Android Entertainment

What Is the Best Way to Stream Music for Free on Android?

Joel Lee 22-12-2015

Despite how you might personally feel about downloading vs. streaming music The Pros And Cons Of Streaming vs Downloading MP3s I've been a long-time user of streaming music services – from Pandora, to the now defunct online music locker, and now as a monthly subscriber to If you have a computer and a... Read More , it’s abundantly clear that streaming is the way of the future The End of Ownership: Netflix, Spotify, and The Streaming Generation Streaming media is convenient, but you're giving up something important: ownership of digital media. Read More . Just look at how many popular services there are: Spotify, Pandora, SoundCloud, and even YouTube is now officially embracing the goodness of music streaming.


But a lot of these services are Web-centric, and as far as their Android counterparts are concerned, it’s very hit-or-miss. A couple of them are spectacular, but most are flawed in some way or another.

So if you mainly stream music on Android, here are the apps you need to consider.

1. Spotify

Spotify is the reigning king of streaming music. Its library is absolutely massive, spanning everything from mainstream goodies (except for Adele Why Adele Is Wrong to Stop You Streaming Her New Album Adele is refusing to let services such as Spotify and Apple Music stream her new album 25. Which is a boneheaded decision that's bad for her, her fans, and her record label. Read More and Taylor Swift, unfortunately Why Taylor Swift Is Wrong About Spotify In the past week Taylor Swift has pulled her music from Spotify, inspired countless song-pun laden headlines and reignited the debate about streaming music services. Read More ) to some of the most obscure artists you’ve never heard of.

In terms of popularizing the notion of streaming, Spotify is very much the Netflix of music Spotify Your Music Collection: The End Of iTunes Spotify is no longer content to just compete with radio, now they're competing with the idea of even owning music. Read More , and there’s a reason for its excellent reputation: the service is high quality Spotify Music Streaming: The Unofficial Guide Spotify is the biggest music streaming service around. If you're not sure how to use it, this guide will walk you through the service, as well as offer some crucial top tips. Read More , and there aren’t any competitors that can play at Spotify’s level yet.

User Experience

Overall, there’s a lot to love about Spotify’s Android interface. Whether you’re on a tight-screened smartphone or a big-screened tablet, everything is cleanly laid out and intuitive to follow — no hidden long-press menus for basic functions, which is a relief — and absolutely no clutter.


What’s particularly nice is that you can play Spotify on multiple devices, and they’ll stay synced up: if you move onto the next song with your smartphone, so will your tablet.


My only real complaint is that everything is on the cloud (unless you have a paid account, which we’ll discuss in a bit), so pages and songs can be slow to load at times. Switching between playlists takes a few more seconds than you might expect, and over time, this can be annoying.

Be sure to heed these amazing Spotify tricks and tips 4 Ways You're Using Spotify Wrong Without Even Knowing It Lots of people use Spotify. But are you using it efficiently? Find out 4 common errors Spotify users make. Read More to get the most out of it, especially if you bounce between the Android and desktop/Web versions.


Free vs Paid

The Free version of Spotify is quite unrestricted, but it does play audio ads every few songs. Premium accounts have no ads at all, allow for unlimited skips, and give you the ability to download songs for offline playback.

Don’t forget to take advantage of the offer for 3 months of Premium for $1 Get 3 Months of Spotify Premium For $1 While You Still Can This limited-time offer lets you get 3 months of Spotify Premium -- a $30 value -- for just $1. Here's how to take advantage now. Read More while you still can!

2. YouTube Music

In late 2015, Google launched a new mobile app called YouTube Music, designed for users who love using YouTube as their main source of music. In fact, music is the most common content type of all YouTube traffic 5 Weird Facts You Didn't Know About YouTube Some of these YouTube facts are so weird that they'll make you crinkle your brows. Read More . Not too surprising, is it?

What is surprising is just how useful this app actually is. I immediately wrote it off as a gimmick when I first heard of it, but having given it a try, I have to say I’m impressed.


One downside is that it requires you to log into a YouTube account before you can start using the app. An anonymous (or guest) option would be really nice, but considering how Google likes to force app logins 8 Voice Tricks for Google Navigation That You Never Knew About With "OK Google" enabled, you'll never have to touch Google Maps again. These voice tricks will make sure of that! Read More , I don’t expect that to change.

User Experience

The best feature of YouTube Music is that it lets you listen in audio-only form (not available for free accounts). For users on slower connections or those who are tight on data, this feature is a game-changer over the regular YouTube app.

The interface is pretty straightforward — nothing fancy about it, but it never gets in the way either. One thing that I’m glad exists is the Liked Songs list, which is based on all the liked videos on your account.



But the selling point of this app is that it dynamically generates stations of similar songs whenever you play something. As you listen and like, it learns your tastes and the recommendations become more accurate.

