There's a battle going on between Spotify and Apple that goes far beyond simply which streaming music service is better. The two companies are currently trading shots in Spotify's lawsuit over Apple's control of its App Store for iPhone, with Spotify claiming that Apple uses its influence to unfairly disadvantage third-party apps that compete directly with Apple services.

Last Thursday, Apple announced that it recently passed 60 million subscribers. The company boasts that it has more paid users than Spotify in the U.S., though the latter still has the overall lead with more than 100 million users worldwide. Clearly, the competition for your music is fierce, but the question is, which one is actually best for you?

The answer: Apple Music.

Before you start booing like you're listening to a bad cover band in a dive bar, allow me to explain. Apple Music has one thing Spotify absolutely doesn't, and it makes a huge difference.

A brief history

First, let's remember how we got here. Apple Music was a relatively late arrival to the streaming music party, with Spotify taking the early lead. Apple was far more focused on iTunes and selling you digital music downloads, and never seemed all that interested in eating into that profit machine.

That is, until it recognized that people actually like being able to stream any kind of music without paying for it all individually. It's the same reason people loved Netflix for movies. 

Today, there are few differences between the services. Both offer a monthly plan for $9.99, or a family plan for $14.99. And while the interfaces are different, both offer the ability to store your favorite songs on your device for offline listening. Both also give you the ability to create playlists, discover new music, and create "stations" that are automatically decided based on the songs, artists, or genres you love.

I like Spotify's new-music discovery features, and dark interface a little better, but I prefer Apple's search and organization. Overall, however, both are similar enough that most people might have a hard time figuring out which is best.

Aside from the fact that Spotify offers a free version supported by ads that also limits your ability to skip over songs you don't like, there's really only one major difference--and it turns out to be the most compelling reason to use Apple Music.

Own your music

Remember all that music you purchased way back when from iTunes? It's all in Apple Music. Even music you added from ripping your massive CD collection can be automatically synced to the cloud, and Apple will provide high-quality versions to stream on any device. 

Yes, technically, Spotify has a way to add your music library, but it's cumbersome and not at all intuitive. You have to add them from the desktop version, then put them in a playlist, then make sure your mobile device is on the same WiFi connection as your desktop, and finally download that playlist. Super easy, right?

And still, Spotify isn't actually storing your music library in the cloud, just letting you access whatever you have already stored locally on your device.

But in Apple Music, every song ever owned is just there. Oh, and if I ever want to purchase an individual MP3 download, I can. Apple Music still lets you download music via the iTunes store (that's right, iTunes didn't technically die, it just went back to its roots). 

You might not think that's a big deal, but there are still some people that prefer to purchase music and do whatever they want with it. Others simply like the idea that they're in control and not locked into a monthly service with a fee.

And since the fight between these two is so close, every small advantage matters. In this case, the clear advantage goes to being able to own and access your own music, whenever, and wherever you want. 

Published on: Jul 4, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.