?
Black Friday is always a good time to buy something new – and that includes deals on music services. For example, it might not be free but this Tidal Black Friday deal means you can get four months of music streaming for just £0.99. Doubtless, there will be more, so keep 'em peeled.


Best free music apps: listen on the move for free

(Image credit: Spotify)

1. Spotify

Still top of the game, though there's plenty of competition around.

SPECIFICATIONS

Quality of free tier: Up to 160kbps | Library size: 60 million+ | Platforms: iOS and Android apps, desktop app, web player, smart TV apps, connected speaker support, cars

Reasons to Buy

Plenty of ways to find new music
Easy to use
Works on lots of platforms

Reasons to Avoid

Not the best sounding
No lossless audio

The best-known free streaming service is also one of the best. While you will have to put up with ads if you don't want to pay, and you'll have to listen to playlists on shuffle mode (except for certain playlists), there's still plenty to like: decent sound quality, over 60 million songs, offline listening, bags of podcasts, and it all works on almost any device imaginable. If you want free music streaming, Spotify should be your first port of call.

Read the full review: Spotify

Best free music apps: listen on the move for free

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. Amazon Prime Music

The best streaming service you didn't know you had.

SPECIFICATIONS

Quality: 256kbps | Library size: 2 million | Platforms: iOS and Android apps, Echo and Fire TV devices

Reasons to Buy

2 million songs for free
No adverts
Works with Alexa

Reasons to Avoid

Only free to Prime subscribers

You might not know it, but if you have Amazon Prime then you can access Amazon's free music streaming service. That's right, as well as free one-day delivery and Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Prime entitles you to Amazon Prime Music, which gives you over 2 million songs to stream on-demand. And the best bit? They're ad-free.

As you would expect, the selection is pretty mainstream, and the sound quality isn't going to blow you away, but Prime customers can't really complain. And if you're not happy, you can always step up to Amazon Music Unlimited, which costs £9.99/$9.99(or £7.99/$7.99 with Prime) a month and boasts a library that rivals Spotify's.

Read more: Amazon Prime Music

Best free music apps: listen on the move for free

(Image credit: Future)

3. Deezer

An extensive catalogue makes this free service a compelling prospect.

SPECIFICATIONS

Quality of free tier: 128kbps | Library size: 56 million | Platforms: iOS and Android apps, desktop app, web player

Reasons to Buy

Lots of choice
Good podcasts
Simple to use

Reasons to Avoid

Not great for discovery

Deezer's free tier means you have to suffer ads, and track quality is only 128kbps. The mobile app for this tier is also a little limited, but no more than any of its rivals. But when it comes to what to listen to, there's a ton of choice, and the layout is pleasingly simple to find your way around. There are also lots of podcasts and other non-music content to get your ears into. A great choice for anyone looking beyond just music. If you do sign-up for the full service, you can enjoy lossless audio, too.

Read the full review: Deezer

Best free music apps: listen on the move for free

(Image credit: Future)

4. YouTube Music

The video-sharing giant's free music streaming service is surprisingly decent.

SPECIFICATIONS

Quality of free tier: 128kbps | Library size: N/A | Platforms: iOS and Android apps, web player

Reasons to Buy

Uncluttered
Plenty of rareties
Lots of videos

Reasons to Avoid

Iffy sound quality
Discovery could be improved

YouTube isn't just for videos. Launched back in 2015, YouTube Music is the video-sharing site's attempt to take on Spotify et al. And, just like Spotify, it offers a free tier. Sure, there are adverts, as you would expect, but not as many as you would fear.

Extras like downloading for offline listening are pay-only, so you're limited to streaming the service's selection, but there's a considerable catalogue to choose from, the layout is nice and clean, and its selection of music videos is, of course, unrivalled. Well worth a listen.

Read the full review: YouTube Music

Best free music apps: listen on the move for free

(Image credit: Future)

5. TuneIn Radio

Radio lover? Tune in to TuneIn. You won't be disappointed.

SPECIFICATIONS

Quality of free tier: N/A | Library size: N/A | Platforms: iOS and Android apps, web player, smart speakers, cars, wearables, smart TVs, games consoles

Reasons to Buy

Wide spread of content
Big name stations

Reasons to Avoid

Not music-focussed

This isn't a pure music streaming service - rather the focus is on radio stations, so you can still get your music fix that way. It offers a range of stations, including some BBC Radio, NPR, All India Radio and C-SPAN, as well as news from the likes of CNN and Fox News and a host of podcasts. There are even local and genre-specific radio stations to choose from, so there should be something for everyone. From a wide choice of radio apps, this is the best we've come across.

Best free music apps: listen on the move for free

(Image credit: BBC)

6. BBC Sounds

The new app to replace iPlayer Radio.

SPECIFICATIONS

Quality of free tier: 48-320kbps | Library size: N/A | Platforms: iOS and Android apps, web player, internet radios, smart speakers, Virgin Media, YouView

Reasons to Buy

Diverse content
Excellent radio stations
Useful features

Reasons to Avoid

Buggy
Not music-centric

BBC Sounds has taken the place of the Beeb's iPlayer Radio app and it feels like a good decision. As well as the usual BBC radio stations (Radio 1, Radio 4, 1Xtra, etc) which you can listen to live or on-demand, it brings together all sorts of podcasts, music mixes, live sets and more.

You can search by genre, download and listen on-the-go and continue listening where you left off on another device. The app had some teething issues, but has blossomed into a suitably rich and slick home for the BBC's excellent audio output.

Read more: BBC Sounds app replaces iPlayer Radio

Best free music apps: listen on the move for free

(Image credit: Future)

7. SoundCloud

If your taste is more off the beaten track, SoundCloud could be for you...

SPECIFICATIONS

Quality of free tier: 64kbps | Library size: 200 million | Platforms: iOS and Android apps, web player

Reasons to Buy

Great for emerging artists
120 million+ tracks
Great UI

Reasons to Avoid

Some annoying pop-ups

SoundCloud is known as the home of emerging artists, so if you want to check one out before they make it big, this is the place to do so. The free tier offers over 120 million tracks, mixes, podcasts and more, though we can't vouch for the quality of each (that's the trouble with 'up-and-coming' artists).

The upside is you can connect with friends and even the artists directly on the platform, make playlists, and get curated tracklists based on your taste. The downside is that, like many free services, you do have to put up with adverts.

If you tire of the mainstream, maybe it's time to take a trip to SoundCloud.

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  • SmaugTheDragon
    There is a mistake in this article, SoundCloud has an official app for Android.
    Reply