Apple's TV app underwent a transformation in 2019 as the company rearranged how it presented TV across your devices and to offer a way to access the new subscription-based service Apple TV+.
We've delved a little deeper into the new app and the features it offers to help you get more from the new app.
What is Apple's TV app?
The TV app is meant to be your central hub for movie and TV show content. It shows content from iTunes, your library, connected streaming services, subscription Channels and Apple TV+.
In the US it's supported by services such as Hulu, Starz, HBO Now, or CBS, while in the UK streaming partners include Amazon Prime Video, ITV, BBC, Channel 5, and StarzPlay.
Previously on the iPhone and iPad the TV app was called the Videos app, but with the release of iOS 10.2 in 2016, it was changed to TV, with the purpose of helping you discover new stuff to watch on your iOS device.
The new updated version of the TV app is available from iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 on Apple devices, but has also been made available on some Samsung TVs, Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices, giving wider access to Apple's TV services than ever before.
How do you get Apple's new TV app?
Download and install the latest version of iOS on your device. Once the update concludes, search for the new TV app on your iPhone or iPad, if you don't already see it on your device's home screen. If you've been keeping up to date with your devices, you should already have it.
The Apple TV app arrives on the Mac with Catalina, the latest version of Mac OS. Update your computer and you should find the Apple TV app.
The Apple TV app works on Apple TV (4th Gen) or newer. If you bought the Apple TV at the end of 2015 or later you'll be fine. To ensure you have the app, download and install the latest version of tvOS on your Apple TV. Once the update concludes, search for the new TV app on your set-top box, if you don't see it on the Home screen.
Roku OS is supporting the Apple TV app and the software should update automatically, meaning you can then add Apple TV as an app on your Roku device.
Amazon Fire TV devices
Amazon is offering the Apple TV app on Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick 4K. Again, the software should update automatically giving you access to the Apple TV app.
The Apple TV app will be available on all 2019 Samsung smart TVs and select 2018 models.
Here is the full list of compatible Samsung televisions:
- Samsung FHD/HD 4, 5 Series (2018)
- Samsung QLED 4K Q6, Q7, Q8, Q9 Series (2018 & 2019)
- Samsung QLED 8K Q9 Series (2019)
- Samsung The Frame Series (2018 & 2019)
- Samsung The Serif Series (2019)
- Samsung UHD 6, 7, 8 Series (2018 & 2019)
How does Apple's new TV app work on iOS?
With the Apple TV app appearing on a range of devices, there's some difference between the app on Apple's own devices and on third-party devices. But here's how it works on iOS.
From the moment you launch the app on your iOS device (and pass the intro/welcome screen), you will be asked to sign in to your streaming app provider. At this point, you will sign in once and be able to access all supported apps like the BBC iPlayer app for example. This is a feature that Apple calls "Single sign-on". You'll be invited to connect apps to the Apple TV app - and in doing so you'll be sharing your viewing data with Apple too.
Whether you sign in or not, the next screen you'll see is the home screen, with a navigation bar running along the top. It has tabs for the following screens: Watch Now, Movies, TV Shows, Sports (US only), Kids, Library, Search and Settings.
Tap any of these tabs to access their respective screens.
The Watch Now screen in the TV app lets you access all the TV shows and movies you're currently watching on the Apple TV or on your iOS device - so you can pick up where you left off and the latest update has seen a tweak to the user interface bringing to life the shows and movies it is highlighting. Where available you’ll get a trailer automatically playing in the same way it does on Netflix.
If you start watching something from an app or service like BBC iPlayer, it will appear in the Watch Now tab although you'll actually watch the content in the providers app. So clicking on a show that's available on BBC iPlayer will take you to the iPlayer app on your device.
In the UK that's BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and 5, as well as Amazon Prime Video. Sadly, nor Now TV or Netflix are available in the Apple TV app.
When you've finished an episode, the next available one will appear in the Watch Now screen. If you're watching, for instance, Westworld by HBO in the US, tapping the episode will automatically open the HBO Now or HBO Go app and begin playing.
Whatever the streaming service, it will always take you to the relevant app rather than try and ape the experience in the Apple TV app unless it's an Apple TV channel (more on that in a moment).
Watch Now also suggests different things to watch. You can browse through different categories, too, like TV Shows, Movies, and Collections and the recommendations are a mix between human editors recommending you new shows and algorithms suggesting things based on what you've watched.
