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Sound and Vision: The demise of Apple Music Voice points to a bigger problem in streaming

OPINION: Last week, Apple announced that it would be discontinuing its Apple Music Voice Plan in November, but could this point to a bigger problem than Siri’s skills as a digital assistant?

It’s been just over two years since Apple introduced its Apple Music Voice Plan, a subscription tier of the company’s music streaming service that invited users to access the app’s full catalogue of songs for just £4.99 a month – but only through Siri. 

While it was great to see an Apple Music plan that cost less than £5 a month, the tier relied on users being content using Siri to navigate and play music. For HomePod users, this may have been a decent way to save money, but having to constantly ask Siri to play specific tracks probably wasn’t as appealing a prospect for those wanting to stream music in the office or on public transport. 

For me, the loss of Apple Music Voice alone doesn’t feel particularly earth-shattering. However, I do think that it points to a universal problem with streaming services that has reared its head often, especially in recent years. 

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We’ve seen it with Apple and Amazon’s cheaper voice assistant-controlled tiers and Disney and Netflix’s ad-supported plans. Streaming giants are offering increasingly limited services at more affordable rates that look like good deals on the surface but if you’ve been subscribed to these sites for long enough, this digital form of shrinkflation can be a harder pill to swallow. 

In 2016, you could stream Netflix content with no ads for £5.99 a month, or in HD for £7.49 a month. Now, the latter costs £10.99 a month plus an additional £4.99 for any family members who have moved out and want to continue watching on your plan. That’s a 46% increase for the same HD content (on two screens at a time) and neither of these plans begin to factor in 4K.

More recently, Amazon warned that it would be introducing ads to Prime Video for anyone not willing to pay an additional £2.99 a month on top of their usual subscription fee. Consider the fact that many households subscribe to more than one of these streaming services and these small price increases quickly add up with nothing new or exciting to show for them. 

Apple didn’t explicitly reveal why it decided to end the Apple Music Voice Plan, but this might be a sign that not everyone is happy to pay less for a more limited experience on their streaming apps of choice.

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