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Apple TV+ Review 2020: Price, Features, and More

Apple TV+ is still trying to prove itself as an on-demand streaming service. But if you can get it for free, we say try it out.

Good for Apple fans

Price: $4.99/mo.

Editorial star rating: 3.93/5.00

What is Apple TV+?

Apple TV+ is an on-demand streaming TV service, with a that’s-so-Apple twist: its content is all new and all original. Unlike Netflix or Hulu, there’s no familiar shows or movies from other sources, just a handful of glossy in-house creations that Apple has spent millions on in hopes subscribers will bite.

In other words, proprietary content available only through Apple. It doesn’t get any more on-brand than that.

Bottom line: Is Apple TV+ good?

As with all things Apple, the presentation is gorgeous; the truckloads of cash laid out to launch Apple TV+ is on full display. Even better, Apple TV+ will run on devices that aren’t iOS (but it works best Apple-to-Apple, of course, as anyone who’s ever installed iTunes on a PC can attest).

But Apple TV+ only has eight original shows and one documentary at the moment—Netflix released that much programming in the time it took you to read the previous paragraph. Some of the weekly-released series have positive early buzz (like The Morning Show and Dickinson); others, not so much (like Jason Momoa’s See).

At $4.99 a month, you’re signing up for a couple of cool originals and a whole lotta “Coming Soon!” promises. Apple TV+ has serious streaming potential, especially for 4K fans, but right now there’s not much there there.

Apple TV+ free trials and deals

Looking to purchase some shiny new silver-and-white hardware? Of course you are. Buy a new iPhone, MacBook, iPad, or Apple TV, and Apple will throw in a year of Apple TV+ for free.

There’s also the streaming-standard seven-day free trial to try out Apple TV+. A week seems to be the trial-period sweet spot; PlayStation Vue only allowed five days and look what happened there.

Apple TV+ vs. the competition

Swipe Left to See All →
Apple TV+NetflixHuluPrime VideoDisney+
Price$4.99/mo.$8.99–$15.99/mo.$5.99–$11.99/mo.$12.99/mo.$6.99/mo.
Multiple streams61–4134
Compatible devices1120+20+1612
View PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView Plans

Data effective as of 12/20/19. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Like Disney+, Apple TV+ is fairly new and not yet available on as many devices as the on-demand competition. Note the multiple streams, though: few services give away six with a basic plan, certainly not at this price.

Apple TV+ plans and pricing

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PriceLive channelsCloud DVRStreams
Apple TV+$4.99NoneNone6

Data effective as of 12/20/19. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

No analysis paralysis here: Apple TV+ only offers one plan. At $4.99 a month, it won’t put much of a strain on your streaming budget (yes, a “streaming budget” is a thing in 2019). The only other streaming service out there at such a low price point is ESPN+, which offers more content, but doesn’t have Oprah’s Book Club. Consider that, champ.

Apple TV+ live channels

Apple TV+ isn’t a livestreaming TV service like Sling TV or YouTube TV; it’s an on-demand model more in-line with Netflix and Hulu.

Live sports

Apple TV+ isn’t expected to get into the livestreaming sports game, either, though it would be a smart move if it has any money left over from all of those original TV projects (it’s Apple; assume the money is there). You’ll have to get your sports from another streamer, like fuboTV or ESPN+.

Local channels

Even less likely to be found on Apple TV+ are local channels—again, it’s an on-demand model, not a livestreaming platform. If you want local channels, try Sling TV or Hulu + Live TV, or even just some good ole rabbit ears.

Go old school: Need your weekly fix of The Good Place? Can’t miss a minute of The Masked Singer? Want ‘em for free? Get yourself a classic piece of TV hardware known as an antenna—they’re still a thing, and HD broadcast signals look sharp. At CableTV.com, our Amazon favorite is the Mohu ReLeaf.

Premium channels

Apple TV+ is the premium channel here—you’d have to add others separately.

You can assemble subscriptions to services like HBO NOW, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video (but, conspicuously, not Netflix) through the Apple TV app—which is not Apple TV+. Confused? We feel you.

