Apple has revealed to the world its brand new video streaming service in a star-studded event at its California headquarters early this morning.
If this isn’t the dawning of a new era for the tech giant, it’s certainly the start of a very important new chapter.
As media filed into the Steve Jobs theatre this morning, the excitement and intrigue was palpable. Sure, after spending more than $1.3 billion on producing original content in the past year or so, plenty of details had leaked out. But there was an understanding that this was different.
The company has only used the venue named after its famous co-founder twice since it opened two years ago. To debut the iPhone X, and when it launched the iPhone XS and latest version of Apple Watch.
This time Apple was swapping gadgets for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. In lieu of smartphones, we got celebrities.
But first there were plenty of new and improved Apple services to announce. Strolling onto the stage, Apple CEO Tim Cook launched straight into the importance of Apple’s services. “That is what today is all about,” he said.
Here’s everything you need to know.
APPLE NEWS +
Apple created its News App about three years ago, turning the tech giant into a curator of online news for those who use the iOS app.
The company is now taking that a big step further with a paid subscription called Apple News+ which includes a massive magazine and news subscription.
A year after acquiring Texture, an online service that gives users access to hundred of magazines, Apple is weaving it into its News app. It gives users cover-to-cover access of 300 magazine titles. They include the world’s biggest titles including Time, The Atlantic, Men’s Health, National Geographic, Esquire, The Hollywood Reporter, Wired, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Popular Science and Marie Claire.
“Apple News plus is the only place where you will find all these magazines in a single package,” Apple’s VP of applications Roger Rosner said.
The subscription will cost $9.99 a month in the US so Australian prices are probably going to be about $12 to $15 a month. But it comes with family sharing for free.
It is available today in the US and will be rolling out to Australia in the Spring. We will be among the first to get it, along with Canada and the UK.
It will also grant user access to online newspapers. While the likes of New York Times and Washington Post opted not to take part The Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal are on board with Apple News + making their content available which is otherwise behind a paywall.
For news junkies with an iPad, it’s easy to see how appealing this will be.
APPLE TV +
Apple is launching a content subscription service within a revamped TV app complete with original and exclusive movies and TV shows coming later this year.
To spruik the company’s push into original content, Oprah, Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carrell, the star of Aquaman Jason Momoa, comedian and writer Kumail Nanjiani and even Big Bird appeared on stage.
Aniston, Witherspoon and Carrell will feature in a comedy drama about a morning TV show coming exclusively to the app. “All of this has brought me back to television and I’m really excited about it,” Aniston told the audience.
Meanwhile Nanjiani is teaming up with his wife from The Big Sick to produce a show about immigrants coming to America called Little America.
“The opportunity to work with these artists is truly inspiring” Cook said.
The headline at of the service is Oprah, however. The TV icon got a standing ovations from some this morning.
Apple’s streaming service, “allows me to do what I do in a whole new way and take it to a new level,” Oprah told the audience.
“Because they’re in a billion pockets ya’ll,” she said. “A billions pockets.” And that represents a lot of opportunity for “compelling conversations.”
Oprah is working on two heavy-hitting documentaries for the service, one exploring sexual harassment and violence in the workplace and another which focuses on mental health and addiction.
“If we do our jobs right, we’re going to replace shame and stigma with wisdom compassion and honesty.”
Her Book Club is also coming to Apple, with Winfrey expected to interview authors for a new show.
Pricing and availability for the Apple TV+ video subscription service will be announced later this spring.
A NEW APPLE TV APP
Apple has revamped its TV app, bringing it closer to what it has wanted all along. The newly designed Apple TV platform will host Apple’s original and exclusive shows as well as integrating other streaming services into an easy-to-use ecosystem of content from news, sports and entertainment.
It has partnered with pay TV providers and streaming services to allow it to host streams within its app rather than kicking you out to third party apps like it has previously done. The idea is that it will be a simple portal to all your entertainment needs. However some major services like Netflix won’t be available.
“With so many choices sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, that’s why we created the Apple TV app,” Mr Cook said. It rolled out three years ago but has struggled to realised the vision Apple wanted for it — but this update brings it much closer. Apple has improved search functions and, in addition to personalisation, the company’s editors will highlight what they think are great shows.
“We designed a new TV experience where you can pay for only the channels you want, all in one app,” said Apple’s vice president of services Peter Stern.
“Watch everything on demand and ad free. Download your shows and take them on the go … This is how TV should work.”
Beginning in May, customers can subscribe to Apple TV channels à la carte and watch them in the Apple TV app, with no additional apps, accounts or passwords required. No more knocking about between different apps. Essentially, Apple wants to be like a Pay TV provider where you can sign up to streaming services and have them delivered in the one place.
Apple TV channels include popular services such as HBO, Showtime, and CBS All Access as well as new services like MTV Hits1, with more to be added over time around the world, Apple says.
But “network and streaming app availability vary by country,” an Apple spokesperson told news.com.au, so we won’t suddenly have access to channels like HBO that are regionally restricted. Apple says it will reveal more detail about local partners later this year.
The company is also bringing the Apple TV app to Mac and smart TVs. The tech giant recently announced an iTunes Movies and TV app for Samsung and it will soon roll out on LG, Sony, VIZIO and other smart TVs, as well as Amazon Fire and Roku devices which builds Telstra TV.
Apple is also set to launch a new gaming subscription platform called Apple Arcade sometime later this year.
It will live in the App Store with its own dedicated tab and let subscribers play games across all of their iOS and Mac devices.
Mostly targeted at kids and teens, the service will have more than 100 games that aren’t on any other platform or subscription service, said Ann Thai, senior product marketing manager of the App Store.
“This games are insanely fun and will appeal to the kid in all of us,” she said.
You will be able to play games on iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV and pick up where you left off when switching between devices. And the games will be available to be played offline.
Apple Arcade available later this year in 150 plus countries including Australia. Pricing details still to come.
AN APPLE CREDIT CARD
Apple is a moving further into the financial world with a digital credit card service. The Apple wallet is about to become a bit more like a real wallet with this. Of all the products announced this morning, this is the one that is truly original and has the potential to shake up the credit card industry.
“There’s some things about the credit card experience that can be so much better,” the Apple chief told the audience, a better interest rate being among them, he said.
The card is designed to giver you a “better understanding of your spending so you can make better choices with your money.”
It uses machine learning and Apple Maps to transform the mess of credit card statements into something that is easy to read. Users can track their spending via categories.
Apple Card has no late fees, no annual fees, no international fees and a low interest rate. It also gives users real cash back of 2 per cent of every purchase which goes directly into your account to be used however you want.
Goldman Sachs is the bank that stands behind the Apple Card and the tech giant has partnered with MasterCard to ensure it will be widely accepted in the United States.
Interestingly, the sales data won’t be sold to any advertisers or third party companies as Apple continues to be keen to place a premium on user privacy. Tim Cook called it “the most significant change to the credit card in years.”
At the moment it is only rolling out in the US. But if all goes well, Apple would like to spread its credit card idea into other markets.