The TV app should have appeared on your iPhone by now if you are in the UK. If it hasn’t yet, you may just need to wait another day or so, as the app didn’t appear on everyones phone at the same time. It doesn’t arrive as part of an iOS update, but if you haven’t got it yet and your iOS isn’t up to date it might be a good idea to update to see if that helps it along.
We had heard that one way to get the app on your iPhone was to log out of your Apple ID and then log back in again. But that didn’t work for us. We also heard that if you switched to the US store you’d get the app, and then, once you signed back into the UK store the app would remain. However, where just a few days earlier we’d been able to switch stores with ease, now you can only log onto the US store if you have a US bank account.
We'll be looking at how to use the TV app on the Apple TV in a separate article - if you want to know more about the Apple TV read our Apple TV 4K review and How to watch live and catch up TV on Apple TV.
What can you watch on the TV app?
Apple’s TV App pulls in content from apps such as iPlayer, iTV Hub, Classic, My 5, and the kids app Hopster. You’ll also find Prime Video - but as yet nothing from Netflix and Now TV.
There is also content from film subscription apps: MUBI, Sundance Now, Shudder, and Classix. And documentary subscription app Curiosity Stream. Read about the rumours that Apple is set to launch it's own streaming service to compete with Netflix and co here.
Once you open the app you’ll see a Watch Now screen. The first time you use the app you will see a Welcome to the Apple TV App video, which shows you a little of what to expect from the app.
Once you have started using the app you will see a shortcut to the last things you were watching in this Up Next section.
What to Watch showcases the content Apple is pushing, a collection of options from BBC, ITV, My5 including Blue Planet II, I’m a Celebrity, X Factor, and other popular shows.
You’ll also see sections for Best of BBC, Best of ITV Hub, Best of My 5, Children’s Favourites, New Releases on iTunes, Films We Love, and Recently Watched.
There is also a Browse by Category section about half way down the page, that makes it easy to search by TV series genre (comedy, drama, reality, documentary and sports). You won’t find everything that’s available here though - for example, some shows that we know are on iPlayer, such as Have I Got News For You, couldn’t be found this way.
How to find what you want to watch using the TV app
If you want to find a particular show, and it isn’t being showcased by Apple, it’s easy to search for it.
- Tap on Search at the bottom right of the screen and type in the name of the show.
- Tap on the results to see where it’s available and to start watching.
How to watch films & movies in the TV app
For now the TV app doesn’t really showcase films very well.
If you want to watch a film, you can see a selection of what’s available by scrolling down the Watch Now page until you reach the Films We Love section.
Tap on See All to see Apple’s selection. To be honest we were a little disappointed to see just three film recommendations here. With Christmas just around the corner we’d hoped to see a few more family friendly films.
Apple also has a Hit Films section that previews a few popular films.
Another option is to go to the Search page where you will see Trending Films (Elf is not surprisingly one of the most popular options right now - it’s on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes).
You can also search for a film to see options of where you can watch it.
Knowing that the movie Man on the Moon is currently available on iPlayer, we used the TV app to search for that and were pleased to see that we were rewarded with a link to watch it on iPlayer.
Another way to find content using the TV app is to click on a Cast & Crew image to see other programmes or films that the person appears in. So if you like a particular actor it's easy to find other films they star in.
You can also browse related content the same way.
If you'd like to find out how you can watch movies on your iPhone or iPad for free read this.
How to watch TV shows and films on the TV app
Once you have found a show or film you wish to watch, either by tapping on any of the shows that Apple has showcased in the Watch Now page of the TV app, or by searching you are all set to start watching. Here's how you do that:
- Tap on the cover image of that programme.
- This takes you to that programmes page, where you can see the rating, Rotten Tomatoes score, and other information. You will also see the options of where the programme or film is available to view. BBC iPlayer, Prime Video, My5, and so on.
- If you would like to see what episodes are available to watch in the other apps, tap on the dots in the blue circle to see the options: Open in My5, Open in Tunes, Open in Prime Video, and so on…
- You can then choose to Open in the relevant app, or Add to Up Next.
