Apple is bringing its own original content, made by the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, and J.J. Abrams, along with content from other TV subscription packages, to an updated and improved TV app.
The new content will arrive in the autumn of 2019, and the good news is you won’t need an Apple TV to watch it on your TV. Read more about Apple's TV+ subscription service here.
Right now, if you want to watch content streamed from your iPhone or iPad to your TV, you need to have an Apple TV plugged into your set. Then you can stream anything from your iPhone or iPad screen to your TV using AirPlay.
You can also use the Apple TV app on the Apple TV to browse various on demand channels to see what is available from the various services you subscribe to or have access to. You can then watch the content in the relevant app. All that is set to change in the autumn of 2019, according to Apple.
One change is that you will be able to watch the content within the Apple TV app itself (rather than being pushed into the third party app).
The other more significant change is that TV app will be available outside of the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV on certain brands of smart TV.
In the case of some TVs that don’t offer the TV app, support for AirPlay 2 will mean you will be able to stream from your iPhone or iPad to watch the Apple content on your TV screen.
This suggests that Apple is prepared to accept that the only way it can get its content onto people’s TVs is to partner with TV manufacturers. On the basis that most TVs come with Netflix and Amazon Prime, Apple’s new Apple TV Plus subscription service would not be able to compete with the alternatives if it required an extra box.
Apple currently sells the Apple TV for this purpose, but the Apple TV trails behind the Roku, Fire TV, and Chromecast in terms of sales. Speaking of which, Apple has announced that Roku and the Amazon Fire TV will also support the new service.
All this means you will no longer need an Apple TV in order to watch watch content bought or rented from the iTunes Store or available via the Apple TV app.
What can you watch Apple TV+ on?
Here is our complete guide to the devices you can watch Apple TV on.
You can currently use the TV app on your iPhone to search for content, see recommendations, and jump straight to your Up Next list. However, when you choose what you want to watch you will be sent to the corresponding app to watch it, be it Netflix, Prime, iPlayer and so on.
From May 2019 this app will be updated so that certain content will be integrated into the Apple TV app and you won’t have to leave the app to watch it.
Apple says you will be able to download the content available via the app to watch offline
In addition, if you subscribe to Apple’s TV+ service when it launches in the autumn, you will be able to watch and download all of Apple’s original content onto your iPhone.
The situation with the iPad is identical to the iPhone. You will be able to watch all the content available in the Apple TV app, once the updated version launches. And if you subscribe to the TV+ service you will be able to watch all of Apple’s own content as well.
It’s always struck us as odd that the TV app wasn’t available on the Mac. Especially since many years ago the Mac specific Front Row software was a precursor to the TV app we know today.
From the autumn the TV app will be coming to the Mac, probably thanks to Apple’s work making it easier to port iOS apps to macOS. As a result you will be able to watch any content available via the TV app on a Mac.
Right now, if you have an Apple TV set top box plugged into your smart TV you can search for content using the TV app. As with the iPhone and iPad, you are then kicked out of the TV app to watch content in the relevant On Demand app.
However, when the updated TV app for Apple TV arrives later this year you will be able to watch everything within the TV app.
If you already own an Apple TV which features the App Store (that's either an Apple TV 4 or Apple TV 4K), you can already use the TV app, and when the updated app arrives later this year you will be able to benefit from all the new features.
Which TVs work with Apple TV+ app?
The other thing that will change this autumn is that you might not need an Apple TV to watch this content on your TV.
Apple has announced that the Apple TV app will be available on new Samsung smart TVs this spring and on Amazon Fire TV, LG, Roku, Sony and VIZIO platforms "Later this year".
In addition, customers with some older models of VIZIO, Samsung, LG and Sony smart TVs will be able to stream content from their iPhone or iPad directly to their smart TVs thanks to AirPlay 2 support. More details about that below.
Apple has confirmed that the Apple TV app is coming to the Roku, we don’t yet know when, or which models it will be available on. We assume that Roku will make the Apple TV app available as a software update or as a download from its store.
Read about Apple's plans for the Apple TV here.
Amazon Fire TV
If you already own a Fire TV, or if you were thinking of buying one, you will also be able to get the Apple TV app on that device later this year. Again, we don’t yet know if the TV app will be part of a software update, or available as download from the Amazon’s Apps and Games store.
At the beginning of January 2019 Samsung announced that it will start offering “Apple iTunes Movies and TV Shows” on its new TVs and some 2018 Samsung TVs (via a firmware update). In addition, Samsung announced support for AirPlay 2.
Regarding Samsung’s announcement, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue said: “We look forward to bringing the iTunes and AirPlay 2 experience to even more customers around the world through Samsung Smart TVs, so iPhone, iPad and Mac users have yet another way to enjoy all their favourite content on the biggest screen in their home.”
The following Samsung TVs will feature the TV app: QLED series 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-, 8- (2018 and 2019 models).
On Monday 7 January 2019, Sony announced that it would be offering AirPlay 2 on some of its TVs launching later in 2019. When the company made its announcement in January wasn’t clear whether Sony was planning to only add AirPlay 2 support for streaming from Apple devices, rather than offer a shortcut to iTunes.
However, it now seems that the TV app will appear on select Sony TVs later this year. Apple indicated in the 25 March event that the Apple TV app will be available on Sony platforms “Later this year”.
If your Sony TV has AirPlay 2 support you will be able to stream content from your Apple device to the TV, without requiring an Apple TV.
Sony also announced that its TVs will also integrate with HomeKit
The following Sony TVs will offer AirPlay 2: Sony Z9G, A9G, X950G and X850G (2019).
LG has also confirmed that it will support AirPlay 2 on their new TVs.
The following LG TVs will offer support: LG OLED, UHD UM7X, and NanoCell SM8X and SM9X (2019) TVs.
Vizio has also confirmed that they will support AirPlay 2.
The following Vizio TVs will offer support: D-, E-, M-, and P-Series (2017) and Vizioi P-Series Quantum models (2018 and 2019).
If you are wondering whether you can buy a Vizio TV in the UK though, the answer is probably not since they only sell in the US and aren’t designed for our market.