Amazon squares up to Spotify and Apple with voice-controlled music streaming
Amazon has launched its long-awaited streaming service to compete with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. Amazon Music Unlimited offers a catalog of songs numbering into the tens of millions that can be voice-controlled using its Alexa personal assistant.
Amazon Prime members were already able to stream over two million songs from the Amazon Music catalog, as well as listen to curated playlists and personalized stations. Not only does Amazon Music Unlimited vastly increase the amount of streaming music available to Prime members, but it is also available to people who don't have a Prime account.
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As you'd expect, the service is available on desktop and via mobile apps for Android and iOS. Perhaps the service's most stand-out feature, though, is its integration with Alexa, which allows users of Amazon's Echo, Echo Dot or Tap devices to not only make simple playback commands like "Alexa, play Sia," but also more nuanced requests.
It's possible, for example, to ask Alexa to play songs from a certain decade and even to layer such requests with additional conditions. So, you can say "Alexa, play the most popular rock from the 90s."
Alexa's advanced machine learning allows it to make decisions based on your previous activity. Amazon gives the example of a user giving the command "Alexa, play music for a dinner party," as a result of which Alexa can draw upon the user's existing playlists like "Dinner With Friends," "Cooking With 90s Hip-Hop" or "Indie Dinner Party."
One killer-sounding implementation is the Echo's ability to process lyric-based song requests in the event that a users has forgotten the artist and song name. By way of example, Amazon suggests that the command, "Alexa, play the song that goes 'I was doing just fine before I met you,'" will result in Alexa playing Closer by The Chainsmokers.
It's also possible to have Alexa play a "song of the day." A so-called "Side-by-Sides" feature, meanwhile, offers Alexa users the option to listen to artist commentaries about the music they're listening to.
Alexa users can get all this for as little as US$3.99 a month, although that increases if they want to listen on additional devices – even on an additional Echo device. For Prime members the service costs $7.99 a month or $79 per year, and for non-Alexa or non-Prime users it's $9.99 a month. A $14.99-a-month or $149-a-year family plan is in the works too.
Amazon Music Unlimited is currently available only in the US, but is due to be rolled out to the UK, Germany and Austria later this year.
The video below provides an introduction to Amazon Music Unlimited.