Apple TV vs. Apple TV+: An In-Depth Comparison

Apple causes confusion by using the "Apple TV" branding for both a media storefront as well as their newer streaming video subscription service. Making matters more complicated, they also sell a physical streaming box device called Apple TV.

So what exactly is the difference between plain old Apple TV and the shiny new Apple TV+? Let‘s break things down.

At a Glance: Apple TV vs Apple TV+

Before diving deeper, here is a quick overview of how Apple TV and Apple TV+ differ:

Apple TV: A digital media store allowing you to buy or rent movies, TV shows and more à la carte. Like having an iTunes store just for video content.

Apple TV+: A Netflix-style subscription streaming service with mostly Apple original content. Pay a monthly fee for unlimited access.

Apple TV (device): A physical set-top box that connects to your TV to access Apple TV, Apple TV+ and other streaming apps. Sold by Apple for $129-199.

So in short:

  • Apple TV = video store
  • Apple TV+ = subscription streaming
  • Apple TV (box) = hardware device

Hopefully that clears up some of the confusion over terminology! Now let‘s explore the purpose and history of these platforms in more detail.

Apple TV: Turning iTunes into a Dedicated Video Storefront

Launched in 2016, Apple TV is an application and media player available across Apple devices and platforms like smart TVs, streaming sticks and game consoles.

It serves as a centralized place for users to purchase, rent or watch movies, TV shows, sports and more. You can think of Apple TV as iTunes redesigned specifically for video.

Apple TV offers much of the same à la carte transactional video content historically found in the iTunes Store. This ranges from new release movies you can buy or rent to TV show episodes and seasons, music videos, sports highlights and bundles, and even workout programs.

Rather than iTunes trying to be the jack-of-all-trades for music, movies, apps and more, Apple TV allows Apple to focus specifically on serving as a premium destination for video entertainment.

Apple TV spans nearly all genres and eras of television and film entertainment. The depth of catalog on offer rivals services like Amazon Prime Video, Vudu or Google Play Movies & TV.

However unlike monthly video streaming subscriptions, you pay per title – buying to own permanently or renting just temporarily. This pay-as-you-go model harkens back to the early days of iTunes media downloads.

Why Apple Launched a Dedicated Video Platform

When iTunes launched in 2001, it revolutionized digital music distribution. But over time as Apple expanded into video and apps, the all-in-one iTunes Store became bloated. By 2015, iTunes was in need of a reboot.

Music listeners now turned more to streaming rather than buying songs. So Apple Music emerged as a reimagined streaming service to better compete against Spotify.

For video, viewers demanded a more leanback watching experience optimized for the living room TV. Simply browsing for media in iTunes on a phone or computer wasn‘t cutting it anymore.

So Apple introduced the Apple TV app and underlying store platform. This allowed:

  • Access to purchases across devices like iPhone, iPad and Apple TV box
  • Tools to organize, watch and discover media
  • iOS-style app interface tailored to video
  • Rent/buy model supporting both ownership and à la carte consumption
  • Streaming center to aggregate content from other services
  • Channeled energy towards their streaming box ambitions

Basically, dedicating a singular Apple TV brand to video helped set the foundation for Apple‘s streaming-first future across devices, stores and services.

Rather than cling to iTunes as a legacy brand, Apple TV represented a fresh platform – setting the stage for even bigger streaming investments.

Apple TV+: Netflix Competitor with Premium Original Content

The arrival of Apple TV+ in November 2019 took Apple‘s streaming efforts up a notch. Positioned firmly as a direct Netflix competitor, Apple TV+ entered the subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) market swinging.

At $6.99 per month, Apple TV+ undercuts most other major streamers while offering prestige original content and innovation like offline downloads.

The service features a full slate of Apple-produced series, films, documentaries and more. Across just three years, standouts like Ted Lasso and CODA have already claimed Emmy and Oscar gold.

For now at least, the singular focus on exclusive Apple Originals gives TV+ a unique angle compared to mega-catalog services bombarding viewers with choice. Hulu pioneered a similar originals-first approach before eventually licensing other content, so don‘t count out addition down the road.

But out of the gate, Apple TV+ wanted the focus on its shiny new shows – not older library content. For that, the Apple TV store still provides one-off rentals and purchases.

In a crowded streaming market competing for attention, Apple TV+ crafted a clear niche to complement their broader ecosystem:

Apple Music: Unlimited on-demand music
Apple TV: à La Carte video storefront
Apple TV+: Premium original video content

This streamlines Apple‘s entertainment offerings under distinct brands and structures while chasing multiple consumer preferences.

Even as the services intermingle through bundled plans like Apple One, each platform serves a targeted purpose. Differentiating streaming ambitions from the legacy iTunes video business clarifies Apple’s overarching media strategy.

Main Features and Content Comparison

Now that you know the core concepts and history behind Apple TV & Apple TV+, how do they stack up feature and content wise?

Apple TVApple TV+
PriceVaries per rental/purchase$6.99 per month
StructureTransactional (pay per item)Subscription (all-access)
Content TypeMovies, TV, Sports, Music Videos, WorkoutsApple Originals (shows, movies, docs)
Catalog Size100K+ movies, shows, etc50+ Apple Originals so far
OwnershipCan buy titles permanentlyAccess only while subscribed
Device SupportMost platforms via Apple TV appApple devices plus others

A few key things stand out from this comparison:

Pricing – Apple TV offers rental/purchase costs while Apple TV+ is a monthly video streaming subscription

Content – Apple TV spans licensed movies, shows, etc bought individually vs. Apple Originals on TV+

So despite having near identical names, Apple TV and Apple TV+ couldn’t be more different!

