8 things you should know about Apple Music for Android

Apple Music is out now for Android phones. Find out how it's different than Spotify and others, and why you might want to sign up.

Sarah Mitroff Managing Editor
Sarah Mitroff is a Managing Editor for CNET, overseeing our health, fitness and wellness section. Throughout her career, she's written about mobile tech, consumer tech, business and startups for Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat.
Expertise Tech | Health | Lifestyle
Sarah Mitroff
5 min read

Apple's music service has finally arrived for Android, so now you can rock out to the 30-million song catalog or tune in to live radio on Beats One. Even more importantly, Apple Music offers the

first official way to stream music you've purchased from iTunes on an Android device.

The app is technically Apple's third-ever title for Android, after Move to iOS, an app that helps you migrate photos, contacts and messages from an Android phone to an iPhone and Beats Pill+, which allows you to control a wireless Beats Pill speaker. That's important because while Google has created several apps for iOS, Apple didn't return the favor until 2015.

At first look, the apps look very similar, identical in places even. But there are some differences that affect the overall experience of using Apple Music. Here's what you need to know.

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Nate Ralph/CNET

You need an Apple ID to use it

If you've ever purchased something from iTunes, be it a song, album, TV show, movie or something else, you have an Apple ID. But if you've somehow never used Apple's products, you'll need to create an Apple ID to use Apple Music. You can sign up for one within the app, through iTunes on a computer or on iCloud.com.

The design is the same, but slightly different than iOS

Apple kept much of the same design from the original iOS app, but embraced the typical Android layout too. True to Android design, the app has a left slide-out "hamburger" menu (so named for the three horizontal lines that look like a hamburger) where you can jump to different sections. That menu is where you'll find the For You, New, Radio, Connect, Playlists and My Music tabs. The hamburger menu keeps things a bit more organized, but it does make it more tedious to switch between tabs.

Beyond the menu layout, the app looks a lot like the iOS version. In fact most pages look nearly identical and suffer from the same overcrowding, with tabs jam-packed with albums, playlists and other suggestions. That was my biggest gripe with the iOS app and it's still a problem with the Android app.

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Apple Music on Android has a streamlined design that's very similar to the iOS app.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

All of the Apple Music features are there...

Just like the iOS app, Apple Music for Android is full of musical recommendations, human-curated playlists and radio. You can create your own playlists and access music you've purchased through iTunes on the My Music page. You can download songs, playlists and full albums for offline listening when you don't have a connection. The Connect tab lets you follow your favorite artists and see photos, songs and other updates they share.

Beats One, Apple's private radio station is available, ready to listen to day or night. And when you sign up, Apple asks what genres and artists you're into so it can suggest music for you, just like the iOS app does. Music videos are missing, but Apple says those are coming shortly. Overall, there aren't many obvious omissions in the Android version.

...but there's no voice control

The one significant absence is voice controls, but that has more to do with iOS than it does Apple Music. On an iPhone, iPad or iPod, you can use Siri to control the music and queue up new songs. It's one of the better features of Apple Music, because Siri understands when you ask to play more songs like the current track or when you ask to play the number one hit from 1992.

That's missing from the Android app, because Siri is part of iOS. Unfortunately, you cannot use Google Now's voice commands to control Apple Music. For example, if I ask Google Now to "play The Rolling Stones" it asks me which app to use, with a list of choices installed on my phone. Apple Music isn't on that list and if I answer with "Apple Music" Google doesn't understand the request.

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Google Now's voice commands don't work with Apple Music.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

You cannot sign up for a family plan, yet

For now, you can only sign up for an individual monthly subscription, which costs $9.99 (£9.99, AU$11.99) within the app. You still get a free three-month trial, after which you'll be automatically charged unless you cancel.

However, you'll need a Mac or iOS device to upgrade to a family plan, which lets up to six people share a subscription for a total of $14.99 (£14.99, AU$17.99) per month.

The Android app is still in beta

Apple released Apple Music on Android with a beta label, indicating that it's not quite finished and may still have bugs or other problems.
While I didn't encounter major issues, other than the occasional sluggishness, you may come across a bug or two. The app is also only available for devices running Android 4.3 and up, and doesn't appear to work on tablets right now -- I wasn't able to download it on a Nexus 7 or Nexus 9.

There's an option to leave beta feedback in the menu which opens webpage with a survey. You can let Apple know about problems, and also opt-in to automatically send diagnostics about the app's performance.

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Apple Music for Android asks what music you like to make suggestions.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

You cannot use the app to play music files on your phone

Unfortunately, Apple Music for Android doesn't work as a media player to listen to music files stored on your phone. This is important because a lot of Android owners have been using their phones as an MP3 player for years, storing music files on it.

Google Play Music lets you do this, so that if you transfer music files from your computer, you can play them along with streaming music. The My Music tab in Apple Music only includes tracks you've purchased from iTunes.

It's not better than what's already out there

Arriving years after its fellow music streaming apps, Apple Music has a lot to compete with this late to the game. Google's own music streaming service Google Play Music keeps getting better and is well-liked by many Android fans. Spotify has dominated streaming music for years and Rdio, Rhapsody and Pandora are popular choices too. Plus, Google just announced a new service, YouTube Red, which lets you listen to music through YouTube using a soon-to-be-released YouTube Music app.

Getting on Android gives Apple Music the best fighting chance to uproot its adversaries, but given its lackluster launch on iOS, I'm skeptical that it will gain many more customers on Android. Especially because Apple Music doesn't offer much more than Spotify, Google Play Music or others do.

It does have two significant advantages however. First, Apple Music has exclusive music you can't find elsewhere, like Taylor Swift's discography (which she famously pulled from Spotify) and Dr. Dre's latest album. Second, if you've spent years and years purchasing music from iTunes, and have been longing for a simply way to play those tracks on your Android, Apple Music gives you the simplest solution. Sure, you'll need to spend $10 per month for this luxury, but it's worth it if you have a substantial library.

Apple Music didn't wow me when it first debuted and it's still unremarkable as a music streaming service. The live radio is a unique catch and streaming the long-ago purchased tracks from iTunes is great, but the app's cluttered design still holds it back. For a deeper dive into the good and bad of Apple Music, read our full review , and check out why I switched back to Spotify after testing it.

Would you make the switch? Let me know in the comments below.