Apple on Monday announced a trio of new subscription services — offering TV and movies, video games and news and magazines — as well as a new credit card.
The move comes as the company, helmed by CEO Tim Cook, is trying to focus attention on — and grow — its services business amid a slowdown in iPhone growth, long the company’s main cash cow. As iPhone growth slows, Apple is hoping to gain ground by offering paid subscriptions to high-quality content. Those subscriptions, in turn, could help keep people tied to the larger Apple ecosystem, propping up iPhone sales and more.
Here’s a look at the handful of services that Apple unveiled, including Apple TV+, Apple News+, Apple Arcade and the Apple Card.
Apple’s long-awaited major move into original content comes in the form of Apple TV+, a streaming service that will have exclusive shows, documentaries, and films from creators like J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Octavia Spencer, and others. Billing it as “the new home for the world’s most creative storytellers,” the company says Apple TV+ will launch this fall for a still-unclear price.
Apple is also adding new functionality to its existing Apple TV app called Apple TV Channels. The service, Apple says, will let users pay for the channels they want, rather than an entire suite of programming, as is typical of cable packages and other online TV offerings. Apple TV channels will have content from HBO, Starz, CBS and more. Apple did not announce pricing for Apple TV Channels, either. The company says it’s focusing on improving the curation process, while at the same time keeping your viewing habits private from advertisers.
Apple TV Channels will be added to the Apple TV app in May, while it’s set to appear on Macs in the fall. An Apple TV app is also coming to smart TV sets from companies like Samsung, LG, Sony and Vizio, as well as streaming media devices from Roku and Amazon, Apple says. That means you won’t need an Apple device to sign up for the service.
You’ll still be able to use the Apple TV app as-is, though. It already supports pay-TV services like Charter/Spectrum, DirectvNOW, and PlayStation Vue; support for Optimum and Suddenlink will be added “later this year,” Apple says.
Apple’s three-year-old Apple News service is getting a major upgrade in the form of Apple News+, a $9.99-per-month subscription giving users unlimited access to more than 300 magazines, including WIRED, Vanity Fair and Essence. (TIME is included as well.)
There’s more than magazines here, too. Premium online publications like The Skimm or New York Magazine’s Vulture are also available. Subscribers will also get some content from The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Apple News+ will live inside the Apple News app, an update for which is now available. Subscribers will be able to enjoy both news and magazine content on every iOS and MacOS device. On stage, Roger Rosner, VP of Applications, claimed Apple News+ to be “the only place you will find all these magazines in a single package.”
If the deal sounds familiar, that’s because Apple News+ is based on Texture, a magazine subscription service acquired by Apple that also granted subscribers access to a catalog of magazines for a flat subscription fee. Apple’s own version seems to feature a more interactive experience, with animated covers and more.
Subscribers can share unlimited access to Apple News+ content with their family without paying an extra fee.
Apple’s new game subscription service, Apple Arcade, aims to make it easier to find great mobile games that aren’t bogged down by ads or in-game purchases. The company is working with a handful of game creators to develop titles for the platform, Apple says.
“These games often have incredible stories and capture your imagination with their original art and music,” Apple App Store Senior Product Manager Anne Thai said during Monday’s event. “They are some of the most critically acclaimed games ever made. But competing with free is hard, so these games haven’t been as successful for developers, and haven’t been as easy to find for players.”
Apple Arcade is set to launch in the fall with over 100 games for online and offline play on Apple devices. As with Apple News+, users can share their subscriptions among family members, and can enjoy the games on whichever Apple device they have, including Apple TV. Users can also bounce between devices, picking up on their TV where you left off on their iPhone, for instance.
Apple didn’t specify a full list of launch titles or how much Apple Arcade will cost.
The Apple Card is a credit card from Apple, issued in partnership with Goldman Sachs, that’s “designed for a healthier financial life,” according to Apple Pay boss Jennifer Bailey. The upshot of that is a credit card that’s closely tied to an iPhone app making it easier to track your spending, manage your account, and more.
The Apple Card will give users more flexibility than usual when it comes to making card payments and doesn’t have late fees. (But “late or missed payments will result in additional interest accumulating toward the customer’s balance,” Apple says.) The card will give customers 2% cash back on all purchases, and 3% cash back on purchases made directly from Apple or its online services — Apple’s calling it “Daily Cash.”
In the app, you’ll see your purchases organized by category, your total card balance, and how much you’ve spent at an establishment. The app also shows users in real-time how long it should take to pay off their balance with an easy-to-understand payment plan generator. Furthermore, the app can demystify confusing charges using machine learning and geolocation, so your purchase at John’s Deli should actually say John’s Deli.
Apple Card cardholders will also receive a titanium credit card for purchases at merchants that don’t accept Apple Pay via an iPhone or Apple Watch. But using that card only gets you 1% cash back.
Write to Patrick Lucas Austin at email@example.com.