Apple TV+ original shows and movies

On-demand shows and movies

Right about here is where we usually tell you about a streaming service’s non-native programming, like acquired TV shows and movies produced by outside sources. Netflix has The Office and Friends (for now), Hulu streams Rick & Morty and Grey’s Anatomy, and Amazon Prime Video carries American Horror Story and The Americans—all created elsewhere.

Apple TV+ doesn’t play like that. It relies entirely on in-house original productions (more on those coming up). Meaning, Apple TV+ won’t be your go-to for your favorite movies and TV shows; you’d have to buy those through the app formerly known as iTunes (RIP).

The plus-sized amount of money Apple TV+ has saved on licensing fees for outside content has been poured into its own productions, obviously, but it’s a big gamble. If Apple TV+’s original shows flop with subscribers, will Big Bang Theory reruns and Marvel movies show up overnight? Stay tuned.

Original shows and movies

Apple TV+ is attempting to do what no other streaming service has done before: launch with all-original, never-before-seen programming. Apple TV+ has invested big bucks in nuclear-grade star power to make it happen—you don’t lure Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carrell back to TV with free EarPods.

Apple TV+ originals:

  • The Morning Show
  • For All Mankind
  • Dickinson
  • See
  • Servant
  • The Elephant Queen
  • Ghostwriter
  • Snoopy in Space
  • Helpsters
  • Truth Be Told
  • Hala

The Morning Show, the most buzzed-about Apple TV+ original features TV-stars-turned-expensive-film-actors Aniston and Carrell, as well as eternal movie star Reese Witherspoon. It’s a #MeToo-inflected (and now Golden Globe-nominated) workplace drama about the politics of morning news TV—think HBO’s occasionally overacted and preachy The Newsroom but, you know, earlier in the day.

In For All Mankind, creator/writer Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) presents an alternate history wherein the international space race never ended. FAM has already raised eyebrows with this space-lore revision: the Soviet Union made it to the moon before the USA. (Please direct your moon-landing conspiracies to another forum.)

Post-apocalyptic thriller See takes place in a future where a mysterious virus has wiped out all but a handful of the Earth’s population and those who survived are now blind—except for a tribal leader’s (Jason Momoa) newborn twins. After a lackluster debut, critics and civilians alike have expressed their desire to see less of See.

Hailee Steinfeld, on the other hand, has helped elevate quasi-historical dramedy Dickinson (about the young life of poet Emily Dickinson) into an early hit with subscribers. If you’re a fan of fizzy YA camp à la The CW, Dickinson is the Apple TV+ original to check out.

M. Night Shyamalan’s first feature series for Apple TV+, Servant, is a babysitter thriller with a twist that’s bizarre even by his standards. The trailer spoiled one creepy curveball; we won’t—except to say, yikes!

Apple TV+ also has a handful of children’s programs, like Ghostwriter and Helpsters, as well as original documentary The Elephant Queen. This early in the game, the service’s programming slate is sparse—at least, unlike with Netflix, there’s no chance you’ll fall behind on new originals (yet).

Another major difference between Netflix and Apple TV+: where Netflix drops an entire season of episodes at once, Apple TV+ uses the week-by-week model of regular TV. If you prefer to binge-watch, you’ll have to wait a few weeks (and subscribe a little longer, of course).

Combine Apple TV+ with another streaming service

As good as some of its shows are, you’re probably not going to get all the entertainment you want from Apple TV+. Pair it up with another streaming service (or two), and you’ll still probably pay way less than you would on a cable bill.

Swipe Left to See All →
fuboTV
$54.99–$74.99/mo.
Sling TV
$25–$40/mo.
Netflix
$8.99–$15.99/mo.
Soccer, niche sports, and livestreaming TV channels Apple TV+ doesn’t have.Livestreaming entertainment, lifestyle, and sports TV channels on a budget.Netflix originals plus thousands of popular on-demand TV shows and movies.
View plansView plansView plans

Apple TV+ specs and features

As you’d expect from an Apple product, Apple TV+ over-delivers on the technical side. Its video and audio performance blow away those of most other streaming services, and has drawn rave reviews in particular for its 4K stream quality. The substance may be meh, but the style is primo.

Cloud DVR

Apple TV+ is strictly on demand, so there’s no cloud DVR for recording live programming. Sorry, iCloud DVR—let’s not get our Apple terminology twisted.

