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Apple has just rounded off a feature-length presentation to introduce the world to its expanding range of digital services. We all expected a star-studded few hours of glamor to promote Apple’s upcoming original TV content – more on that later – but less expected were the suite of surprise announcements for three new services covering the disparate worlds of journalism, gaming, and finance. Is there any field Apple won’t tackle?
There’s a lot to dissect here, and we’ll have a more detailed analysis of each announcement in due course. For now, though, sink your teeth into this recap of all the most important parts of today’s special event.
Apple left its TV dealings until last for effect, but they’re clearly the biggest announcements of the event and so we’ll lead with them here.
The big news, of course, is that Apple has officially announced seven of the core shows that its reported $1bn investment has yielded. Toward the end of the presentation, a range of surprise guests comprising famous actors and directors took to the stage to wax lyrical about their new Apple-funded TV projects.
We saw Steven Spielberg explain the influences behind his reboot of the anthology series Amazing Stories; we saw Kumail Nanjiani talk up yet another anthology series, this time inspired by the everyday lives of immigrants around the United States; we saw Oprah Winfrey give an impassioned speech that had Tim Cook wiping a tear from his eye. We’ve not even mentioned Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Jason Momoa, JJ Abrams, or, uh, Big Bird yet. Those names and many more will be hitting our screens later this year as part of something called Apple TV+.
Let’s rewind a step. What exactly is Apple TV+?
Well, the plus part is the name given to all the original content Apple is producing for its existing TV app. We know that it will go live this Fall, and we know that access will be charged at a monthly rate, just like Apple Music. What we still don’t know is exactly how much it will cost, but our best guess would be $9.99/month.
However, Apple’s TV ambitions aren’t just in original programming. It also showcased some changes to its existing TV app, a content aggregator that keeps track of your viewing across multiple services and platforms.
Apple, it seems, wants to be the new cable for cord-cutters, and as such is expanding the TV app to integrate content from other networks into a service called – wait for it – Apple TV channels. It will charge individual subscription fees for these channels in a system that promotes paying only for what you want, as opposed to the old cable system of buying a massive bundle of channels that you’ll probably never watch. Some of the biggest partners so far include HBO, Showtime, and Starz, each of which will offer its content as an in-app purchase.
Now, says Apple, you’ll be able to get everything you want all in one app, on demand and ad-free. All content is available to download so you can watch offline, and a single subscription can cover everyone in your home with Family Sharing.
Lastly, the Apple TV app is now available on non-Apple devices for the first time, and in over 100 countries. Smart TVs and streaming sticks will have access to Apple TV channels, and to TV+ when it launches later this year. It seems Apple doesn’t want to limit its user base for these new services.
As expected, Apple’s existing News app also gets a boost with a new subscription service. Apple is finally replacing the Newsstand feature it unceremoniously killed off a few years ago with a new and better newsstand called News+.
This new service brings magazines to the News app in a big way. Instead of subscribing individually to each publication’s app, one single subscription – priced, like Apple Music, at $9.99/month – will give unlimited access to over 300 magazines. Entertainment, fashion, politics, health, travel, food, cars. Apple says that “just about every passion under the sun” is covered here.
The mobile-friendly adaptive magazine layouts looked beautiful in the on-stage demos, with a few added features like “Live Covers” that would never be possible in print format. Lots of big names from the world of news are here, including the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal, plus access to premium content from online-only publications including Vulture and TechCrunch.
News+ is available immediately to users in the US and Canada, with the first month free. Australia and the UK will get a hold of the service later this year, while those in the rest of the world may have to wait a little longer to try out Apple’s magazine subscription.
What’s this? Another monthly subscription? Apple is clearly looking for alternative revenue streams now that iPhone sales have plateaued.
Apple has partnered with a range of developers in secret, and later this year it will add a new tab to the App Store, titled Arcade. This tab will house a suite of over 100 games that paying subscribers can play as much as they like. The games are all-new and exclusive to the Apple Arcade, meaning this won’t be a rehash of old experiences you’ve seen on other platforms, but a chance for new games to flourish.
It’s exciting to see Apple investing heavily in indie developers, allowing them the freedom to make gaming experiences which may be too risky to pull off without backing. There’s no word on cost yet, but the demo reel Apple flourished on stage looks impressive, and we’re told these will all be premium games with no additional purchases and no ads.
Finally, to build on the success of the Apple Pay platform, Apple has decided to release its own credit card.
The card is designed to “change the entire credit card experience.” Apparently, that means it will have a simple application process, low interest rates, clear reward programs, and it will maintain privacy and security as top priorities.
You can use the card almost immediately after applying through the Wallet app, with a beautifully designed titanium card arriving later for use in those few places that still don’t accept Apple Pay. The app will automatically track your spending, there’s instant daily cashback of up to 3% every time you spend, there are no fees or penalty rates, and it’s designed to be much more secure than a regular credit card. Sounds good.
Apple partnered with Goldman Sachs and MasterCard to create this new project, which it calls – you guessed it – Apple Card. It’s coming to the US this Summer, but unfortunately there was no mention of a timeframe for the rest of the world.
So there we have it, four new services: TV+, News+, Arcade, and Card. Three new things to spend your money on, and one new way to spend it. It looks like all-you-can-eat content subscriptions really are the future!
We’ll have more detail on each of these services over the next few days, including the lowdown on all the flagship shows headed to Apple TV+ later this year. Stay tuned.