April 18, 2024

SiriusXM Plans, Pricing and Features for Satellite Service (and Internet)

Radio has long been a powerful communication tool. And even in the Internet age of the 21st century, it remains that way. Maybe not as relevant as when AM/FM broadcasts were the main way people got information and entertainment at home or even when it was an important feature in the car. But radio has evolved as a technology in the nearly 150 years since Marconi did his thing.

That brings us to SiriusXM. The (very) short story is that there were once two competing satellite radio companies. They merged, strengthened and evolved beyond the exclusive use of satellites to spread the wealth of entertainment, news and sports that make up SiriusXM as we know it today.

SiriusXM is still a major player in the automotive industry – you’d be hard-pressed to buy a new car that doesn’t have a SiriusXM trial already loaded and ready to go. And the next generation of SiriusXM is taking a hybrid approach to delivery. You can still get it via satellite. You can also (and still) get it over an Internet connection, whether it’s your cellular service or your home Internet connection. Each has its advantages and that works well for you, the consumer. And now we’re in the midst of a renaissance of the entire product, which is driving even more options and innovations.

Let’s analyze it all.

Songs, talks and more

Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

In a mix of past and present, SiriusXM offers an incredible selection of music stations, radio shows, podcasts, news, sports and even video content. All of these listening options are presented in easy-to-navigate mobile apps for iOS and Android devices and a browser-based web player. You can also enjoy offline downloads, recommended stations based on your listening habits, and the ability to stream your songs to nearby Bluetooth devices and Wi-Fi speakers.

That’s the whole “present” part. The descriptor “past” refers to the fact that whatever artist or genre you choose, you’re at the mercy of SiriusXM’s programming. Of course, that’s how “radio” has always worked. It’s a linear medium, not on-demand like Spotify or Apple Music. (SiriusXM does have podcasts that work, well, like on-demand podcasts, though.)

But you know what? That’s one of the best parts of the SiriusXM experience and zero algorithms are involved. Just like the old days, all the tracks are composed by human beings with a serious love (pun intended) for music, which really shows. In fact, that is one of the main pillars of this new era of SiriusXM.

SiriusXM plans and pricing

SiriusXM

SiriusXM now has four major plans to choose from. Three include satellite service for car radios and streaming devices; one is transmission only. As you see in the image above, not all plans have the same content and features. However, all plans include the first three months for just $1.

Here’s how it all plays out:

  • Platinum ($24 per month): Over 425 channels included, with ad-free music and all channel categories available, including exclusive podcasts and studio videos.
  • Music and Entertainment ($19/month): More than 400 channels, with commercial-free music and some channels in the News and Numbers, Comedy and Sports categories. You also get all the podcasts, but only some of the studio videos.
  • Music Sampler ($14/month): Over 100 channels, some ad-free music, some News & Topics and Talk & Entertainment channels, and some exclusive studio videos.
  • Full access ($10/month): This is new as of changes implemented in late 2023 and is only for streaming devices. (Like everywhere except your car.) But you get the full range of content and features available on those devices.

And that’s not all! Beyond these four main subscription options, SiriusXM offers many other station and on-demand packages.

Using SiriusXM over the Internet

Unlike competitive music streaming apps like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal, the SiriusXM mobile app and web player share several aesthetic traits and interface elements. And like other platforms, the more you use and listen to SiriusXM, the better your artist and genre recommendations will become.

When you launch the iOS app and web player, you’ll automatically be in Discover/For You page. A rotating banner at the top of the screen highlights recently listened to stations and popular music, talk, news and other featured stations. Scrolling down, you’ll find categories like Your Recent Channels, Channels For You, Live News, Politics & Topics, Shows & Podcasts For You, and From SiriusXM Studios, which is where you’ll find HD video content.

Above, from left to right: the Music, Library, Search, Chat and Podcasts tabs and Expanded playback controls as seen in the SiriusXM app for iOS devices.

Everything is divided into rows of colored tiles that are easy to navigate and find. This same design applies to the Music, Talks & Podcasts, and Sports tabs, which you can tap or click at the top of the app and web player. Low MusicYou’ll find categories like Essential New Music, Exclusive Artists and Channel Shows, and curated playlist stations that combine multiple tracks and artists, including Take it Easy, Party On and Find Your Focus.yes.

Talk and Podcasts is divided into its own set of scrollable categories, as is the Sports page, which also draws attention to upcoming pass-me-the-ball events with tags like Live & Upcoming NFL and NBA Games. You’ll also find numerous sports talk channels, and you can even break down the content by teams and leagues.

When you turn on a station, playback controls will appear at the bottom of the screen. You can tap the ribbon to make it appear full screen in the app or click the Enter full screen in the desktop web player. Commands include play/pause, skip tracks, and options to add stations to your personal library. There is also a button that will allow you to stream stations to compatible external speakers.

Above, from left to right: The Discover/For You, Search, and Library screens as seen on the SiriusXM desktop web player.

Conveniently, SiriusXM lets you skip up to six times between streaming-ready tracks, thanks to an impressive one-hour listening buffer.

All your favorite stations, artists, podcasts, and sports shows are located in the Library tab. On mobile, you can also download certain episodes of podcasts and other programs to listen to them offline. To start a download, simply select the episode and tap the Download button (an arrow pointing to a horizontal line). All completed downloads are stored in the Downloads tab (the final Library category).

You can also use iPhone’s built-in Siri to control some parts of our SiriusXM listening experience. This was equivalent to play and pause commands, since the wizard could not skip tracks.

Audio quality

If you use both the satellite option for SiriusXM and app-based streams on any connected device you like, you may have noticed a slight disparity between audio qualities. Some of that, of course, will depend on what you’re listening to. Basic car stereo speakers will always sound like basic car stereo speakers and not like those in a high-end car. Cheap headphones will always sound like cheap headphones.

But the bottom line is that satellite streaming has a different bit rate than Internet streaming. SiriusXM doesn’t publish what those bitrates are, but the difference is so stark that you don’t have to be an audiophile to notice it. It’s probably not a deal breaker for most people, but we wanted to mention it. But considering we’re talking about transmitting all that data to space and back again, it’s still pretty cool. (And somewhat remarkable, if you think about it, even in these times.)

The Sirius XM app and web player have options for streaming quality. But unless you have very limited bandwidth, we’ll leave it at maximum.

If you’re into hi-res listening, we’ve got bad news: SiriusXM doesn’t have hi-res tracks. Discerning audiophiles and 24-bit fans may benefit best from streamers like Tidal and Qobuz. But again, that’s comparing apples to oranges because SiriusXM is not an on-demand music service.

How to cancel SiriusXM

We generally do not include sections on how to cancel a service because canceling services online is generally relatively easy. You may have to click a couple of buttons, but it’s usually pretty easy. And if you’ve signed up for the $10/month device-only plan through your phone, it’s pretty easy to cancel through the normal app store mechanisms.

But if you signed up through a free trial through your car, you’ll almost certainly have to call SiriusXM to cancel, and not just do it through your online account portal. That’s a headache and has led the state of New York to file a lawsuit against SiriusXM for making it more difficult than its attorney general thinks it should be.

It’s not insurmountable, but it’s something to keep in mind.

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