“Google may soon have an Android equivalent of Apple One,” we reported earlier this month, referring to Apple’s bundle of services that includes Apple Music. Lo, it has come to pass. Or Pass, rather: Google unveiled its Pixel Pass plan yesterday, as part of the press event launching its latest own-brand Android smartphones.
The leaks earlier this month were on the money. Pixel Pass is an all-in-one subscription that costs $45 or $55 a month, depending which of the two new smartphones (the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro) you want. For that price, you get the phone itself, plus YouTube Premium, YouTube Music Premium, 200GB of cloud storage, Google Play Pass (Android’s games subscription service) and device repair support. For now, this is US-only.
It’s a useful moment to take stock of the Big Tech super-bundles that include music. Pixel Pass joins Apple One (no device, but service bundles including Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and cloud storage, plus news and fitness at the higher tier) and Amazon Prime (including the limited Prime Music service plus ebooks, a premium Twitch subscription, a catalogue of free ebooks, magazines and comics, and free shipping for physical shopping).
These super-bundles have buy-in from music rightsholders, clearly, but thus far there has not been much transparency about how the business models break down in terms of royalties being apportioned between the different services included. Does music perform well in these very specific attention economies, or does it lose out?
It’s still very early days: Amazon Prime is clearly huge, but its music offering is deliberately limited, with the figures for the full Amazon Music Unlimited service (55 million users at the start of 2020, and possibly more than 63 millionby Q1 this year) suggesting that Prime Music is not a brake on that growth. Apple One is still new, and now Pixel Pass is brand new. How well they are marketed and how popular they prove remains to be seen.
As ever, the longer-term question is what this means for pureplay services competing with the ones that are part of these super-bundles. If we are moving towards a future where lots of people pay a single monthly price for their smartphone (and possibly other devices) and a raft of digital entertainment services, what does that mean for the likes of Spotify and Netflix? How hard can the tech firms push their super-bundles without attracting more anti-competition flak?
Lots of questions, and few answers as yet, but it’s going to be important to watch how Pixel Pass and Apple One perform.