Apple Music adds cheaper $5 'Voice' plan accessed solely with Siri verbal commands

Apple unveiled the half-priced -- but limited -- version of its subscription music service at Monday's virtual event.

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Joan E. Solsman
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Apple Music is the company's subscription streaming music service, a rival to Spotify. 

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Apple Music will introduce a cheaper, $5-a-month version of its subscription streaming music service in the fall, Apple said Monday: a tier called Voice that can be accessed only through voice commands with Siri, Apple's virtual assistant. The news came at an Apple's event that also revealed updates to its Mac computers. 

Apple's coming Voice plan, by virtue of using Siri as its only entry point, means people on this tier can listen to Apple Music solely through Apple's own devices. So, for example, speakers and devices made by other companies -- like any fancy Sonos speakers you have, or any Android mobile phones -- won't be able to play Apple Music for anyone subscribed to the Voice plan. 

The Voice plan also won't unlock access to any music videos or lyrics, nor will it have higher-quality sound formats, like "lossless" and spatial audio. Those elements are reserved for subscribers to Apple Music's $10-a-month individual plan or its $15-a-month family plan. 

The new Voice tier of service is expected to roll out in 17 countries and regions later this fall, Apple said.   

As the culture at large shifted to streaming as the most common way people listen to tunesApple Music and Spotify raced each other in pursuit of dominating subscription music. Though Spotify remains the biggest streaming service by both listeners and subscribers, Apple Music has benefited from the popularity of the iPhone to recruit new members. But in the last couple years, Spotify has appeared to widen its lead, while Apple has remained silent on how Apple Music stacks up. 

Spotify, for example, reported that at the end of June it had 158 million subscribers and 356 million monthly listeners total, including people who use the service free with advertising. Apple, on the other hand, hasn't updated its public Music membership figures in more than two years. Back in June 2019, Apple said its service had 60 million subscribers. (According to music industry researcher MIDiA, Apple holds about 16% of the world's subscription music market, and Spotify's share is double that.)

While the iPhone remains Apple's biggest moneymaker, the company also has been expanding its software and services efforts, including $10-a-month Apple Music. In the past couple of years, its new offerings have included a $5-per-month Apple TV Plus entertainment package, $5-per-month Apple Arcade gaming subscription and, last year, a $10-per-month Apple Fitness Plus workout service. Apple also offers a bundle of its services, called Apple One, which starts at $15 per month and includes Apple Music.

--Ian Sherr contributed to this report. 

Watch this: What to expect at Apple's October event