And of course, the app allows you to cast the songs you’re listening to onto any Chromecast-connected device The 8 Best Devices for Streaming Movies to Your TV There are several ways to stream media to your TV, and deciding which way is right for you can be overwhelming. Let us help you explore what's currently available. Read More .

Free vs Paid

The app is completely free, but ad-supported. With a YouTube Music subscription — $10 per month — you can get rid of ads, download music for offline playback, and listen in audio-only mode. If you’re a YouTube Premium subscriber Is YouTube Premium Worth the Cost? 7 Things You Need to Consider Is YouTube Premium's cost worth it? We look into the pros and cons of YouTube's paid version. Read More , you’ll get YouTube Music bundled in with your subscription for free.

3. Google Play Music

Google Play Music comes pre-installed on most Android smartphones these days, but if you don’t have it, you can always get it for free right on the Play Store. And you should! Play Music is oft-considered to be one of the best Android music players The Best Music Player on Android: Google Play Music Reviewed Google Play Music is a music streaming service, a local music player, and a podcast player all mashed into one. And it's great. Read More .

It’s a two-in-one kind of deal: there is streaming music radio that you can listen to, or you can upload your own music and stream it on the Web or Android no matter where you go. It’s really convenient and the closest competitor to Spotify.

User Experience

The interface is modern and easy to navigate — the same kind of experience you’d expect from any of Google’s other apps. It’s very fast and responsive, even on a last-gen device like mine, so you’ll rarely be frustrated by lag.

While it’s easiest to just browse stations and libraries based on titles, artists, or genres, Play Music can curate music for you based on decades, activity, or even your current mood. Want happy, uplifting songs? Google can deliver.


The whole process of uploading is easy, too. Just transfer your music files onto the device The Fastest File Transfer Methods Between PCs and Mobile Devices PC-to-mobile files transfers are easy to do. This article covers five fast transfer methods between PCs and mobile devices. Read More — typically using a USB cable or a wireless connection — and use the app to pick and choose the ones you want uploaded to your account. (Or just use your PC’s browser instead Use Your Browser To Upload To Google Play Music Google just decided to make Google Play Music a lot more useable. The following Chrome extension will change the way you can make use of Google Play Music for good. Read More .)

Free vs Paid

Free accounts are limited to 50,000 uploaded songs, which is way more than you think it is, and they have audio ads for radio. A subscription costs $10 per month, but it includes downloading for offline playback, no ads at all, and YouTube Red access.

4. SoundCloud

SoundCloud is a bit different from the rest of the apps here, but this difference is what makes it a worthy mention. It’s not great for listening to your own music library, nor is it good for mainstream radio — it’s for the in-between: budding musicians and indie artists.

If you aren’t using SoundCloud already, you really should 7 Reasons Why You Should Start Using SoundCloud Today SoundCloud is often thought of as a hangout for indie kids and backyard bands - a place to discover new music. And that's true to an extent, but it's far from the full story. Read More . There’s an entire world of undiscovered music out there that you won’t find on Spotify, Pandora, or YouTube.

User Experience

The reason why SoundCloud is so great for indie artists is because it makes it incredibly easy to share your own music with others. The built-in Record feature records the audio playback of the device, and songs can be one-button shared to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

No other music service is as artist-centric as this one.


The interface is only okay, though. You’ll be able to get around just fine, but it feels a bit cramped and cluttered on devices with smaller screens (which is weird because it’s mostly just a case of excess whitespace). But overall, it’s smooth and fast, so I can’t complain too much.

Free vs Paid

Everything about SoundCloud is free. No paid accounts or subscriptions to worry about.

5. Pandora

Pandora pioneered the modern Internet radio trend and consistently lands among the best of the best when it comes to Internet radio apps for Android What Is The Best Free Internet Radio App For Android? Looking to stream music on your Android device? These Internet radio apps are a great way to do it! Read More . You probably know all about it by now, but in case you don’t, just know that we think very highly of it.

User Experience

The thing to understand about Pandora is that it isn’t a source for on-demand music. If there’s a specific song you want, there’s no way to guarantee that Pandora will play it. However, as a way to expand your music exposure, Pandora is perfect.

Because this app is all about dynamically-generated stations, you can search for any song, artist, or genre, and Pandora will start spitting out songs that are similar to your search query. I can’t even count how many amazing songs I’ve found with my dozens of stations.


But because Pandora’s database of music is relatively small (only a few million), you may get sick of it. After 7+ years of regular Pandora use, there’s little left for me to explore in the genres that interest me.

Free vs Paid

Free users must deal with audio ads every few songs, a limit of 6 skips every hour, and standard audio quality. Pandora One costs $5 per month and removes the ads, greatly increases the skip limit, and improves the audio quality.

