Apple has joined the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and HBO Max with its own exclusive streaming service, Apple TV+. The new service, which launched on November 1 last year, features a wide assortment of TV shows funded by Apple’s mountainous cash pile, and the Cupertino company is sparing no expense in its attempt to lure viewers with some of the best-known actors, writers, and directors.
Below, you’ll find a compendium of everything we know about the ambitious service, and we’ll keep it updated as we encounter credible rumors and get news from Apple itself.
Updated 08/17/20: Added information about the new CBS All Access + Showtime bundle.
How do I access Apple TV+?
You can sign up and watch Apple TV+ content through Apple’s TV app, which is available on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and the Mac—in addition to some supported third-party smart TVs, Roku, and Fire TV devices. You can also watch Apple TV+ on a browser at tv.apple.com.
The experience of the TV app, though, varies from device to device. On a Roku TV or in a browser, you’ll only see Apple’s own content. As we’ll see, there’s not a lot there at the moment.
On an iOS device, a Mac, or the Apple TV, though, you’ll also see shows from other streaming services like HBO, Hulu or Amazon Prime thanks to the TV app’s Channels feature. (Unfortunately, Netflix chose not to join the party.) It makes it easier to see all your favorite streaming content in one interface, and for Apple, it has the advantage of making its library look more robust than it actually is.
Can I watch Apple TV+ shows on non-Apple devices?
Fortunately, yes. In some cases, anyway. You can watch Apple TV+ through the TV app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and the Mac, but you can also use the TV app on Amazon Fire TV and Roku along with some new sets from Samsung, Roku, LG, Vizio, and Sony. If you have a new set from Samsung, LG, Sony, or Vizio, you should also be able to use AirPlay 2 to broadcast content straight from your iPhone or iPad to the set.
You can watch in Safari, Chrome, or Firefox by heading to tv.apple.com.
How much does Apple TV+ cost?
Apple TV+ costs only $4.99 per month, and that includes Family Sharing. You can renew your subscription for one year for $49.99.
What’s more, customers who buy an Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, or Mac will get one year of Apple TV+ for free, although this is only for a “limited time.” (See the next section for more information.)
You also don’t have to pay anything for Apple TV+ if you’re on the student plan for Apple Music, which costs $4.99 per month. This will only be available for a limited time, though.
Does Apple TV+ have a free trial?
Yes, but it only lasts for seven days.
For a limited time, you can also get a one-year free trial if you bought a new iPhone, iPod touch, Apple TV, or Mac from Apple or an authorized Apple reseller after September 10, 2019. (In some cases, Apple device owners got an invitation even though they hadn’t bought a new Apple device in that time frame.) You only have 90 days to activate the trial after the date of purchase, but Apple will send a notification and reminder email as the deadline approaches.
Keep in mind, though, that cancelling the free trial also cancels the service, so you can’t cancel immediately and then expect to watch Apple TV+ for free for a year.
Does Apple bundle Apple TV+ with other services (like Apple Music)?
Yes, in a very limited fashion. Apple will bundle Apple TV+ for a limited time with the student plan for Apple Music, which currently costs $4.99 per month.
For non-students, Apple provides a free year of Apple TV+ with any purchase of an Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, or Mac—which makes this more of a hardware bundle than the Apple service bundle some might imagine.
No. While watching an Apple TV+ show, though, you will occasionally see a trailer for another Apple TV+ show before an episode begins. (Amazon Prime and HBO employ a similar approach.)
How many shows are available?
Apple is at a disadvantage compared to Disney+ and existing services like Netflix and Amazon Prime because it’s essentially starting from scratch. Fortunately, Apple has a diverse lineup of shows ranging from science fiction and “real-life” dramas to documentaries.
There were only seven shows available when Apple TV+ launched on November 1, 2019. As of January 22, 2020, that number had gone up to 13. We maintain a list of every Apple TV+ show we know about, and you should check that out for a better look at what Apple has up its sleeve.
Does Apple release episodes once a week or drop entire seasons at once?
Apple’s approach varies. With some shows—like The Morning Show or See—Apple launches with three episodes at once and then drops new episodes in the series once a week, typically on Friday mornings. Hulu uses a similar approach: Three episodes are enough to get you hooked, but you still have something to look forward to once you’ve finished them.
In other cases, Apple follows the Netflix approach and releases entire seasons at once. So far it’s mainly done with this with the kids’ shows like Snoopy in Space and Ghostwriter, but it also went this route with Little America, its anthology series centered on immigrants in the United States.
