I, like many others watching the ‘Unleashed’ event on Monday, was initially quite confused by the announcement of Apple Music Voice Plan. It’s a subscription tier by which songs, playlists and radio are all controlled exclusively via Siri. However, some good explanations for its existence are starting to come to light.
It’s’ About Getting More Apple Music Subscribers
The obvious response was that the Voice Plan was a low price offer through which to get people to sign up to Apple Music. And I’m sure there is some element of that at play. The company simply wants people to make the leap over, decide they like the playlists and other features, and hopes that they will decide to upgrade to a more expensive subscription. However, there is likely more to it than that.
Apple Music Voice Plan is for HomePod-Only Users
One explanation, put forward by Mac Geek Gab co-host John F. Braun, is that Apple Music Voice is designed for users who do not currently have any music subscription at all, but who now want the option to listen via a nice new HomePod as opposed to via physical media. In other words, the primary target is not (probably younger) users for whom a subscription to Spotify or a rival happens by default, but other kinds of consumers who currently access the tracks they love a different way.
As the HomePod becomes more of a smart home hub as opposed, there is definitely a lot of merit to that argument. Quite simply, more people will have one in their homes and will be looking to make full use of it. A significant chunk of those people will not need access to Apple Music on another device. Who knows, a low-cost subscription might even be enough to encourage some people to purchase a new HomePod mini!
It’s About Data. Obviously.
Another really good argument, put forward on TechCrunch by Manish Singh, is that, inevitably, it all comes down to data collection. Specifically, Apple is trying to leverage this new tier of Music subscription to get Siri better at understanding accents:
Apple didn’t share why it is launching this plan, but I think it’s reasonable to speculate that the iPhone-maker is lowering the price barrier and persuading more people to use Siri because it wants to gather more voice data to train and improve its voice assistant…Again, this is just speculation, but I think given the stiff competition between Apple and Spotify, if the Swedish firm could offer its streaming service at $7-8 a month to beat Apple Music at price, it would. And Apple is taking some loss with the new subscription tier because it really wants to gather vast amounts of data.
The range of countries in which this US$4.99 subscription will be available definitely gives some credence to that argument.
It’s unlikely we will ever get a breakdown of who has signed up six months or a year after launch, but it would be fascinating to see!