Multiple streams

Swipe Left to See All →
Apple TV+NetflixHuluPrime VideoDisney+
Price$4.99/mo.$8.99–$15.99/mo.$5.99–$11.99/mo.$12.99/mo.$6.99/mo.
Streams61–4134
UpgradesNoneNoneUnlimited streams ($9.99/mo.)NoneNone

Six simultaneous streams and you can download shows for offline viewing—Apple TV+ is sticking it to the other streamers right out of the gate. We’ll see if that generosity continues when there are more than a half-dozen Apple TV+ series worth watching (ouch).

Compatible devices

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DeviceApple TV+NetflixHuluPrime VideoDisney+
AirTV Player
Amazon Fire TV Cube
Amazon Fire TV Stick
Android phones and tablets
Android TV
Apple TV (4th gen)
Apple TV 4K
Google Chromecast
Echo Show
iPhone and iPad
LG TVs
Nintendo Switch
NVIDIA SHIELD
PC and Mac Web browsers
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4
Roku
Roku Express
Samsung TVs
Wii
Xbox 360
Xbox One

FYI, there’s no stand-alone Apple TV+ app: it’s part of the catch-all Apple TV app, minus the plus. It’s convenient to have all of your purchased-through-Apple movies, shows, and newly launched on-demand service all in one place, even if you have to say “Apple” and “app” together.

If Apple TV+ is going to overcome the misconception that it only works with Apple devices, it’ll probably have to make itself available on, well, more non-Apple devices. Maybe even some (gasp) Android gadgets. Yeah, we don’t see that happening, either.

Video and audio quality

We can’t emphasize this enough: Apple TV+’s content looks stunning, even if you don’t have a 4K-capable television. Even Snoopy in Space is pristine, and it’s a flat cartoon.

When it comes to menus and navigation, though, Apple TV+ looks like any other service—we expected more interface magic from an Apple product, but it works. For streaming reference, Apple TV+’s navigation is similar to that of Amazon’s Prime Video, just with a thousand less titles to sift through.

Have we mentioned that Apple TV+ currently has less than 10 shows? Browsing should probably be a bit easier.

At least that handful of shows will sound as good as they look: Apple TV+ content blasts in ultra-cinematic Dolby Atmos, if your system can handle it. Otherwise, standard stereo.

We’re not Apple purists here, but Apple TV+ is best experienced with an Apple TV 4K and a top-flight sound system. Go big or go to a friend’s Apple-fied home.

Apple TV+ update 1/28/2020

Although Apple TV+ doesn’t have as many original shows and movies as Netflix or Hulu, you might say that “slow and low that is the tempo” for the streaming service. Apple TV+ is set to release Beastie Boys Story on April 24, 2020 (“yes, yes, y’all, and you don’t stop”). It’s exclusive to Apple TV+ and directed by Spike Jonze of “Sabotage” video fame.

Final take: Is Apple TV+ worth it?

It seems like Apple built a killer streaming TV delivery system first, and then realized “Uh, we don’t have any shows—somebody call Hollywood!” There’s plenty of hype behind Apple TV+, but not many compelling reasons to pay up after the free trial period is over, even at five bucks.

Essentially, Apple brought a cool-looking pocket knife to the Streaming Wars. We say check it out, but don’t bother to check back in until Apple TV+ fortifies its content arsenal.

Pros

  • Low price
  • Brilliant 4K resolution
  • 6 simultaneous streams

Cons

  • Limited content
  • Limited device compatibility
  • Wonky navigation

Apple TV+ FAQ

Do you need an Apple streaming device to watch Apple TV+?

Apple TV+ works on several non-Apple devices, including Roku and Amazon Fire TV. It’s optimized for the Apple platform, though.

What channels are on Apple TV+?

Apple TV+ isn’t a livestreaming TV service that carries channels; it’s an on-demand streamer like Netflix or Prime Video. Also, unlike those services, it carries only new, original content, and no previously released shows or movies from regular cable or broadcast TV.

What’s the difference between Apple TV and Apple TV+?

Apple TV is the app you’ll find in your device’s app store; it curates all of your Apple content, like movies, premium channels, and now Apple TV+. There’s no stand-alone Apple TV+ app.

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