Apple TV Plus review
Apple TV Plus is Apple’s venture into the subscription streaming service space with its slew of Apple Original TV shows and movies, but is it really as good as it sounds and does it live up to the competition?
Almost a year has passed since we first took a look at the then-fledgling Apple TV Plus service, which beat the Disney Plus Australia launch by a couple of weeks. Despite being categorised as a streaming site/service, Apple TV Plus still doesn’t have enough content to justify the ongoing price of admission.
While Netflix led to the death of video rental stores, in its current form, Apple TV Plus is best viewed as a digital return to the video stores of old: as a rental service only. While a one-week trial likely won’t be enough to get through everything, if you’re a dedicated binger, you won’t have a reason to stay subscribed beyond a month or two.
What we cover in our Apple TV Plus review
- How much it costs: $7.99 per month
- When it launched: 2 November 2019
- What’s on Apple TV Plus? Nine movies and 28 TV shows (with more to come every month)
- How many people on one account? 6 streams
- Video/audio quality: 4K HDR, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision
New content on Apple TV Plus
At launch, we bemoaned the slim pickings of just eight shows which, admittedly, included some of our top picks. Fast-forward to today, and things are only marginally improved. By our maths, there are 28 TV series, limited series and docuseries. If you want to be generous, you can add on another three to include the shorts – Snoopy in Space, Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, and Helpsters – which still isn’t an impressive number at 31.
In terms of movies, Apple TV Plus still can’t yet crack double digits, with nine on offer, spread across four movies and five documentaries. There are a couple of handful of shows coming soon, though, with around 58 more movies, TV series, and documentaries in the works.
Apple TV Plus TV shows
There are 28 series on Apple TV Plus. Fraggle Rock is currently the only non-original bit of content on Apple TV Plus. Check out the full list of Apple TV Plus TV shows below:
- Amazing Stories
- Central Park
- Defending Jacob
- For All Mankind
- Fraggle Rock
- Fraggle Rock: Rock On!
- Greatness Code
- Home Before Dark
- Little America
- Little Voice
- Long Way Up
- The Morning Show
- Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet
- The Oprah Conversation
- Oprah Talks COVID-19
- Oprah’s Book Club
- Ted Lasso
- Tiny World
- Truth Be Told
- Visible: Out on Television
Apple TV Plus movies
Here’s the full list of the nine movies available on Apple TV Plus right now:
- The Banker
- Beastie Boys Story
- Boys State
- Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You
- The Elephant Queen
- On the Rocks
Apple TV Plus App, UI and Accessibility
It’s unsurprising that the Apple TV Plus homepage has been designed to feel seamlessly integrated with Apple’s full range of products and services, featuring Apple’s signature minimalist aesthetic. At first glance, the homepage isn’t dissimilar to a page you’d find up on the Apple Store or the App Store. There’s a whole lot of white space and the clean design is certainly appealing to the eye.
That’s where the pleasantries end. Back in 2019, attempting to stream any show via web browser during peak WiFi usage times (say post-dinner around 8pm) is nearly impossible. And you won’t be able to watch anything for more than 10 seconds before your video crashes.
In 2020, this isn’t an issue, though browser viewing feels buggy. It worked in Chrome on my laptop but not in Chrome on my desktop, and Edge viewing on my desktop had moments where clicks were delayed, didn’t register, or it would sometimes open a new browser window just to access content.
To add to that fire, when I tried accessing the Apple TV Plus web browser on my Mac, it asked me to verify my credit card details again to authorise my web viewing. And no, it didn’t let me use my debit card and I don’t own a credit card, so that’s kind of game over. But what Apple user wouldn’t be using the Apple TV App right?
While we’ve all heard about the high streaming quality Apple TV Plus is boasting, there’s a caveat to that: although Apple TV Plus offers 4K HDR on all compatible platforms, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision are only supported on its own devices. Those streaming via AirPlay won’t be able to watch anything in video quality greater than 1080p anyway.
While it’s much easier to quickly browse through the entire range of Apple Originals on Apple TV Plus in one swipe via the app, it’s hard not to notice the extensive range of TV shows and movies that you could rent or purchase for only around $2.99-$5.99 (and who knows, you might feel like splurging on such an accessible collection of all 30 seasons of The Simpsons for $34.99 per season, but you could just sign up for the Disney Plus free subscription trial that Apple links from the store).
To be frank, while the TV shows that you stream through Apple TV Plus may be entirely ad-free, the Apple TV Plus platform blatantly entices you to hire, buy or go watch the latest and greatest movies and TV shows via other streaming services with open arms. The $7.99 per month price tag for Apple TV Plus seems like a hard sell when you compare that with Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, which have over 3000 titles across movies and TV in each library at any one time and a much wider range of original TV shows and films already cocked and loaded in their arsenal. Find out more with our guide to the best paid and free streaming services for TV and movies in 2020.
