The pitch for Apple TV+ is pretty simple: Pay Apple $5 a month, and you'll get access to original shows and movies you won't find anywhere else. It's not a nostalgia play with a huge library of films like Disney+, or an evolution of an existing premium network like HBO Max. Apple TV+ is basically just exclusive content with the power of major celebrities and creatives, like Oprah and Steven Spielberg, behind it.
After spending several hours with it, the best I can say is that Apple TV+ is... fine? New series like The Morning Show, which stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carrell, are a clear sign that the company is investing heavily in talent. And the revamped TV app, which launched in May, makes it easy to find new bingeworthy content and keep track of everything you're watching. The handful of shows launching with Apple TV+, including Oprah's Book Club, the apocalyptic drama See and For All Mankind, an alternate history space race series by Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica), are all perfectly watchable.
Nothing truly stands out, though. The Morning Show tries its hardest to look like Important Dramatic TV in the vein of Aaron Sorkin, but aside from the litany of stars, the first episode struggles for an identity of its own. It's also very strange that one of its villainous news anchors, played by Billy Crudup, goes into an extended rant about how broadcast TV will be swallowed by tech giants, and viewers prefer less complicated and personalized content via social media. At the end, I half expected him to stare directly into the camera like a character from The Office.
Apple TV+ lacks the innovative spark of Netflix's early streaming service -- we all know that it's possible to make good TV away from the confines of cable and broadcast networks. But, as we noted in September, it doesn't matter if there's anything truly new with Apple TV+, it'll still be a huge success through Apple's marketing might alone. Pricing it at $5 makes it a no-brainer subscription for most consumers, and the company is also bundling a year of service with new device purchases.
Even though Apple TV+'s selection of content is pretty slim at the moment, we know there's plenty more on the horizon. M. Night Shyamalan's mystery thriller Servant arrives November 28th, and there's more media in the works for next year, like Spielberg's Amazing Stories reboot. And the company has a major footprint advantage, as well. Apple TV+ launches in 100 countries today, whereas Disney+ will only be available in the US, Canada and the Netherlands when it hits November 12th.
Another bid in its favor: Apple customers simply have to open up the TV app on their iOS, Mac or Apple TV devices to subscribe to TV+. Signing up is simple, too, I just had to hit the huge Apple TV+ banner in the app, and it automatically recognized that I had a year of service ready and waiting because I bought an iPhone 11 Pro. After subscribing, you can simply start watching any TV+ show through the app.
The shows launched quickly and looked uniformly excellent on my LG OLED TV via the Apple TV 4K, thanks to broad support for Dolby Vision HDR. Everything worked pretty much like I expected, though Engadget Executive Editor Aaron Souppouris noticed a strange interface quirk while watching TV+ content. The "Menu" button on the Apple TV remote displays an episode description when you hit it once, and you'll have to hit it a second time to go back to the TV app. Everywhere else on the Apple TV, that menu button serves as a universal option to go back to where you were before. I figure most people will get over that quickly, but the interface inconsistency is strange to see from Apple.
And if you don't have any Apple devices, you can still take advantage of the new streaming service through the Apple TV app on some Samsung smart TVs, as well as streaming boxes like Roku and Amazon's Fire TV Sticks. That app will be headed to Sony, LG and Vizio smart TVs later this year. Vizio, LG and Samsung users can also use AirPlay 2 to stream Apple TV+ content from iOS and Mac devices. Finally, you can also watch TV+ shows on the web at tv.apple.com.
Apple TV+ feels more like "Apple TV, too." The company has proven it can craft original streaming content, but that's about it. Then again, that's really all Apple had to do. Build the service, and the viewers will come