Review was updated on 15 March 2021
It’s been the subject of rumours for years, but Apple finally unveiled its plans for its own streaming service earlier in 2019, with the launch date eventually being on November 1st, worldwide, beating Disney’s much-anticipated service by a couple of weeks.
After years of rumours about whether they might just outright purchase an existing streaming service to make their first proper push into content creation, Apple announced what some had already suspected was in the works – a full-scale Apple-run streaming service. Named Apple TV+ – a name deliberately chosen to match the name of the company’s hugely popular streaming box – it differs from the ever-growing range of streaming offerings in some key ways.
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Most notably, Apple TV+ will not – as far as anyone knows, anyway – be offering any third-party content at all. The only shows and movies on offer will be the selection of titles that Apple has commissioned especially for the service, from some of the biggest names in entertainment. Apple TV+ will bring all these premium offerings together in a subscription service that will cost, in Australia, only $7.99 per month.
In this Review
What is Apple TV+?
The decision to go with only original, in-house content is one which caught many in the industry by surprise, though it’s actually not at all out of character with the way Apple usually does business. Consumers are used to the idea of paying a monthly fee for a streaming service that offers a large range of content – both originals and third-party titles. But much third-party content is already tied up in rights deals with existing streaming providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Stan. As a result, we’re seeing Disney launching their new streaming service (a couple of weeks after Apple) with only their content on board – but Disney has a decades-long library to draw content from. Apple, having only just started producing its own shows and movies, will be fairly light on content at launch.
The drawcard is – as you might expect from Apple – quality rather than quantity. Apple TV+ launches with only about nine titles, with more to follow in subsequent months. But Apple is counting on the big names and high production values behind their new offerings will attract the sort of audience that watches HBO’s celebrated originals.
Not surprisingly, all titles are being produced at the highest technical quality, with streaming in 4K, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos available on compatible devices (and the Apple TV 4K is, of course, the most compatible of them all!)
Apple TV+ Plans and Pricing
Apple has deliberately kept the cost of Apple TV+ low, and in Australia it’s priced at a mere $7.99 per month. But if you buy any major Apple product from now onwards – iPhone, iPad, Mac, even an Apple TV box – you get a full year of Apple TV+ completely free as soon as you activate your new device. For a lot of people that means they won’t pay a cent for the new service when it launches, but those who pay monthly will still be able to do so direct from their Apple account balance, taking advantage of discounted iTunes cards to get the subscription cheaper.
There’s a free trial available for the service, but it’s a short one – only 7 days. There is only the one price tier – it’s $7.99/month for everyone. That gets you streaming at every quality level right up to 4K, and even better, up to six family members can access the same account at no extra cost, using their own Apple IDs so each family member’s favourites and watch history is kept separate. That’s a remarkably generous multi-user allowance; families would be more used to paying more than twice as much just to be able to let four family members access services like Netflix or Stan. For families with lots of Apple devices, this one’s a bargain.
What TV Shows are on Apple TV+?
The launch content for Apple TV+ is an interesting cross-section of genres that basically aims to deliver something for everyone’s tastes, and to impress with some big names. With episodic series titles, Apple will publish the first three episodes on launch day, they add one per week to see out each season. It’s a nice compromise between promoting “bingeing” and letting some very expensive shows get their time in the sun.
We have the following titles to sink our teeth into:
A sci-fi action drama set centuries in the future, in a world where a virus has caused the surviving humans to go permanently blind. It stars Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard, and has some big names behind the camera including Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence.
Renamed from its US title of The Morning Show (we already have one of those!) this is a fast-paced workplace drama about the ups, downs and power trips of the people working on morning television. It stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell.
A kinds’ show featuring friendly monsters that solve problems, from the makers of Sesame Street.
A kinds’ show featuring friendly monsters that solve problems, from the makers of Sesame Street.