While there are definitely some exciting series to look forward to in Apple’s large line-up (see our content section below for more details), you’re not getting bang for your buck with Apple TV Plus.
The layout is less clustered compared to the row-by-row, square tile format that Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Stan have all adopted, which is less overwhelming but also frustrating if you want to browse across multiple categories of TV shows and films in one glance.
If you’re impatient like me, Apple’s habit of creating ‘endless scrolling’ pages of content gets tiring pretty fast. That said, “endless” isn’t applicable here because you’ll reach the bottom of the content page surprisingly fast. It makes it hard to find the show you’re looking for without having to go through the entire Apple Originals range available, in the order that Apple has decided to showcase them. While aesthetically pleasing, practical, easy navigation trumps in this case and this is where the Apple TV site, via web browser at least, is sorely lacking.
As mentioned, without any search bar tool available via the Apple TV Plus web browser, it’s impossible to find the video you’re exactly looking for without scrolling through or running your search through Google first. This is likely going to become more of a problem as the movie and TV catalogue gets built out over the coming years.
It also doesn’t seem to have a convenient way to continue watching where you left off; sure, there’s a resume function, but you have to scroll to your content to continue. You also can’t add content to a personalised list, which feels like an oversight, but may be indicative of the lack of stuff to watch.
Navigation isn’t as much of a problem on the app, the issue is more so getting distracted and overloaded by all the other content being pushed on Apple TV (which, spoiler alert, is mostly not coming to your screen for free).
Another big omission is the lack of any rating/review system being displayed on each TV show/ movie page. Netflix champions their own user rating system while other streaming services have opted to display the IMDB score, which do vary in usefulness and objectivity but at least there’s something up there. If you’re a consumer usually curious to see how a new TV show or movie has fared with critics and fans, this feature might massively irk you as it did me. And having to go and search up the reviews for your next binge-watchable film on Google yourself is not very comprehensive of Apple TV Plus and simply wasting your time.
Apple TV Plus accessibility features
If you’re watching Apple TV Plus on an Apple device, you’ll already get access to in-built accessibility features that you can play around with in your settings, including for audio descriptions, subtitles and closed captioning. On both the Apple TV Plus app and via web browser, you’ll see which TV shows and movies have descriptive audio and closed captions available. Currently, most original titles have these features available.
Apple TV Plus has a pretty standard audio description function on offer. There’s nothing major to complain about here, although there’s no in-built option for voice customisation. Using Apple’s VoiceOver function available on all Apple devices, you’ll be able to choose from a selection of voices, modify the speech rate, verbosity and pronunciation and opt to activate braille support if needed (using the iPhone’s haptic feedback).
Subtitles and closed captions
With Apple’s closed captions feature, there are several caption styles to pick from and in several languages. In your Apple device settings, there’s more room to create your own caption style and customise font, background and text elements.
For Apple users utilising Accessibility Shortcut, you can easily control VoiceOver, colour filters, zoom, voice control and other accessibility tools by triple-clicking your iPhone’s side button, or the menu button if you have an Apple TV. This is a handy addition for Apple users and makes it simpler to turn on and off the accessibility features that are important to you. Again, this is a standard hardware feature, not a service feature.
Apple TV Plus Australia price
Apple TV Plus costs $7.99 per month with each subscription available for up to 6 family members via Family Sharing. That’s a little cheaper than Disney Plus and more expensive than Prime Video’s $6.99 price point. It’s a cheap monthly cost as far as streaming subscriptions go but with the lightweight content offering, it’s hard to imagine Apple charging anything more.
That said, this service really should be cheaper. Unless you’re treating it as a monthly rental, it’s tough to justify the ongoing cost, especially in comparison to other streaming services.
Apple Plus Free Trial
There’s currently a 7-day free trial available, followed by the $7.99 monthly subscription cost.
Alternatively, you can get a free year of subscription when you buy a new iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or Apple TV from Apple or an Apple authorised seller.
Tertiary students will be able to get free access to Apple TV Plus when they subscribe to the Apple Music Student Plan.
And how does the Apple TV Plus launch price, free trial and features weigh up against the competition? Let’s take a look.
|Service||Apple TV Plus||Disney Plus||Netflix||Stan||Foxtel Now||Prime Video|
|Monthly Price||$7.99||$8.99||$9.99 to $19.99||$10 to $17||$25 (Pop + Lifestyle)||$6.99|
|Equivalent monthly price||N/A||$7.49||N/A||N/A||N/A||$4.99|
|Free trial||7 days||7 days||1 month||30 days||14 days||30 days|
|Max. video resolution||4K HDR (Included)||4K (Included)||4K (Premium)||4K (Premium)||HD (Included)||4K (Included)|
|Simultaneous streams||6 (Included)||4 (Included)||4 (Premium)||4 (Premium)||2 (Included)||3 (Included)|
|Offline viewing (downloads)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
Apple TV Plus Australia content review
What content is available in Australia?
