With more of us choosing (or being forced) to spend quality time indoors, streaming services are taking centre stage in our lives and our living rooms. Unsurprisingly, Apple is aiming to grab as big a piece of the streaming pie as it possibly can – and it's doing so with its own app, Apple TV.
The Apple TV app is essentially an all-inclusive video hub where you can rent or buy movies from the iTunes Store, subscribe to premium Apple TV Channels, and access Apple TV+, the tech giant's Netflix-style streaming service populated with Apple Originals.
Read on as we demystify the Apple TV app...
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What is the Apple TV app?
Apple launched the Apple TV app in the States in 2016 and rolled it out around the world the following year (see Apple TV app availability (opens in new tab) here). The app was originally called Videos and contained five sections: Watch Now, Sports, Library, Store and Search.
Fast forward to today and Apple TV has exploded into a one-stop streaming shop bursting with both free and paid-for TV programmes and movies. For most, Apple TV's appeal lies in its slick user experience and focus on high-quality, well-curated content.
Apple TV store
The best thing about Apple TV? Its library of film and TV show rentals, which includes the biggest selection of 4K HDR movies – most of which are in Dolby Vision – you'll find anywhere. If you want to watch a brand-new movie in the best possible quality (other than via a disc, of course), then the Apple TV app offers just that.
The Apple TV app has plenty of other strings to its bow, too. It houses Apple TV+, the tech giant's answer to streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video. Subscribe to Apple TV+ and you'll be treated to a host of Apple Original TV shows and exclusive movies – some better than others, it has to be said.
Apple TV Channels
The app also houses Apple TV Channels, a series of third-party, on-demand channels you can watch online or off. The idea is that you can subscribe to the likes of Showtime ($10.99 per month) or History Play (£3.99 per month) at the touch of a button (billing is handled through Apple itself). It's convenient, but the selection of channels is currently pretty limited – there's no Netflix, Hulu or HBO Max, for example.
Finally, in its quest to deliver "all your TV in one place", the Apple TV app recommends shows you might like based on your past viewing habits. This discovery feature highlights content from major streaming platforms such as BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video in the UK and Hulu and HBO in the US.
So, how does one access this feast of entertainment? The good news is that, while the Apple TV app was originally locked to Apple devices such as iPhones, iPads and Apple TV streaming boxes, it's been steadily rolling out to other brands and more devices such as smart TVs and streaming sticks...
Which iOS devices support the Apple TV app?
Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
Download the Apple TV app from the App Store and you're good to go. Alternatively, download and install the latest version of iOS on your device and the Apple TV app should appear on your device's home screen.
The Apple TV app finally appeared on Macs in 2019 with the arrival of macOS Catalina. Download and install Catalina and search for the "Apple TV app".
Apple TV 4K
Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD (4th gen) – the video streamers that are also, somewhat confusing, known as "Apple TV" – offer the Apple TV app. The 2012-launched Apple TV (3rd gen) now supports the Apple TV app, but the 1st and 2nd generation Apple TV boxes don't. Here's a guide (opens in new tab) to identifying your Apple TV model.
Which TVs support the Apple TV app?
Samsung offers a bite of Apple TV on all its 2019 and 2020 smart TVs, including its Q-series 4K and 8K QLED panels. The company's 2018 4K QLEDs, 4K LCDs (series 6, 7 and 8) and HD LCDs (series 4 and 5) also support Apple TV.
LG's premium OLED and NanoCell TVs support the Apple TV app – and not just the 2020 OLED models, but some 2019 models too – OLEDs, NanoCell SM85 series and above, and NanoCell SM83 series and below. Owners of compatible TVs should see the Apple TV app in the strip of video apps on the home screen.
The Apple TV app is now available on Sony smart TVs. The TV app has begun rolling out across Europe, initially on Sony’s XH90 series via a software update. Sony says Apple TV is headed to "select" 2018 TV models (AF9, ZF9) and "most" 2019 (XG85, XG87, XG95, AG9, ZG9) and 2020 (XH80, XH81, XH85, XH91, XH90, XH92, XH95, A8, A9, ZH8) sets by the end of the year.
- You can find full list of devices that support the Apple TV app (opens in new tab) here.
What other devices support the Apple TV app?
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon offers the Apple TV app on the Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Stick (2nd gen, Basic Edition), Fire TV and Fire TV Cube (1st and 2nd gen). The Apple TV app is also available on the Toshiba Fire TV Edition and Insignia Fire TV Edition.
It's rumoured that Microsoft is in talks to bring the Apple TV app to the Xbox games consoles. The tech titans could announced the tie-up as soon as the launch of the next-gen Xbox Series X and S on November 10th.
Is there any free content on the Apple TV app?
Yes, there are plenty of free episodes to enjoy, including Apple Original shows, documentaries and kids programming.
Like the premise of a global space race that never ended? The first two episodes of epic intergalactic drama For All Mankind are currently free to watch. Prefer reality TV? Check out series five of the wilderness survival challenge, Alone: Artic. There's plenty more where that came from – simply scoot over to the app's "Watch Now for Free" section. Happy viewing!
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