The Apple Music Voice Plan Could Be Great If You Like Siri

Half price, but with limited features

Key Takeaways

  • $5 per month gets you all the songs, but you can only use Siri to find them.
  • The Apple Music Voice Plan is perfect for HomePods.
  • The plan is coming to 17 countries this fall.
Apple Music on iPhone next to orange HomePod and AirPods

Apple

Apple now will sell you a voice-only, Siri-controlled Apple Music subscription that you can’t ever see. What’s the point? Who might get this? Can it work with HomePods, which actually totally makes sense?

Launched during October’s MacBook Pro Unleashed event, Apple’s new $4.99-per-month Apple Music Voice Plan is designed to be used only with your voice. You can ask your device to play specific playlists, songs, or albums, but the feature set is restricted—you can’t view lyrics, stream lossless audio, or try Spatial Audio, for example. So while you do have access to Apple Music’s entire catalog, the restrictions might not be worth saving $5 per month on the full subscription cost. 

"I do believe that this service has a market, but it will be among those people who don’t care about music that much. It’s almost entirely designed around those with HomePods," Ben Taylor, IT consultant and Apple certified associate, told Lifewire via email. 

Voice Only

The catch with this plan is you have to use your voice, and Siri is the only form of interaction with the service. This means you have to deal with Siri’s foibles and poor reliability. 

In iOS 15, Siri does a lot more on the device. It’s able to process many commands without calling up to Apple’s servers for help. If music playback is included, then this could make Siri a lot more reliable, though we’ll have to wait for the launch of this tier to find out. 

Apple says that while you cannot download up to 100,000 songs to your library, you can "access your entire library from any device and listen online or off." And of course, anything that requires looking at the Music app won’t work—lyrics, and following your friends, for example. 

"I do believe that this service has a market, but it will be among those people who don’t care about music that much."

Some missing features aren’t really worth worrying about. People who subscribe to this plan will most likely be listening on AirPods or via a HomePod speaker, so Lossless Audio is pointless because you won’t hear it. And while Spatial Audio is amazing for some purposes, it’s still a bit of a gimmick when it comes to music. 

There’s one other extra that will make voice-activated music more palatable. Apple has created "hundreds" of new playlists just for the new voice plan. You can ask for "dinner-party music," for example. Or you can—as mentioned during Apple’s MacBook Pro event—ask for a hiking playlist. 

Who Is This For?

The voice plan works with any device that can use Siri, including the Apple Watch, but it seems clear that it’s aimed at HomePod users. The HomePod is already voice-only, so adding a cheaper music plan may encourage signups to Apple Music. Apple isn’t even the first to try this idea. Amazon already has a voice-only, $3.99-per-month Single-Device plan for its speaker users. 

"It strikes me as a service specifically intended as an alternative for people who are used to using Amazon music to say ‘Alexa, play xxx,’ but for the HomePod and Siri," says Taylor.

Another group that might enjoy a Siri-only music plan are AirPods users, although when you first start talking to yourself when walking outside, you feel a bit self conscious. 

Apple Watch with Apple Music between a pair of AirPods

Apple

One neat workaround for when you’re feeling shy might be Type to Siri, which is an accessibility option that lets you talk to Siri via the keyboard. When you invoke Siri with a long-press on the iPhone or iPad, you get a text box instead of a beep, and you type in your query. We’ll have to wait to see if this works with Music, but it should work. Then again, if the voice thing works well enough in iOS 15, then perhaps we’ll all end up as converts.

It’s also possible the Siri requirement will put people off.

"Apple try'na charge $5 bucks a month for their new Apple Music Voice plan, lol," says Apple podcaster Erfon Elijah on Twitter. "You'd have to pay ME $100 a month to use a service I could ONLY control with Siri!."

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