Apple's cunning scheme to boost uptake of its Siri voice assistant
Amid a slew of upgrades to its MacBook Pro range and audio hardware unveiled this morning, Apple also launched Apple Music Voice Plan, a cut-price music streaming service that can only be accessed via the Siri voice assistant.
Apple Music Voice Plan accesses the same 85-million strong library of songs, playlists and Apple Music Radio as the Apple Music service but at the price of $7.49, down from $14.99 for the regular individual plan.
Siri-operated music, across Apple's full range of devices
But you'll have to get used to talking to Siri to get your musical soundtrack going. While Apple Music is already Siri-compatible and available across a wide range of Apple and non-Apple devices via the Apple Music app where you can tap in song titles and search for albums, the Apple Music Voice Plan is solely voice-activated and only available on Apple devices that run Siri, like the iPhone, iPad, MacBook and iMac, as well as AirPods, the HomePod mini and car stereos compatible with Apple Carplay.
There are other sacrifices too - no lossless audio or Dolby Atmos tracks for superior audio quality and no multi-user account available so several members of the family can listen to their own selected tracks at the same time. But the price will appeal to music lovers who are already using Siri to book calendar appointments and ask for traffic status updates.
The streaming plan also seems designed to attract a new wave of users to Siri, which has a large share of the voice assistant market among younger users, but is engaged in a close-fought battle for dominance in order age groups against Alexa (Amazon) and Google Assistant.
A voice assistant is a convenient gateway to each company's ecosystem of products and a great way to gather oodles of data about a user's personal preferences and behaviour. As people become more comfortable calling up song titles, they are more likely to use Siri to run their lives, making Apple's voice assistant smarter in the process and cementing loyalty to the Apple ecosystem. That's the only business case that can logically explain Apple Music Voice Plan. Apple claims that Siri has over 500 million active users worldwide.
But Apple spins a different narrative in explaining the rationale for its new music plan.
"Apple Music and Siri are natural partners and already work seamlessly together," said Oliver Schusser, Apple's vice president of Apple Music and Beats. "With Siri actively used on hundreds of millions of devices worldwide, we are thrilled to add this new plan that delivers an effortless music experience just by using your voice and makes Apple Music accessible to even more people around the world."
Schusser added that users will be able to subscribe to the Apple Music Voice Plan through Siri simply by saying "Hey Siri, start my Apple Music Voice trial", or by signing up through the Apple Music app. Once subscribed, users could can ask Siri to "Play the dinner party playlist", "Play something chill" or "Play more like this" to direct Siri in its new role as an obedient deejay.
Apple Music Voice Plan will be available in the next few months. The question now is whether Google and amazon will follow with voice-only versions of their own voice assistants.
Apple's new music plan - what you get and what you sacrifice
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