If you try to play a full song in Apple Music with the new Voice
Plan by tapping on it in the app, you'll get a warning that you
need to ask Siri to play it instead. Whether or not you'll actually
hear the song you want is another question entirely.
A new voice-controlled Apple Music subscription tier called Apple Music Voice Plan has arrived just in time
for all of those new Apple devices under the Christmas tree. Priced
at $4.99 per month (as opposed to $9.99 for the full subscription),
it's Apple's cheapest Music plan and the clearest sign yet that it
has no intention of launching an ad-supported tier like
Nothing about the Apple Music Voice Plan is conventional. While
you can sign up within the Apple Music app, Apple also lets you
say, Hey Siri, start my Apple Music Voice trial to instantly begin
a 7-day no-obligation trial. (You can also ask Siri to play a song,
which should bring up a prompt asking if you would like to start a
trial.) You don't need to have a credit card on file or remember to
cancel a recurring subscription, though you can get three months
free if you turn on auto-renewal.
Naturally, the lower price brings fewer amenities. Unlike the
full Apple Music subscription, Apple Music Voice Plan does not
allow you to make personal playlists, so you'll need to stick with
the ones that are already in the system. Thankfully there are a lot
of them spanning all ends of the musical spectrum, though other
features like Spatial Audio and the time-synced lyric are also
missing. But the biggest thing that's lacking is the confidence
that you're going to hear the song you want.
Siri killed the radio star
With a sparse interface, you're encouraged to start listening
right away with Apple Music Voice. I began my search in the Radio
section, where Apple's own Music1 radio station broadcasts live all
day. I then scrolled down to the Local Broadcasters area to get a
taste of different stations from around the world. This isn't a
feature that's exclusive to Apple Music, but it's nice to be able
to choose stations from several services, including TuneIn,
iHeartRadio, and Audacy.
Siri is hit or miss when it comes to finding the music you want
to listen to.
I quickly browsed past several of my favorite stations and
landed on an unfamiliar one, Radio Meuh, an internet electronic
music station from the French Alps. Making my selection, I
continued to scroll around the Local Broadcasters section when a
voice on Radio Meuh leaped out at me and sang, Stop scrolling and
I was legit taken aback for a second thinking Siri was keeping
musical tabs on me, but I quickly realized that it was all a
coincidence. It was a song actually called Stop
Scrolling and Connect by Londoner Ziggy Funk that just happened
to be playing at just the right time.
But while Siri won't admonish you through song, it will clap
back if you try to tap a song to play anything other than a preview
snippet. Siri is your guide through Apple Music Voice, and it does
a mostly acceptable job. I asked Siri to play various genres of
music—disco, house, drum bass, rock, punk, and reggae—and was
given appropriate stations for each. And when I asked it to
specifically play some music for sleeping, I got a laidback
meditation station, so Apple has clearly given a lot of thought to
the kinds of things Voice subscribers will ask Siri to play.
Siri has a lot to learn
Other Siri requests weren't so successful. Though I attempted to
speak slowly and clearly to Siri as I went along, there were still
some amusing misunderstandings between us. The best one was when I
said, Hey Siri, play some polka music, hoping to hear some Lawrence
Welk, and Siri brought up a poker podcast instead. Swing and a
You never quite know what you're going to get when you ask Siri
to play a song.
In another instance, I wanted Siri to play the 1987 pop hit
Point of No Return by Exposé, but I only asked for the song title
and not the artist. Instead, a 1977 song, Point of Know Return by
Kansas, started playing. When I tried again, Siri surfaced a 2003
song called Point of No Return by rapper Immortal Technique. The
third time was the charm, but you might want to be very precise to
get Siri to play the song you want.
All of the voice commands that you can use with the Apple Music
Voice Plan may sound very familiar if you use AirPods or have a
HomePod. It's somewhat similar to Amazon's Single Device plan
($3.99/month) that lets you can basically ask Alexa the same
musical questions that you ask Siri, though that's tied to a single
Echo. Spotify also launched its own Hey Spotify feature earlier
this year, but that's more of a companion than a service. Apple is
trying something unique with the Apple Music Voice Plan that might
work for some people, provided Siri gets better at understanding
what you want to hear.
But $4.99 a month is a nice price for the fun and listening
potential that you can have with the Apple Music Voice Plan, and a
decent option to consider if $10 is too much to add to your monthly
streaming allotment. As a professional DJ and writer who loves to
record her own continuously mixed sets as opposed to making or
listening to unmixed playlists, I'm not really the target customer
for a service like this, but the price and convenience is tempting—a
s long as Siri gets a lot better.