Apple Adds a Siri-Based Music Plan & New HomePod Mini Colors

The Voice Plan falls short of Apple Music's other subscription options but beats third-party music services like Pandora.

As Tim Cook explained during the October 18 Apple event, 'Unleashed,' recent innovations to Apple products have been focused on "music and Macs." Let's talk music, specifically the new tier in Apple Music's subscription options, the Apple Music Voice Plan and the new HomePod mini colors Apple announced at the same time. We'll cover the pros and cons of this monthly plan and discuss how it compares to other Apple Music subscriptions options and third-party music services. 

Related: The New Generation of AirPods Arrives with Pro Design and Spatial Audio

Apple Music Voice Plan: What You Need to Know

The Voice Plan is the new monthly subscription option available for Apple Music. Designed to work exclusively through Siri, the Voice Plan gives you access to Apple's global catalog of 90 million songs through the hundreds of new playlists curated by Apple Music. Hankering for a specific genre? Got a whole mood going? Need tunes themed for a specific activity? Subscribers can access songs by asking Siri something like "Play a hiking playlist," or "Play something chill," or "Play R&B." 

The Voice Plan customizes playlists based on your music preferences and the queue of your recently played music through Siri. You can also further personalize playlists by asking Siri to "Play more like this" when you hear a song you like. Don't sweat if you aren't feeling a song that's being played, as the service offers an unlimited number of skips. The downside? You are not allowed to play songs, artists, or albums on demand. This means that while you can more generically customize the music played, you're out of luck if you want that favorite T-Swift song or Post Malone album. 

How Does the Voice Plan Compare to Other Apple Music Subscriptions?

Apple Music offers three monthly subscription tiers: the $4.99 Siri-based Voice Plan, the $9.99 Individual Plan, and the $14.99 Family Plan (with up to six accounts). The Voice plan lacks many of Apple Music's premium offerings, such as the higher-quality audio and 3D sound effects created through the spatial and lossless technologies. With the Individual and Family plans, you can also search for and play any song, playlist, artist, or genre included in the Apple catalog, but with the Voice Plan you can only generically request playlists or genres. The premium plans also allow both Siri and in-app access, while the Voice Plan works exclusively through Siri. In the end, the Voice Plan falls far short of the other Apple Music subscription options, offering around a tenth of the value at half the cost. If you're looking for an Apple Music subscription, I highly recommend spending the extra $5 a month to get the full value of Apple's library. 

How Does the Voice Plan Compare to 3rd-Party Music Services?

What if you're considering the Voice Plan as an alternative to third-party music services such as Pandora? Pandora offers a $4.99 monthly subscription, the same price as the Voice Plan. Like the Voice Plan, Pandora Plus offers unlimited skips and personalized playlists. Pandora Plus holds a slight advantage over the Voice Plan, as it allows users to play songs on demand. However, this advantage is quickly negated by the fact that songs on demand have to be "unlocked" by watching an ad, which is not something I want in a paid music-subscription service. Additionally, Pandora's library is only around one million songs, while Apple's catalog exceeds 90 million. For the same monthly cost, I'd say the Apple Music Voice Plan offers more bang for your buck. 

How Do I Subscribe?

Fittingly, Apple offers a voice-based subscription option to the Apple Music Voice Plan. Simply say, "Hey Siri, start my Apple Music Voice trial" to get enrolled. Alternatively, you can also sign up through the Apple Music app. New to Apple Music and interested in testing the Voice Plan? A seven-day free trial is offered to those who don't already have an Apple Music subscription. If you're worried about trying to cancel the trial via Siri, don't be. The trial doesn't automatically renew.

Voice Plan: Pricing & Availability

Pricing: $4.99 per month

Availability: Later this fall for select countries and regions. 

The Apple Music Voice Plan will be available later this fall in 17 different countries and regions, including the United States, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

Voice Plan: Device Compatibility

The Apple Music Voice Plan is compatible with any Siri-enabled device, including AirPods, CarPlay, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, Mac, and the HomePod mini.

HomePod Mini: New Colors & Benefits of the Voice Plan

Notably, Apple added some new hues to the HomePod mini lineup. In addition to space gray and white, these handy devices will also come in yellow, orange, and blue. The new colors will be available for purchase in November at the same $99 price.

Now, let's talk about the benefits of the Apple Music Voice Plan for HomePod mini owners. While the Voice Plan can be used on any Siri-enabled device, this is especially useful for HomePod mini users, as this device lacks a screen and requires you to access music through Siri anyway. With the HomePod mini, you can request a different playlist for each room or play the same music throughout the house. If you often use your HomePod mini to play ambient music in the background, the Voice Plan could be a less-expensive monthly option. However, as discussed above, you will not be able to request specific artists and songs using the Voice Plan, so please keep this in mind if you're considering an Apple Music subscription. 

Final Thoughts

There's something to be said about the Apple Music Voice Plan as an accessibility alternative for those who struggle with touch screens. Unfortunately, Siri is not yet advanced enough to make this a great option for those with atypical speech patterns. While it is an improvement, Siri has some "learning" to do before it can truly be considered an accessibility alternative. 

And while the Voice Plan still beats out third-party music services at a similar price point, I'm skipping the Voice Plan and happily paying the extra $5 per month for Apple Music's Individual Plan, which gives me ready access to the full Apple catalog and higher-quality audio. In the end, the Apple Music Voice Plan seems geared toward two groups of users: HomePod mini owners who already need to operate Apple Music with Siri, and those who simply want an ad-free audio experience for ambient background music.

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Ashleigh Page's picture

Author Details

Ashleigh Page

Ashleigh Page is a Feature Writer for iPhone Life. With a background in computer science and creative writing, she loves blending aspects of the technical and creative. An avid technology enthusiast, she adores Apple products and keeping up with the latest innovations. When she’s not working, Ashleigh is often found crafting whimsical (and sometimes nonsensical) short stories, hiking, and playing sand volleyball.

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