Apple goes all-in on services, with new video, games and news subscription packages
With iPhone sales slowing, Apple knows there's more money to be made in digital services – and so today it's launched digital subscription packages for TV content, games, and digital news, as well as its own Apple Pay credit card. Read on for the details of everything Apple announced today.
First up was an extra layer on top of Apple News, called Apple News Plus – as well as bringing you curated new stories as always, the Plus services gives you access to over 300 magazines and paywalled newspaper content too, all for US$9.99 a month.
During the on-stage demo we saw Rolling Stone, Popular Science, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated and the Wall Street Journal inside the app. As well as access to content from these publications, the News Plus app offers extra touches too, like "live" covers that use short video clips rather than still images.
The News Plus service also lets you check out stories based around a topic from multiple magazines at once, and collect together your favorite publications. It looks like some stories have been specifically adapted, with layouts and animations, for mobile viewing.
Next, Apple demoed an upgrade to Apple Pay. Apple is launching its own credit card, under the name Apple Card, which can be used anywhere Apple Pay is. On your phone, you can check what you're spending money on, how much you owe, and when payments are due.
Like several other finance apps we've seen launched over the last few years, Apple Pay will categorize your spending for you, and let you dig into transactions in detail (you can see the physical location of the store you were at, for example). Apple is also introducing a Daily Cash cashback rewards scheme, giving you a percentage of your payments back.
The Apple Card, offered in partnership with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard, has no fees associated with it, and features a "low interest rate." There will also be a physical card option, made of titanium, with your name engraved on it. All of this will be available later in the year, Apple says.
Apple's third reveal was around gaming. Hard on the heels of the Google Stadia announcement, Apple is launching a new service called Apple Arcade: it works a little like a Netflix for games, covering iOS devices, macOS, and the Apple TV.
More than 100 games are going to be included at launch, exclusive to Apple Arcade, and it'll have its own dedicated tab in the App Store app on iOS. Pay your monthly subscription, and you can try as many games from the selection as you like. You'll also be able to start games on one Apple device, and pick up on another.
What Apple didn't mention is how much Apple Arcade is going to cost. It's launching in the fall of 2019 (Northern Hemisphere), in more than 150 countries and regions across the world, and looks set to take on Google Stadia directly.
Last and definitely not least, Apple unveiled a serious move into video content production, called Apple TV Plus. Dedicated to "the best stories ever told," the service will feature high-profile content from a variety of big names – Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Jason Momoa were some of the stars who appeared on stage.
Again, we don't know how much it's going to cost, but it will involve a monthly fee and it will work across all Apple devices. It's coming to more than 100 countries later this year, and will use downloads rather than streaming. You can think of it as Apple trying to be HBO as well as Apple.
Apple is adding some improvements to the existing TV app as well as launching its own programs, including iTunes movie integration and easier navigation, and it's introducing a separate service called Apple TV Channels at the same time.
The idea is you only pay for the channels you need, and access them all through the one TV app on your Apple devices. HBO, Showtime, and Starz are three of the channels that are going to be available, and live sports and movies get pulled in too (assuming you've subscribed to the necessary channels).
Apple is also talking up the new recommendations engine that gets smarter over time, and which can nudge you towards programs and movies you're going to be interested in based on what you've watched before. The new experience is rolling out in May, with the TV app arriving on macOS and selected smart TVs later this year.
Today's show at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park was one of the busiest Apple has had for some time now – and it didn't involve any hardware devices at all. That's a sign of a major shift for the company, as well as for the tech industry as a whole.