While you’ll be able to access Apple TV Plus’s full collection of TV shows, series and movies in Australia, you may find its library very underwhelming compared to the number of options available on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or even Disney Plus Australia.
Apple Plus TV shows
So, is it really worth subscribing to get a hold of these original Apple TV Plus shows and series?
There are several series currently available at launch, including The Morning Show, See, Dickinson and For All Mankind, as well as Oprah’s Book Club. For the kids, Apple TV Plus has on offer the full series of Ghostwriter, Helpsters and Snoopy in Space. Other dramas, such as Servant and Truth Be Told, are also there to watch.
There are some exciting titles in the works, such as Asimov’s Foundation if you’re a sci-fi fan and the Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks-produced Masters of the Air, which is a sequel of sorts to Band of Brothers and The Pacific. However, it will disappoint some that most TV episodes will be released weekly (apart from Dickinson and some kids shows which have dropped the entire series), so if you were hoping to take the opportunity to binge-watch as many new series as you could on your 7-day free trial, you’re out of luck.
Apple TV Plus movies
At the moment, documentary The Elephant Queen which is part of Sundance 2019 is leading the helm for the Apple TV Plus film lineup. The Banker, set to be one of the first Apple TV Plus films to be released, has been pushed back due to sexual abuse allegations of its real-life protagonist.
Launch documentary The Elephant Queen is still one of the leaders of the Apple TV Plus movie line-up, joined by World War II flick Greyhound, The Banker, which is based on a true story, and the re-joining of Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola for On the Rocks.
There are a lot of upcoming movies (and shows for that matter) that don’t have release dates which, coupled with a coronavirus-impacted year, means they may still be a long way off. This is one of the reasons why it makes the most sense to treat Apple TV Plus as a service you subscribe to for a month to watch content, then cancel after you’ve caught on whatever you want to watch.
Apple TV Plus device compatibility
What devices can you watch Apple TV Plus on?
While Apple has added more supported devices since launch, it still feels limited. For instance, a three-year old LG OLED TV C7 isn’t supported, and neither is Nvidia Shield TV. These are currently the supported ways to watch Apple TV Plus natively (you can find a full list here):
- Apple TV (4K, HD, 3rd gen)
- Selected Samsung TVs (2018, 2019, 2020)
- Selected LG TVs (2018, 2019, 2020)
- Selected Vizio TVs (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)
- Selected Sony 2020 TVs
- Amazon Fire TV
- iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
- Windows PC, Chrome OS, Android devices (via browser)
Streaming from devices that aren’t natively supported will likely result in a drop in video quality. Apple’s answer to this is to incentivise you to buy an Apple TV 4K device, which includes a free year of Apple TV Plus.
Apple TV Plus Family Sharing
Apple TV Plus is offering up to 6 simultaneous streams per subscription, meaning you could either share your Apple ID (which you might not want to do with friends and family) or opt for setting up Family Sharing.
With Family Sharing, you’ll be able to access your group members’ App Store purchases and Apple subscriptions without giving out your Apple ID information. So it’s a little more complicated than just sharing your Netflix login with a friend.
Getting this sorted might take an extra step but the upside is that anyone with a supported Apple device running iOS 8 or OS X Yosemite or later can join your family, or you can accept an invite to join a family. You can only be part of one family group at a time though.
Apple TV Plus FAQs
Here are the questions people are asking about Apple TV Plus in Australia.
Apple TV Plus AU vs US TV shows and movies
The library of movies and TV shows you can access on Apple TV Plus is the same whether you’re in Australia, US or in any of the 100+ countries where Apple TV Plus is available in.
Apple TV Plus login: How to sign up
If you didn’t already have one, you’ll need an Apple ID to login and purchase Apple TV Plus. You can sign up here or via the Apple TV App which comes installed on your Apple device with the latest iOS/macOS.
Can I download everything from Apple TV Plus?
Yes, everything is available for offline viewing. Otherwise, you can stream your shows and movies via the Apple TV app on supported Apple devices or via the web browser.
Does Apple TV Plus support 4K HDR, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision?
Yes, Apple TV Plus supports 4K HDR on all platforms. Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision are only supported on Apple devices.
What accessibility features does Apple TV Plus offer?
Most titles on Apple TV Plus offer audio descriptions, subtitles and closed captions. With an Apple device, you can also access a wider range of customisable accessibility options such as VoiceOver, subtitle modification and braille support.