In 2019, Amazon introduced a more affordable way to stream its free, ad-supported music service through its Echo speaker. Today, Apple (AAPL) introduced a low-cost Apple Music subscription service called Voice Plan. Unlike Amazon's service, the Voice plan is not free. Instead, it's a more affordable, $4.99-a-month ad-free subscription that limits consumers to accessing Apple Music only through Siri voice commands.
The new voice plan will allow users in 17 countries to use Siri to play songs, playlists, and all radio stations in Apple Music when the service launches later this fall, Apple explained today at its October event. This will also include access to a range of new playlists based on mood and activity, as well as personalized mix and genre stations. That means you can now ask Siri to play you music, like something to help you relax at a dinner party or the end of the day. Apple says there will be hundreds of new playlists to choose from.
Apple Music's competitors, including Spotify, Amazon Music, and Pandora, already offer such a feature and have for years. So it's a matter of Apple playing catch-up with its edits of expanded mood and activity playlists. For now, its editing options are more limited to the "Made for You" lineup, which includes personalized playlists like Your Favorites Mix, Chill Mix, New Music Mix and Get Up Mix.
While Apple said the new voice plan can be used for "all Apple devices" to access Apple Music, it's designed for HomePod — similar to the free music streaming Amazon offers for the Echo. If you're using a phone, tablet, or computer, talking to Siri to play music doesn't necessarily make sense when you own a device with a screen. However, for those who listen to Apple Music primarily through AirPods, the service could be interesting — they don't mind saying all the commands.
Apple said the service will be available on CarPlay in addition to iPhone and iPad, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch devices.
Users will see a customized app interface that displays suggestions based on their music preferences and displays a queue of their most recent tunes via Siri. There's also a session called "Just Ask Siri" that teaches users how to optimize Siri for Apple Music.
The new plan joins Apple Music's other subscription plans, individual plans, and family plans, for $9.99 and $14.99 a month, respectively. Like the personal plan, the new voice subscription will be limited to one person at a time, Apple said. It offers a complete Apple Music catalog of more than 90 million songs.
At launch, the product will be available in Australia, Austria, Canada, Mainland China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The company did not provide a specific release date other than "later this fall."
Apple said it would extend the service to non-users who request a music service through Siri.
They can try it for free for seven days with no automatic renewal.
To coincide with the launch of the new service, Apple also announced new third-generation AirPods and a more colorful HomePod mini line of smart speakers.