6. TuneIn Radio

In the realm of Internet radio apps, TuneIn Radio is something special. Instead of just creating online music playlists — whether those playlists are dynamic or hand-crafted — TuneIn actually streams real-life radio. This instantly sets it apart from services like Pandora.

With over 100,000 radio stations available (including FM, AM, and digital) combined with the fact that it has talk shows, sports, and podcasts in addition to music, it’s pretty much impossible for you to explore everything it has to offer.

User Experience

With so much to explore, it’s amazing that TuneIn never feels overwhelming. Everything is broken down into manageable categories, and the search bar is great at finding relevant stations.

But the thing that truly impresses me is Car Mode, which simplifies the interface into the bare essential functions represented by larger buttons. Since mobile music is often played during commutes and trips, it pleases me to know that they’re doing something to make it easier (and safer) for drivers.


And lastly, unlike most other music streaming apps, TuneIn supports Chromecast, so you can cast whatever station you’re listening to onto any Chromecast-connected TV for better audio.

Free vs Paid

Free accounts can only access non-premium stations (but there are lots of them available) and must deal with banner ads in the app. Premium costs $8 per month and unlocks premium stations, removes banner ads, and even grants access to 40,000+ audiobooks.

Which Music Streaming App Is Best?

There are plenty of ways to stream music for free online, but if I could only choose one music streaming app to use, I would probably go with Spotify for its massive library of music and beautiful-yet-practical interface, but I’d also greatly miss all of the other apps.

Do pay special attention to YouTube Music. The concept is wonderful, and if it’s this good at launch, one can only imagine how much better it will be given another year or two of serious development.

And whatever you do, make sure you use this awesome smartphone trick One Simple Trick to Amplify Your Smartphone Volume In a Room Need a quick way to boost your phone's volume without using speakers? Here's a handy tip that you can use anywhere. Read More when you’re playing music on your phone but need a bit more volume than your device can handle.

Which app do you prefer for music streaming? Is there one that we missed? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Related topics: Google Music, Internet Radio, Media Streaming.

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  1. Bartek
    July 30, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    I'm using a mix of Spotify and Apple music. Apple at work, cause I have mac all around the office. Spotify is my private thing for my own needs. I got them going with the same playlists. Not because I made them twice:P I used Stamp to transfer my private playlists on my work-mac with Stamp. Now I'm getting all the Discover Weekly's I'd need for work and have my cool tunes for after.

  2. Pancholi
    June 28, 2018 at 8:34 am

    Great article. All apps are good and normally I use Spotify app. But when I want to listen to Gujarati movie songs I use Jalso App.

  3. Michael Bryner
    October 7, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    Not in my lifetime that streaming is the future. Cost of streaming subscription on top of cost of data for prepaid. That is stupid to me. I rather download and have it offline on phone to listen to. The only reason I am here is to find a good premium subscription for downloading and listening to the music offline on phone with no internet or data used. I think the streaming is the dumbest thing ever unless it is a desktop and home internet. Even that has connection caps for streaming. So to me streaming is pointless to all get out.

    • Michael Bryner
      September 25, 2017 at 2:01 am

      I found out that T-mobile has unlimited streaming of choice service but still ads and paying for no ads is annoying as heck. T-mobile freedom choice is nice but still the best I found is Spotify and mod apk and that I would rather use. My older brother is thinking of giving me his Galaxy S6 and on T-mobile and putting out mother and his wife on a 4 member plan, and I would have to use streaming music, since T-mobile is unlimited free music streaming with no data usage. That is what I call awesome, but still have to use a modified apk of Spotify for it.

  4. Anonymous
    January 8, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Sad to see LastFm drop off the radar, but it hasn't been the same since they updated it to stream from Spotify/youtube.

    • Amakudari
      April 14, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      I primarily liked LastFM, not for the streaming capabilities, but for the social reasons. I liked meeting like minded music snobs from around the world and chat about music and have as meaningful conversations as possible regarding sharing interests and introducing new bands.

      And the metrics!!! Do you remember iMeem??? I loved the charts and graphs even more than the music!

  5. Chris
    January 2, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    No mention of slacker radio which is the best in my opinion for amount of music & options, layout quality of music another notable one is iheartradio free & one ad per station at the beginning then no more the rest of my entire work day and won't stop my music and ask me are you still listening like Pandora does whether you have free or payed so annoying

  6. Jeffrey
    December 24, 2015 at 3:04 am

    I am interested in knowing which one is best for my situation. I love songza, but Google is shutting it down. I have trouble sleeping when the streaming player plays advertisements while I try to sleep and most times wakes me up. I love country music. Songza would only display ads, but never play them over the speakers. What services are best to match songza? I wouldn't mind paying for a streaming service, but being that I might use it 2 or 3 times out of the month when I'm away from my laptop, it can be a good bit when I would hardly use the service.