One functions like an upscale Blockbuster store (Apple TV) while the other competes with Netflix through exclusive shows (Apple TV+).

This is important to keep straight when deciding whether to rent the latest flick for $5.99 in Apple TV or watch a full season of a buzzy original series like Severance with an Apple TV+ subscription.

Tips to Get Apple TV+ for Free or Cheap

Apple would love for you to get hooked on Apple TV+ Originals and add yet another monthly subscription to your credit card bill!

But before pulling out your wallet, it helps to know Apple TV+ deals are hiding everywhere.

The streaming service comes bundled for FREE all over the place if you just bought a new iPhone, iPad or other Apple device. Multiple free trials and cheap promos also float around if you know where to look.

Here are a few ways to score Apple TV+ on the house:

  • New Apple Device Purchase – Get 3-12 months free Apple TV+ with any new iPhone, Mac, iPad or Apple TV
  • Free Trials – Every Apple ID gets a standard 7-day free trial upon signup
  • T-Mobile – Some wireless plans include Apple TV+ monthly at no extra cost
  • Apple One Bundle – TV+ comes packed into this discounted services bundle

And if you already burned through the above? Don‘t forget to still check for random 1-month or annual prepaid trial offers. Apple loves pushing these especially around device launch events or the holidays.

Worst case, paying full $6.99 per month still makes Apple TV+ cheaper than rivals. Take advantage of the above deals and watch those original hits for less!

Apple TV (Device): Don‘t Forget The Streaming Box!

Just when you thought this couldn‘t get more confusing – remember Apple sells an actual Apple TV product too!

Apple TV refers to a physical set-top box media player packing built-in apps, gaming, fitness integration and more.

Priced at $129-199, this overpowered streaming puck connects to living room TVs to showcase Apple‘s tvOS platform.

Apple TV 4K 2021 Streaming Box

Apple TV Streaming Box with Siri Remote

Features like multi-user support, screen mirroring from Apple devices and deep HomeKit/Apple Arcade integration aim to put Apple TV boxes in the center of your smart home and entertainment.

Of course the streamer also provides easy access to, yes…the Apple TV and Apple TV+ platforms!

So:

  • Apple TV = Video Store App
  • Apple TV+ = Streaming Service
  • Apple TV (Box) = Hardware Device

The Apple TV (3rd Gen+) streaming devices remain quality living room offerings despite plenty of cheaper Roku, Fire TV and Chromecast rivals.

For buyers invested in other Apple products and services seeking tighter integration, or who prioritize elements like gaming, the premium hardware can be compelling.

But again – don‘t confuse the physical Apple TV product with Apple TV the app or Apple TV+ the streaming service! Different use cases and capabilities across these similarly named Apple offerings.

Which is Better for You?

So now that you know what Apple TV and Apple TV+ actually offer, which makes more sense for your needs?

There‘s no definitively "better" choice since the platforms serve different functions. But consider this:

Get Apple TV if you:

  • Want to rent/buy new release movies or catch up on certain TV shows
  • Own Apple devices and want easy access to purchased video content
  • Like iTunes-style à la carte media consumption
  • Prefer not paying monthly subscriptions

Get Apple TV+ if you:

  • Want access to hot Apple original exclusives out now
  • Don‘t mind a limited-but-growing content library
  • Appreciate high production value shows/films
  • Already subscribe to multiple streaming video services

For many, access to both platforms cover more bases. Use Apple TV for the occasional movie night while Apple TV+ enables you to catch buzzy original hits no one is talking about.

If investing in Apple‘s original programming plus maintaining easy access to purchased video content matters – get both Apple TV and Apple TV+!

For everyone else, choosing the video storefront or streamer based on your viewing preferences makes most sense. Apple TV works well for casual watchers who rent infrequently, while Apple TV+ best serves entertainment enthusiasts hungry to watch what‘s new.

Either provides plenty of quality consumption options worthy of your eyeballs!

FAQs about Apple TV and Apple TV+

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the differences between Apple TV and Apple TV+:

Can I watch everything on Apple TV if I pay for Apple TV+?

No. Apple TV+ only includes access to Apple original content. All other movies, shows and content require individual purchasing/renting from the Apple TV store.

Do I need an Apple device to watch these services?

No. The Apple TV app is available on many non-Apple platforms like smart TVs, streaming devices and game consoles. Apple TV+ supports web browser access as well from a computer.

Do Apple TV+ subscribers get any discounts on Apple TV store purchases?

Unfortunately, being an Apple TV+ subscriber does not score you any discounts, coupons or special offers in the Apple TV storefront. The services are still pretty separate.

Can I watch MLB or MLS games anywhere other than Apple TV+?

No. Due to broadcast rights agreements, live baseball and soccer games on Apple TV+ are exclusive to that streaming service and are not available on alternate platforms.

What happens if I cancel Apple TV+?

You immediately lose access to all Apple original programming and can no longer watch Apple TV+ content. There are no cancellation or early termination fees, however. Simply stop paying and your subscription ends.

Hopefully this article cleared up the differences between Apple TV, Apple TV+, and the Apple TV streaming box. Now you can decide which Apple streaming platform best fits your needs!

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