If you haven’t yet installed the companion app in which you want to watch the content, you will need to do so.
The first time you tap to play a programme in a companion app (iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, etc) you will see a page telling you about the apps you can use with the TV app, and it will alert you to the fact that the information about what you are watching will be shared with Apple. This is only so it can let you watch from where you left off on any of your devices. Tap Continue and the app will open up and the episode will start to play.
Watching content in the iPlayer app
We selected Blue Planet II, one of Apple’s What to Watch recommendations. It’s available in iPlayer or iTunes.
- To watch the first episode in iPlayer, all we needed to do to watch was tap on the blue arrow beside Play in BBC iPlayer - this will either start playing from the beginning of the first episode, or if you have already started watching it will carry on from where you left off.
- Alternatively you can tap any of the episodes listed to watch that one.
- Once you have selected the episode you want to watch the iPlayer app will open on your iPhone with that episode ready to play.
Watching content in the My5 app
When we tried to watch Peppa Pig, there were options to watch in My5, iTunes, or, if you have a subscription, on Amazon Prime Video.
- We started off bytapping on the linkto Peppa Pig that Apple provided in their Children's favourites section.
- To watch in My5, all we needed to do was tap on the blue circle with the dots and choose: Open in My5.
- The My5 app will open with all the available Peppa Pig episodes available to choose from.
- Alternatively, you can jump to a particular episode.
- You will also see various episodes listed in Apple’s TV app - these are the episodes that are available to buy from iTunes (so you can download them onto your device and you won’t have to watch adverts). You may also see the option to Subscribe (this indicates that they are available on Amazon Video). If an episode is available on My5 (or any ofter TV-compatible app, then you will also see that as an option.
- We tapping on a specific Peppa Pig episode from Series 5 that was listed as available on My5, we were taken straight to that episode (which played after about a minute of adverts from Channel 5).
Watching content in the Amazon Prime Video app
To watch content from Amazon Prime Video you need to first install that app from the App Store (if you haven’t already). You will also need an Amazon Prime subscription. Log into the Amazon Prime Video app and if you have a Prime account you will be able to watch the programme.
One of Apple’s What to Watch recommendations is The Grand Tour, which is only on Prime Video.
We tapped that cover image to go into The Grand Tour page where there was a shortcut to Play in Prime Video, as well as a list of all the available episodes and shortcuts to them.
- Tap on the episode you are interested in and you’ll be taken to a page in the TV app for that episode - which would show your options if there were other places you could watch it.
- You can choose to tap the Play button or just tap the arrow inside the still from that episode to automatically start playing it in the Amazon Prime Video app.
You can also see Related content in the TV app page about The Grand Tour, so you can view all the Top Gear episodes that are available on the various companion apps, as well as various shows that Apple has deemed related (Fifth Gear, and so on).
Watching content you have bought in iTunes
What if you have already bought programmes on iTunes? How can you find the content you already own? Along the bottom of the screen is a Watch Now, Library. Store and Search.
- Tap on Library.
- Here you will see your Recently Purchased programmes and films.
- Tap on Downloaded to see the content you have already downloaded to your device.
- Alternatively tap on a show you want to watch but haven’t downloaded yet and you will be taken to a page for that show, which offers you the option to download from iCloud (where your purchased episodes and films will always be available).
- Tap on Get More episodes to go straight to the iTunes Store where you can buy even more (or in the case of films, rent as well).
How to browse the iTunes Store from the TV app
There is a shortcut to the Store from the TV app. This is one of the options along the bottom of the screen.
Tap on Store. Here you will also find links to content on the various companion apps, like ITV Hub and Amazon Video. You will also see a showcase of New Releases on iTunes, shortcuts to Top Movie Rentals, TV Series you can Buy or Rent on iTunes, and TV Box Sets.
You also have the option to Browse All Apps, which gives you an overview of which apps work with the TV app.