Can I download shows for offline viewing?
Yes, but with a couple of caveats. Apple appears to place no limits on downloads of the same content across iPhones, iPads, and Macs owned by the same account. For example, we downloaded the same episode of Servant on all three of these devices through the TV app with no trouble.
But that’s where the freedom ends. Apple doesn’t allow you to download Apple TV+ content on the Apple TV, nor does it allow for it on other streaming devices, smart TVs, or when watching shows on a browser.
Shows you download to your iPhone, iPad, or Mac will be available for 30 days, after which your devices will automatically uninstall them. You can also manually delete them through the TV app.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to change the image quality of the downloads, which can be a pain since some episodes can take up more than 3GB of space.
Does Apple TV+ allow simultaneous streaming?
Apple TV+ allows for six simultaneous streams at once, which is more than you’ll get from any other on-demand streaming service on the market. Disney+, for comparison, only allows four simultaneous streams.
Multiple family members with Family Sharing can all stream their own content at once.
How do I change the streaming quality so I don’t burn through my data?
A single episode of an Apple TV+ show like See can use over 2GB of your mobile data. You can prevent Apple’s service from hogging so much data on your iPhone or iPad by going to Settings > TV > iTunes Videos, pressing Wi-Fi or Mobile Data, and then changing the quality setting from “Best Available” to “Good.”
Can you use Family Sharing with Apple TV+?
Yes. Just as with Apple Arcade, a single Apple TV+ subscription can be shared with up to five additional family members.
Each family member has their own watch history and recommendations—it’s as if they had their own individual subscription.
Are all Apple TV+ shows available in 4K?
Yes. Early on, Apple announced that all shows would be available in 4K HDR/Dolby Vision and that “most” shows would have Dolby Atmos sound, but it didn’t say just how good it would be. According to FlatplanelsHD’s Rasmus Larsen, Apple TV+ offers the best 4K streaming quality of any service on the market at the moment. It’s so good, in fact, that the 4K bitrates are better than what you’ll see in some iTunes movies.
When Larsen wrote his post in November of 2019, See had the highest bitrate of any Apple TV+ show, with an average bitrate of 29Mbps and a peak of 41Mbps. Snoopy in Space averaged 13Mbps, which is impressive for a cartoon. Netflix’s 4K bitrates, by comparison, tend to peak at 16Mbps.
Does Apple make movies in addition to TV shows?
Yes. One of the launch features was The Elephant Queen, a documentary film about an elephant matriarch and her family making their seasonal migration. Additional films include Hala, which launched in theaters on November 22 and in December for Apple TV+; and The Banker, which arrives in theaters on March 6 and on March 20 on Apple TV+. Many of Apple’s movies will see a similar limited theatrical release, as this is a requirement to qualify for certain prominent awards.
According to a June 2019 report from the New York Post, Apple wants to make six “small-budget” movies every year, and it wants these films to be so good that they’ll be nominated for Academy Awards.
Apple was reportedly inspired by the stunning success of Alfonso Cuarón’s 2018 monochrome drama Roma, which won 2019 Oscars for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best International Feature despite being made for Netflix. The company then started approaching “elevated” directors in the hopes of producing Oscar-worthy films of its own, each with a budget of around $5 million to $30 million.
These Apple-produced films would be in addition to the multiyear agreement Apple has with A24, the studio behind quirky, artsy flicks like The Lighthouse. The first film to come out of that agreement is On the Rocks, directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Bill Murray and Rashida Jones.
How much money is Apple spending on Apple TV+?
According to an August 2019 report from the Financial Times, Apple has expanded the budget for Apple TV+ to more than $6 billion. The service reportedly originally started with a budget of $1 billion for 2018 and $2 billion for 2019.
The same report claims that Apple is even spending huge amounts of cash for each episode of its most highly anticipated shows. The Morning Show, for instance, has apparently exceeded its $15 million-per-episode budget. For perspective, that’s more money per episode than HBO spent during the last season of Game of Thrones.
Apple’s budget still falls short of the whopping $15 billion that Netflix is on track to spend this year, but $6 billion is still a vast number for such a new and untried service.
According to NBC’s Dylan Byers, though, Apple is actually paying “significantly less than” $6 billion. Unfortunately, Byers didn’t elaborate.
I have written professionally about technology for my entire adult professional life - over 20 years. I like to figure out how complicated technology works and explain it in a way anyone can understand.