As a long time user of both services (Spotify Premium version), this is my personal comparison as of June 2020.
Traditionally Spotify used to load “pages” much faster (or at least felt like it.)
Apple Music has improved a lot, and with a good connection and a modern device it has mostly catched up.
But.. I still believe that SP tends load faster with poor connections and/or older phones.
This blog post about the end of the 10,000 song limit for libraries highlights how much they care about listeners using older devices)
SP displays i) the number of followers for every playlist, ii) the “monthly listeners” for every artist and iii) the number of plays for every song. Apple Music doesn’t.
That is a lot of information that is nice to have.
Some of the Spotify numbers can be controversial, but it’s better to have this information than not.
I prefer the sound of Apple Music.
Spotify sounds quite well for most daily activities, but when listening attentively to well recorded music on better speakers or headphones I quickly notice the limitations of Spotify’s SQ.
Apple Music music tends to sound more full bodied, with clearer treble and more detail. Actually for sound quality I prefer Tidal HiFi and even more so Qobuz, but that is outside of the scope of this comparison.
Winner: Apple Music
Apple Music wins by a landslide. In Spotify, it is incredibly awkward to enter and exit offline mode. And it is hard to even find the downloaded music. Apple Music just does it right, there is “Downloaded” item in the very first Library menu and you can find every offline that is available. To download any single song, album or playlist, there is a clear “cloud” button to be clicked.
Spotify basically only allows to download entire playlists, and it is nearly impossible to visualize what is or isn’t downloaded in a comprehensive way. Ugh.
Winner: Apple Music
Another Spotify victory. It is easier to find playlists created by other users. It is useful to check how many followers a user playlist has. More than that, Spotify is the place where I expect to find and share user playlists.
Apple Music added the option to share playlists and follow people back in 2018, but it still lagging behind Spotify on this regard. And has been slow to evolve this kind of feature.
Spotify also allows you to see what Friends are currently listening (desktop version), which is nice.
Spotify offers a lot of great playlists, but Apple Music has more depth, covering many genres and updating with more care some distinctive playlists.
Winner: Apple Music
An area where Spotify traditionally excels. I love “Discover Weekly”: I found out a lot of great stuff in there over the years. “Release Radar” is also very well suited to my taste. The six “Daily Mixes” are a very useful when you want to listen something familiar and is not sure what. I use them a lot.
I particularly like the concept of daily mixes: i) the “algorithm” grabs the user’s favorite artists/songs from all kinds of genres, ii) then from that mass it create a range of distinct playlists based on some of these artists/songs and iii) finally it fills these playlists with additional songs that blend in. On top of that, the stuff is updated daily for extra freshness (at least in theory). In my opinion, this is useful Artificial Intelligence.
Apple is basically playing catch up, with its weekly automated lists. “Chill Mix” and “Energy Mix” are fine, but “Favorites Mix” is just too obvious and Friends Mix is too random.
I really like the way Last.FM is integrated with Spotify. You no longer must connect Spotify to Last.FM in every single device. Now it is a system level link that needs to be activated only once. Meanwhile Apple Music basically does not work with Last.FM (only for downloaded songs).
Spotify works in a broader range of devices, like most older smart TVs. And Spotify Connect is really nice, very easily turning a cellphone in a remote control for Spotify on other devices.
Spotify is continuously updating its service and user interface, while Apple Music changes in a more “glacial” place.
Apple Music has a cleaner, brighter interface.
Apple Music has inherited some nice organisation tools from iTunes (five star ratings in addition to “like”, smart playlists, iTunes Match for uploaded songs, play counts etc.)
As this comparison might suggest, I am torn between the two services. I really admire Apple Music, but Spotify is more practical in most situations, so I end up using it much more.
Update: here a professional comparison by Digital Trends, published in March 2020, quite comprehensive and interesting. (Spoiler alert: they prefer Spotify too).