Apple announced plans for a $4.99-a-month Apple Music Voice Plan in October, alongside its new HomePods. Yesterday that new tier of its music streaming service went live in 17 countries, as part of the iOS 15.2 software update.
People can sign up via the Apple Music app (or by saying ‘Hey Siri, start my Apple Music Voice trial’ to Apple’s voice assistant) with the trial lasting seven days before they are prompted to pay.
Apple says it has created “hundreds” of new mood and activity playlists in readiness for the new plan, geared towards voice requests. There are playlists for (and indeed titled) Waking Up, Family Time, Making Coffee, Afternoon Walk, Relaxing Drive, Housework, Date Night, Day at the Park and Long Lunch among many more.
(Creating these playlists is one task: telling subscribers about them will be another important one, so they know what to ask for.)
A cheaper, voice-focused music subscription isn’t a new idea: Amazon Music Unlimited launched in 2016 with an Echo-specific tier included. Data is scarce on how popular that was, and the extent to which people stayed on that entry-level tier versus upgrading over time to the more expensive, fuller-featured Amazon Music subscriptions.
The argument for cheaper tiers – be they device-specific, student or family plans – has always been that they bring people into the subscription funnel who are not yet able or willing to pay $9.99 a month. With two of the four biggest streaming services now testing this theory, attention may shift again to the other two, with reports in August that YouTube and Spotify were both testing out their own cut-price offerings.
With the Voice plan launched, what next for Apple Music? One user has plenty of ideas. ‘Dave B’ posted his ‘Apple Music is in rough shape. Here’s how to fix it‘ analysis earlier this month on blogging platform Medium, before taking the bold step of sending his thoughts directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Now he claims (in a Reddit post) that he was subsequently contacted by Cook’s office to say that “Apple took my email seriously and may potentially implement some of my suggestions” having forwarded them on to the Apple Music team. That should make his Medium post useful reading for rival streaming services too, as they consider what the next year might bring in terms of the evolution of DSPs.