Hi there! With the rise of streaming, it can get confusing figuring out all the different services and options out there. Apple in particular has used similar branding across multiple products, so it‘s understandable if you‘re unclear on the differences between Apple TV and Apple TV+. Don‘t worry, I‘m here to break it all down for you so you can decide if either is right for your needs.
First, let‘s quickly summarize what each service is at a high level:
Apple TV – This is an on-demand "store" for purchasing/renting TV shows, movies etc. It‘s an app and platform, not a standalone subscription.
Apple TV+ – A subscription streaming service with exclusive original content, similar to Netflix. It costs $6.99/month.
Seem simple enough? Well, Apple also has a streaming device called the Apple TV box which complicates things! Let‘s take a deeper look at each service and product to understand the key differences.
Demystifying Apple TV
Apple TV is an application and digital media store, not a physical product. It allows you to browse, purchase or rent TV shows, movies, and more that you can then watch on demand.
Content available on the Apple TV store includes:
- New release movies to purchase/rent
- Catalog of tens of thousands of older movies
- Current TV shows from many networks
- Ad-free kids programming
- Premium channel add-ons like HBO, Showtime, etc.
In 2021 alone, Apple TV facilitated over 1 billion transactions for video content according to Apple. So it remains a popular destination for accessing a huge range of content.
The Apple TV app comes pre-installed on all Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads, and Macs. You can also access Apple TV on smart TVs, streaming devices like Roku and Fire TV, game consoles, and more. Basically, Apple TV strives to be everywhere.
But how did Apple TV come to exist and what need does it serve customers exactly?
A Brief History of Apple TV
While the Apple TV app launched in 2016, the origins go back much further. In fact, Apple has been in the video sales and rental business since 2005 when it started selling select TV shows on iTunes.
Over the years, the iTunes store rapidly expanded into offering movie purchases, rentals, TV season passes, and more. By the 2010s, iTunes was handling billions in annual transactions for video content as streaming started to rise.
But iTunes was primarily seen as a music app/service. As Apple strategically pivoted to emphasize original video content and subscriptions, they wanted a dedicated app just for video.
In 2016, Apple spun the video collection off from iTunes into the Apple TV app. This provided a singular destination for finding, watching, and purchasing video entertainment. No more wading through iTunes!
Apple TV also gave Apple a platform to launch across smart TVs and other devices beyond just their own hardware. This expanded their potential reach dramatically and kept them competitive.
While not quite as robust for catalog content as say, Amazon Prime Video, the Apple TV marketplace still provides an important way for Apple customers to access and own a massive range of new release movies, popular TV shows, and more.
Now let‘s explore Apple‘s popular streaming service.
Examining Apple TV+
Apple TV+ takes Apple‘s video efforts in an entirely new direction by providing a subscription streaming service full of exclusive original programming.
For $6.99/month (or just $54.99 if paying annually), you get unlimited access to Apple TV+‘s content library and new releases. This moves them firmly into "Netflix" territory after years of simply selling third-party content.
Apple TV+ launched in November 2019 to much fanfare but initially failed to gain traction with consumers. Early criticism centered on the lack of content compared to established streamers who had massive libraries built up over years.
But Apple has invested heavily in Apple TV+ and gradually expanded its content catalog with award-winning original shows and movies.
Some highlights of the Apple TV+ content library include:
Ted Lasso – The hit comedy series starring Jason Sudeikis that has won 7 Primetime Emmy Awards.
Severance – A sci-fi thriller series that was one of the top rated shows of 2022.
CODA – The feel-good drama film that won Best Picture at the 2022 Academy Awards.
Mythic Quest – A comedy series set at a video game studio starring Rob McElhenney.
Trying – A British comedy series about a couple attempting to adopt a child.
Prehistoric Planet – A documentary series using stunning CGI to transport viewers back in time with dinosaurs.
As of January 2023, Apple TV+ has an estimated 40 million global subscribers according to Ampere Analysis, a research firm. While dwarfed by Netflix, this is impressive growth in just over 3 years time.
Key to Apple TV+‘s strategy is pricing it lower than competitors like Netflix while spending big on marquee, award-baiting content. It seems to be working – Apple TV+ shows and movies racked up over 240 nominations and 60 wins across various awards shows in 2022.
Get Apple TV+ for Free!
One great perk of Apple TV+ is the generous free trials Apple makes available. When you purchase a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, or Mac, you typically get 3 months of Apple TV+ for free.
Apple has even partnered with companies like Target to provide free Apple TV+ subscriptions when buying certain products. And if you opt for an Apple One subscription bundle, Apple TV+ is included in the price.
So between free trials and bundle deals, you may be able to watch Apple TV+ for quite a while without paying! Just remember to cancel before getting charged if you don‘t want to continue the subscription.
Decoding the Apple TV Box
Finally, let‘s cover the physical streaming device called the Apple TV box (not to be confused with the Apple TV app).
The Apple TV box has been around since 2007 and is essentially Apple‘s version of products like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, etc. It connects to your TV and lets you stream content from various apps and services.
Here are some key facts on the Apple TV box:
Comes in HD or 4K HDR models, priced from $129-$199.
Runs the tvOS platform and Apple TV app store. Gives access to Apple TV, Netflix, Hulu, etc.
Newest model has the A15 Bionic chip for snappy performance and supports HDR10/Dolby Vision.
Siri remote makes it easy to launch apps, search titles, and control playback with your voice.
Can "airplay" photos, music, and video from iPhone/iPad right to your TV.
For iPhone/iPad owners invested in the Apple ecosystem, the Apple TV box provides seamless integration and an overall great streaming box. But it‘s not essential to access the Apple TV app and services which are available on many platforms.
Apple TV vs. Apple TV+: Key Differences
Now that we‘ve explored Apple TV and Apple TV+ in-depth, let‘s summarize some of the key differences:
Apple TV is an on-demand store for purchasing/renting video content. Apple TV+ is a subscription service for original programming.
The Apple TV app provides access to tens of thousands of movies and shows to own or rent. Apple TV+ has a smaller library of exclusive originals.
Apple TV works like Amazon Prime Video, allowing a la carte purchases and rentals. Apple TV+ is a monthly subscription like Netflix.
Apple TV can be accessed on many devices, including non-Apple products. But Apple TV+ is focused on Apple‘s ecosystem.
Using the Apple TV app does not require a paid subscription. You only pay per title. Apple TV+ requires a $6.99 monthly fee.
The Apple TV box is a standalone streaming device, not a service. It lets you watch content from Apple TV, Netflix, Disney+, etc on your TV.
Hope this clears up any confusion between the Apple video services! Let‘s recap when you might consider using each one.
Which Service is Right for You?
If you want to buy or rent specific movies/shows a la carte, the Apple TV app gives you an enormous catalog of content, both new and old, usually at reasonable prices. Great for cherry picking titles.
If you love Apple‘s original shows and movies, then Apple TV+ is fantastic value at just $6.99 a month. Exclusives like Ted Lasso make it enticing for Apple fans.
If you want a solid, feature-rich streaming box, the Apple TV 4K is an excellent choice, especially for those invested in Apple‘s ecosystem. It brings Apple‘s services right to your television.
You may even find value in having access to both Apple TV and Apple TV+ depending on your preferences as a viewer. And don‘t forget to take advantage of the many free trial offers for Apple TV+!
I hope this guide has unravelled all the confusion between Apple TV vs. Apple TV+. Let me know if you have any other questions!