For All Mankind
A hotly anticipated epic sci-fi series from Ronald D Moore, the man behind Outlander and Battlestar Galactica. This big-budget series explores what the world would be like if the global space race had not ended with an American landing on the moon.
Snoopy In Space
Everyone’s favourite cartoon beagle has decided he wants to be an astronaut, so with the help of Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang he heads for the International Space Station.
A remake of the classic kids’ show with a much bigger budget and the advantage of 21st-century visual effects.
The Elephant Queen
A large-scale nature documentary following the journey of an elephant and her herd.
There’s still not much known about exactly what Oprah will be doing on Apple TV+, but we do know it’ll involve her book club!
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Other content includes a psychological thriller from M Night Shyamalan, feature films The Banker (with Samuel L Jackson) and Hala, true-crime drama series Truth Be Told
It’s known that Apple has other as-yet-unscheduled projects in the works for Apple TV+ as well, including Steven Spielberg’s revisiting of the classic anthology series Amazing Stories.
Apple clearly intends to build up an impressive library or original shows and movies over time, in much the way that Netflix has – except Apple is putting even more emphasis on big names.
Apple TV+ Features
The entirety of the original content made for Apple TV+ becomes its main feature, including shows and movies from big names like Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Jason Momoa, Samuel L Jackson
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Compatible Devices and Apps
If you guessed from the name that the best way to watch Apple TV+ is with an Apple device – preferably an Apple TV – you’d be right. The service is designed top to bottom to be a perfect fit for Apple’s popular streaming device, and the full range of features available on each title – including Dolby Atmos sound, Dolby Vision HDR for TVs that support it (such as LG OLEDs) and native 4K streaming across the entire service at no extra cost.
You’ll also be able to use your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad to load up the new TV app and view the service, and Mac users will get a dedicated TV app with the next major MacOS update (Catalina).
On other platforms, apps will be available for newer Samsung smart TVs at launch, with support for LG and Sony to come. Also in the pipeline are apps for Amazon Fire TV and Roku (Telstra TV) devices. And of course, you’ll be able to stream everything in a web browser if you prefer the flexibility of not being tied to a specific device.
|Mac||Yes||macOS Catalina 10.15; macOS Big Sur 11.0, or later|
|PC||Yes||Windows PC (including Microsoft Surface), Chrome OS via tv.apple.com|
|iPhone/iPod touch/iPad||Yes||latest versions of iOS and iPadOS|
|Android devices||Yes||Supported web browser via tv.apple.com|
|Apple TV||Yes||4K, HD & 3rd generation|
|Amazon Fire TV||Yes||Fire TV Stick (Basic Edition, 2nd gen, 4K); Fire TV 3rd gen; Fire TV Cube 1st & 2nd gen; Fire TV Edition|
|Roku Devices||Yes||Roku TV, Roku Smart Soundbar, Roku Express, Roku HD, Roku Streaming Stick, Roku Premiere, Roku Ultra, Roku 2, Roku 3|
|Gaming consoles||Yes||PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S|
|LG Smart TVs||Yes||Select 2018 models and later|
|Samsung Smart TVs||Yes||Select 2018 models and later|
|Vizio Smart TVs||Yes||Select 2016 models and later|
|Sony Smart TVs||Yes||Select 2018 models and later|
Review Summary: is Apple TV+ Worth it?
It does seem like everyone is trying to get in on the streaming service action these days, so in some ways it’s surprising it’s taken Apple this long to properly jump in. True to Apple style, Apple TV+ focuses on a small range of high-quality, attention-grabbing titles rather than a vast library of whatever was available, and it remains to be seen how the public will warm to the idea of an originals-only streaming service that deliberately discourages binge-watching behaviour.The price is right, though, especially if you qualify for the extra-bargain price of free, and Apple has certainly put a huge amount of money into developing content not just for launch, but well beyond. In a few years’ time it might well be the next HBO, but for now, it’s yet another option is a crowded streaming market. But it’s a very Apple option.