Everything from Apple’s “It’s show time” event: Apple News+, Apple Card, Apple Arcade and Apple TV+
Apple has blown expectations out of the water revealing a new payment service and three new subscription services for magazine, television and video games.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning (here in Australia), Tim Cook took to the stage in Cupertino for, what we thought, would be a simple look at the long-rumoured Apple streaming service. What we got was so much more. When Cook kicked things off by announcing some changes coming to the News App, we thought it was going to be "one of those" keynotes where he spent as much time as possible discussing minor changes to existing apps before leading up to one, bigger actual announcement. So we were pleasantly surprised to discover that wasn't the case at all.
Cook introduced this segment with the announcement that Apple News readers consume over five billion articles each month and that it's the number one news app on the market. However, one key medium missing from the app is magazines. Premium magazines like Vanity Fair, National Geographic and WIRED have previously been unavailable via the news app.
With the announcement of Apple News+, these magazines and more will be available via a "magazines" tab starting today in the US with a release expected in Australia and Europe late in 2019.
There are over 300+ magazine subscriptions coming to Apple News+ (which Apple claims hold a combined value of US$8,000 per year) all with custom user interfaces and modern features like "live" motion covers (one example given was a panning shot of Sydney's Harbour Bridge for National Geographic). The magazine reading experience will be enhanced with modern web design practices. The paid service will also recommend magazines based on your interests ala Netflix and Spotify.
The Apple News+ subscription is all-inclusive and will start at US$9.99 per month in the US and Family Sharing will be enabled at no extra cost.
Here's just a short list of some of the Magazines coming to the service:
Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated. National Geographic, WIRED, Variety, GQ, The Hollywood Reporter, The Skimm, Vulture, The Highlight, The Cut, Grubb St, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal.
Apple Pay and Apple Card
Right when we thought we'd be rolling into entertainment, Apple hooks a hard left into the financial space to discuss Apple Pay and a brand new product, the Apple Card.
With Apple Pay now at 99% acceptance in Australia and widely accepted in numerous locations around the world, Apple has decided to leverage that popularity by expanding into the credit card space. Dubbed Apple Card, this service functions much like a regular credit card and is supported wherever Apple Pay is. It's built directly into the Apple Wallet app and incorporates an impressive array of modern features.
In keeping with Apple's focus on ease-of-use, you can sign up to Apple Card in just a few minutes straight from your iPhone – no need to hoof it to your local bank. Customer support is handled via the iOS Messages app, an interesting decision that has the potential to significantly streamline the troubleshooting process.
A whole suite of spend-tracking tools are baked into Apple Card. Transactions are listed with retailer names and locations rather than the oblique IDs and codes you see on normal credit card statements. Payments are categorised too, allowing you to quickly see how much you're spending on food, travel, entertainment and other common expenditures.
Rewards programs are a staple of many credit cards, and Apple Card isn't missing out on the action. All transactions made through Apple Pay get you 2% back on your purchase, while transactions made through the Apple Store itself get a 3% cashback. Best of all, cashback rewards are delivered to you on a daily basis, so you don't have to wait weeks or months to receive the credit from eligible purchases.
For times when you find yourself shopping at a store that doesn't accept Apple Pay, Apple has another solution: a physical Apple Card made out of titanium. This card works just like a regular credit card but it has no card number, no CVV, no expiration and no signature. It simply ties back to your Apple Wallet, with a 1% daily cashback rate for any purchases made on it.
If you're worried about the financial credibility behind Apple Card, you'll be glad to know Apple has teamed up with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard to handle the banking side of the equation.
Unfortunately, Apple has only confirmed US availability so far for Apple Card, with the service rolling out in winter 2019.
It's hardly news that the Apple App Store is a behemoth, but Apple came out with some numbers anyway to highlight just how successful the platform is. 500 million people visit the App Store everyday, and games are one of the biggest reasons they do so. There are currently more than 300,000 games on the App Store, and they've been downloaded by more than 1 billion people since the store launched.
As impressive as those numbers are, Apple acknowledged that the lion's share of people's attention goes to free-to-play games like Fortnite and Clash Royale rather than paid experiences like Monument Valley and Florence. To combat this, the company is rolling out a subscription service exclusively for those paid titles. Called Apple Arcade, the service offers a library of high-quality experiences curated by Apple from studios like Mountains (Florence), Klei Entertainment (Don't Starve), Sega (Sonic Racing) and more.
With an Apple Arcade subscription, you'll get access to over 100 games at launch (with more to follow) that feature no ads and no in-app purchases. Once you've downloaded a game, you can play it on any compatible device whether it be iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV. You don't need an Internet connection either, as games can be played completely offline. Family Sharing comes free with your subscription too, letting you share access with up to six family members.
Along with curating the games added to the service, Apple is working directly with many of the developers behind those games to help them bring their titles to life. Through financial support and other assistance, Apple hopes to foster creativity that might not be financially viable otherwise.
Apple Arcade is due to launch in spring 2019 across more than 150 countries.
Apple TV Channels
Arguably the moment we'd all been waiting for, Apple's TV announcement began not with its rumoured streaming service but with an update to its existing Apple TV app.
The new Apple TV app wants to be the source for all your entertainment, and to that end it will now aggregate numerous cable and Internet TV services into its main interface. Personalised recommendations will feed you suggestions based on the services you're already subscribed to, and you can jump straight into shows and movies with a single tap – no more switching apps required.
Apple is also adding the option to subscribe to Apple TV channels à la carte rather than having to purchase multi-channel packages. Some of the most popular Apple TV channels include HBO, Showtime, Starz, CBS All Access and MTV.
However, what's more interesting is Apple's push to bring the new Apple TV app to more people around the world. Currently available in just 10 countries, Apple is expanding it to over 100 countries this May. At the same time, it's also broadening device compatibility for the Apple TV app, bringing it to a range of Smart TVs from Samsung, LG, Sony and Vizio as well as streaming boxes like Amazon's Fire TV and Roku.
Apple closed out the "It's show time" event by finally confirming what we've all known for quite some time: Apple is going to launch its own streaming service.
It's called Apple TV+, and unlike Netflix or Stan, it's focused predominantly on original content. Apple spent the majority of the presentation spotlighting the creators it's partnered with for this initiative, from Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams to Jennifer Aniston and Oprah. All are working on a variety of TV shows and movies exclusively for Apple TV+, each of which seems to be taking risks you don't tend to see on mainstream television.
Comedian Kumail Nanjiani, for instance, has created Little America, a series that explores the real hardships faced by immigrants coming to the US. Sesame Street, meanwhile, is launching a new spin-off series entitled Helpsters that sees helpful monsters solving problems using the principles of computer programming. Like its forebear, Helpsters is designed to teach kids valuable skills to prepare them for success later in life.
You can read more about the shows rumoured and confirmed for Apple TV+ in our guide to Apple's new streaming service.
Interestingly, Apple has mostly stuck to its guns with device compatibility for Apple TV+, limiting it to iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple TV. It will also be available on select smart TVs starting this spring. On the plus side, you'll be able to download titles and watch them offline whenever and wherever you like.
Apple TV+ is scheduled to launch in spring 2019 in over 100 countries worldwide.