It's easy to get lost in Apple Music's volume 90-million song library.
I can tell you that's what happened to me - again - as I was testing Apple's new $4.99-a-month Apple Music Voice option. Excluding the student plan, it's the cheapest option yet and, thankfully, doesn't skimp on music variety. Hence, me getting lost listening to my favorite Bowie and Michael Jackson tunes.
Still, Apple Music Voice, which prioritizes Siri use over everything else, does lose a few key $9.99-a-month Apple Music service features, including lossless and spatial audio. Plus, Voice subscribers can't collect the music they love in their personal Apple Music library.
I took a listening tour this week shortly after Apple release the feature with the iOS 15.2 update, months after announcing it at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June.
Apple's also trying to prime the pump here (at 72M subs, it trails well behind Spotify's 172M global subscribers) by offering a free 7-day preview that you can enable by saying, “Hey Siri, start Apple Music Voice” to any Siri-enabled device. I did it with a $99 Apple HomePod mini smart speaker, but you could just as easily enable it on your iPhone or iPad.
Once you do that, though, Apple will quickly offer you a three-month free trial, which is also cool, but just remember that auto-subscription payments will start at the end of that three-month period.
Apple Music Voice is basically Apple Music Lite. All the music is there, even the Radio Stations, including Apple Music 1. You can still use the Apple Music interface on your iPhone to pursue dozens of categories, including "C-Pop" and "Metal." Just remember, you cannot download and save tunes you love to the Library. Apple Music's $9.99 a month subscribers can do so, but that music disappears if they end their subscription.
The $4.99 option gets its name because it prioritizes voice control, placing "Just Ask Siri..." cards at the top of the interface, essentially showing you how to control Apple Music with just your voice. Cards at the top of my interface include "Play the Chill Rap playlist," "Play Star-Crossed by Kacey Musgraves," and "Play the Pow! Playlist."
After launching my 7-day preview, I started asking Siri to play a variety of playlists. Apple Music Voice will play through fully-updated iPhones, iPads, your Apple Watch, HomePods, and even CarPlay.
Third-party devices will work if they support AirPlay, which means they're streaming the audio from the Siri device and not natively from the cloud. Because I was using a special account, I couldn't expand whatever I was playing to my other Siri-compatible devices.
I asked Siri to play "Spa" and was transported to the trippy "Across the Sky (mediation)" from Tranquil Journeys. I chilled, a little.
"Baseball" went, as one should, directly to Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”
"Adventure" launched a podcast called "The Adventure Zone Ethersea." I had no idea what I was listening to. All I can tell you is that there were “cure wounds” spells and a bag with a skull.
"Fall" got me the slightly Calypso-esque “Fall” from Davido.
"Snowboarding" launched The Beastie Boy’s iconic “Body Movin.”
"Going Home" gave me “Going Home" by Kenny G. Yes, the tune was surprisingly familiar and, yes, it felt a little like going home. Stop looking at me like that.
There were other limits, but I wonder if they're more about Apple Music's limits, as opposed to this Voice option. After playing a few David Bowie tunes, I asked Siri to "play more like this." Siri declined, saying she was unable to create a radio station from this. The same thing happened with Michael Jackson.
Apple Music doesn't offer lyrics, but it also doesn't automatically show you song names and album covers in what might be considered the "Now Playing" screen, which in Apple Music Voice ends up being called "Not Playing."
However, if I bring my iPhone close to the HomePod mini, enabling the Transfer Music function, a small window appears at the top of my iPhone screen with details about what's playing on the HomePod mini. By expanding that, I can see the song, album name, and album cover. No lyrics, though.
Audiophiles will surely be frustrated by the lack of a library (I wouldn't care because I almost never save music to mine), but most of the other deficits (no lyrics, or album covers) are a small price to pay for the pleasure of Apple Music Voice, a now-more-affordable, quality, unlimited music service that gives me access to virtually any music I can think of, like Adele's remarkable "30" and The Clash's "London Calling."