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Apple's new app makes it easier to watch TV online

Good Housekeeping UK logo Good Housekeeping UK 5 days ago Carrie-Ann Skinner
a man sitting in a living room with a book shelf © Westend61 - Getty Images

With so many online TV services such as BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime video to choose from, we've become used to being able to watch our favourite shows on our phones or tablets, wherever we are. But switching between different apps to watch programmes that have aired on different channels, can be a pain.

Now Apple's new-look TV app hopes to put an end to that. It brings together some of the best online TV services in one place, as well as 100,000 movies and TV shows you can purchase or rent from the iTunes store. It's available free of charge but, unsurprisingly, can only be used on an iPhone, iPad or via Apple’s TV streaming device, Apple TV. In a unexpected move, however, from today it's also available on Samsung smart TVs made in 2019 and some 2018 sets, too. We've got the low-down you need about the new-look app. 

Watch Now

The Watch Now section in the app recommends shows and movies that are available through BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, Demand 5, Amazon Prime Video and iTunes. Unfortunately, there are no Netflix shows on offer. You'll find suggestions from Apple’s TV and film editors, as well as personalised suggestions based on what you’ve previously watched. To watch a show just tap on it then press play. This launches the relevant online TV app for the show you've selected, which will instantly start to play.

Of course, this means that you will still need to have downloaded and installed on your device the app for each of the online TV services that work with the Apple app. But it is a lot easier to be able to search for shows and films in one place once you've done this.

a screenshot of a computer: Easy online TV with Apple's new app © Apple Easy online TV with Apple's new app

Apple TV channels

From the app, you can also access the first of Apple's new TV channels to be made available in the UK. These don't require you to download any additional apps as you can watch them in the Apple TV app itself. At the moment, the choice is limited to Starz, which offers a range of movies and TV shows including the Hunger Games series for £4.99 per month, and nature and historical documentary channel Smithsonian, which costs £2.99 per month. You'll be billed through your iTunes account.

Both channels offer a free, 7-day trial and Apple said more channels with be available for UK viewers in time (there are currently 20 in the US including HBO). Apple’s own TV streaming service, Apple TV+, which is due to launch in the autumn, will also be available through the app's Channel section.

Gallery: 5 important details about Apple's big-budget push into streaming TV that we still don't know (Business Insider)

You can download shows from the Apple TV channels to your iPhone or iPad so you can still watch them when you don’t have internet access. These will show up in the Library section of the app alongside any films or TV shows you’ve purchased or rented from iTunes.

Meanwhile, the Family Sharing feature lets you share any of the movies, TV shows, music apps, and now TV Channels, purchased on iTunes with up to six members of your family. They'll need to have their own Apple ID and password to do this. There’s also a dedicated Kids section offering family-friendly shows and movies.

a screenshot of a computer: Easy online TV with Apple's new app © Apple Easy online TV with Apple's new app

Our verdict

We liked the clear, uncluttered layout of the app and the fact that you can search for - and access - shows and films from different channels in one place. It also makes browsing for something to watch much simpler. While there are only a handful of Apple channels available through the app at present, more are due to become available in the UK, although we don't know when. If you don't have an iPhone or iPad or compatible Samsung TV, you'll have to wait to use the app until later this year, when Apple is making its TV app available on Mac laptops and on Roku and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices.

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