    • Joel Lee
      December 30, 2015 at 2:46 am

      Google Play Music absorbed Songza, so if you want the concierge aspects of Songza, then you should try Google Play Music. As far as "no audio ads for free accounts", I can't think of one off the top of my head. I guess Songza was pretty unique in that regard.

    • Chris
      January 2, 2016 at 4:07 pm

      Surprised it's not on here ( iheartradio) is free & only plays a commercial ad once when you first pick you music station use it at work won't hear a commercial my entire work day after the first one, unless you change station & it would be one per station put on at the start, and won't stop my music like Pandora and ask me are you still listening were I would have to stop work go to my computer and hit yes I am.

  7. Den
    December 23, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Google Play Music is my choice!

  8. Mart
    December 23, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    I find deezer to be so much better than spotify...

  9. Texman
    December 22, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    No mention of Slacker Radio, which I think out preforms the rest
    I've tried them all and keep coming back to Slacker Radio
    I guess I like the UI, I think it's better than Spotify, Pandora, etc
    People should give it a a try

    • Joel Lee
      December 30, 2015 at 2:45 am

      Slacker is definitely good, but I guess it just isn't my cup of tea. But you're right, a mention of it would've been proper. Thanks for bringing it up for me! :)

  10. Anonymous
    December 22, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    No mention of Amazon? Unlike Play, it works on every Android device. Play also requires users enter a credit card number, which in practice I've found will stop a lot of people from using it since they suspect it's not free.

    Specifically with regard to Play, I've also found that it has real issues with extended Unicode letters in track names (I listen primarily to classical music so this is more an issue for me than some). It also doesn't do a very good job grouping music if there are multiple credited performers in spite of what the file's .id3 info might say, and finally, if you want to upload a multiple disc album, make sure the file info includes the sequential track numbering starting from the first disc, because otherwise, Play will throw all the track #2a together before anu track #3.

    In other words, as nice as Play music might be, it's pretty bad at organizing itself.

    Pandora and Spotify are both deeply unsatisfying for classical music. Their databases just don't deal with it properly.

    • Joel Lee
      December 30, 2015 at 2:43 am

      What's unsatisfying about Pandora and Spotify's classical music? Kinda confused what it means that their databases don't deal with it properly? Though I'm admittedly not much of a classical lover, so for me, their classical selection is more than enough. :P

      • Anonymous
        December 30, 2015 at 3:07 am

        @Joel Lee,

        The database schemas that most streaming music services use are geared for Top 40-type music. Classical music needs some extra fields for organizational purposes. Classical music specifically needs to distinguish the Artist/Performer from Composer. You can also have multiple soloists (something that's also common in rap and jazz) and Ensemble as distinct from any of the above. It's entirely possible to have multiple distinct recordings of the same work by the same composer with the performers and conductor that need to be distinguished by date.
        None of this is accounted properly in by mainstream music streaming services, which in many cases won't even stream a complete, continuous piece of music in the form it is intended.

        It's an extremely unfulfilling experience and it's unlikely to get any better since the people who are responsible for the databases don't understand the issue. It *is* why Amazon searches classical music separately and services like Discogs have so many points of entry into their search services.

        This also explains in large part why itunes is unspeakably awful for its intended purpose, to say nothing for the deeply shitty quality of the application as a whole.

  11. SANYAM
    December 22, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    I live in India and I find saavn the best with both regional as well as English songs

  12. Anonymous
    December 22, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    I don't use just one streaming music service, I use different ones depending on what I am in the mood for. If I am just driving I usually use Pandora or lately it has been Amazon Prime Music since the amount of content they have has gone up and they introduced stations sort of like Pandora. I've just been using Pandora since it first started and to me it has always been my go-to service. I never could get into Spotify for some reason. It would require me to spend more time creating my own custom playlists probably in order for me to enjoy it. I honestly didn't think I would like YouTube Music, but I've been using it more and more lately since I can usually find pretty much anything I want that might be obscure. It is a bit buggy on IOS yet however.

    • Joel Lee
      December 30, 2015 at 2:42 am

      Yeah, Spotify definitely requires a bit more hands-on activity unless you just use its Radio feature. YouTube Music is pretty good though, and for your use case, I'd say Pandora is the way to go. I just happen to like the "manage my playlists" aspect of Spotify! :)

  13. Sam
    December 22, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Hi, I don't see Deezer in your list.
    Is it really so bad compared to others? I thought it was one of the best for streaming music. I'm a fool? :)

    • Joel Lee
      December 30, 2015 at 2:40 am

      Hey Sam. Deezer isn't actually available in the U.S. yet, so I've never been able to try it. Hopefully that changes soon! If you like it, keep using it. :)