The free version of YouTube Music works a bit differently from the other services on this list. Whether you’re listening in a web browser or on the app, you can stream any song you want. Most other services restrict you to playlists or radio-style stations, at least when you’re using their apps as opposed to the website. Users can also upload up to 100,000 of their own audio files to stream from the cloud, a great option if you have a collection of music that you can’t find on streaming services.
YouTube Music—as the name might suggest—also integrates a ton of videos from the regular YouTube platform. You can go straight from listening to your favorite Radiohead album to watching a video of the group performing at a music festival. As with almost every other free service, you’ll have to put up with ads.
Google Play Music, a competing service from the same company, is shutting down over the next few months. If you have an account with that service, you can easily transfer all your music and preferences to YouTube Music before that happens.
Drawbacks: The free tier of YouTube Music has a major flaw that most other services don’t. You can’t lock your phone screen or switch over to another app or else the music stops. That keeps you from scrolling through Facebook or checking email while listening to music. Even if you just want to listen, having the screen on will drain your battery faster.
However, the problem doesn’t apply if you’re listening to files you’ve uploaded yourself, and it doesn’t happen when you’re listening on a computer.
Who it’s best for: People who want access to a large library or songs and videos on demand and don’t need to do anything else with their phones while they’re listening with the app. It’s also a great option for listening to your own music files on the go.