Movies, TV Shows, Sports
As the name suggests, these categories are broken down into more manageable sections, not only pulling from the apps or channels you have connected, but also the iTunes store.
The iTunes store integration is much more subtle now rather than insisting you go to a dedicated shop front.
In a nod to understanding that kids are watching more and more on demand content, Apple has introduced a new Kids area that will highlight child-friendly content on the services you have available.
Frustratingly the TV app experience for kids isn't anywhere near as on par with offerings from other services within dedicated apps like Netflix or Sky in the UK. There's no way to lock a device into the Kids section to stop your little ones venturing into horror movie territory, for example, or isolate what is watched so it doesn't affect your recommendations.
Apple's TV app has a Library screen so you can find all the movies and TV shows you've already purchased or rented on iTunes. You can browse your content by movies or TV shows, recently purchased, or genres. When you are ready to watch something, just tap it and then select the Play button with the app knowing where you left it last.
On iOS, you can also download a movie or TV show from here, to your device, for offline-viewing. Just tap the download button after you select the TV show or movie. To access your downloads, go to the Downloaded section in the Library tab of the TV app. When you tap a downloaded movie or TV show, it will automatically open and play.
Tap the Search tab and manually enter any TV show or movie title in the text field. Apple will then see where that show or movie is showing be it the BBC or ITV or Amazon for example. You can also use the Search tab to see trending movies and TV shows.
How do Apple TV Channels work?
One of the new features of the TV app is the introduction of Channels - and this includes the new Apple TV+ service.
Although on the surface they look like the connected apps experience that delivers content recommendations, Channels takes things one step further, by not only allowing you to manage your subscriptions with the Apple TV app experience, but also pick up where you left off and watch everything within the TV app rather than various dedicated apps.
In the US Channels at launch included HBO, Starz, SHOWTIME, Smithsonian Channel, EPIX and Tastemade, and more will be added over time, including CBS All-Access and MTV Hits.
In the UK Channels include BFIPlayer, StarzPlay, Arrow TV, Arrow Video Channel, MUBI, Smithsonian and Tastemade.
Subscribers can watch and download shows and movies both online and offline, including HBO in the US.
Through Family Sharing, up to six family members can share subscriptions to Apple TV channels using just their Apple ID and password.
Channels will also be the only way you can get access to third-party content beyond iTunes on devices outside the Apple device eco-system like a Samsung TV for example.
What about Apple TV+?
As we've mentioned in several places, Apple's streaming TV service - Apple TV+ - is integrated into the Apple TV app. Whether you're viewing on an iPad or a Roku device, everyone gets access to Apple TV+ through the Apple TV app. That's a great thing, because not only do you get the exclusive subscription side, but all your iTunes content too.
As mentioned above, you'll find Apple TV+ in the channels section, but it's also liberally promoted in the Watch Now section of the app, so as soon as you open it up you'll see either an Apple TV+ show or an invitation to try it out. There's a 7 day trial period to get you started, but then it's £4.99 or $4.99 a month.
The Apple TV+ experience is presented very much the same whether you're using the app on an iOS device or a third-party device. You can find out a lot more about Apple TV+ right here.
How does Apple's new TV app work on Samsung TVs, Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices?
The TV app on Samsung and other third-party device has been designed to work in a virtually identical way to how the TV app looks on an Apple device like an iPhone or iPad. The functionally and layout is the same with the only core different being how the app handles content from other parties outside of Apple.
What that means is that only content that is available from Apple or the Apple Channels is available in the app. This is because the app isn't able to open other apps on the TV operating system like BBC iPlayer or ITV Hub - and with this comes a word of caution, because the Apple TV app will often list content to buy that's available free in other apps, so proceed with caution.
With the introduction of the TV app on Samsung TVs users will also be able to stream from their iOS devices via AirPlay 2. AirPlay 2 offers support for 1080p streaming or mirroring of the iOS device, although this isn't supported on Fire TV or Roku devices.
What services are supported on the Apple TV app beyond Channels?
In the UK the service is supported by: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, My5, Amazon Prime Video, Hopster, MUBI, Curiositystream, Classix, Shudder, Sundance. However, Sky's Now TV and Netflix aren't currently part of the offering.
In the US the service works with Hulu, CBS All Access, Showtime, HBO NOW, plus some smaller services. Netflix isn't offered on the app.