Is Apple TV a Streaming Service, App or Hardware? Yes!
“What is Apple TV?” you ask. It’s a common question – and for a very specific reason. Apple actually makes three different types of products called Apple TVs – and these products are all related but very different at the same time.
This similar naming is causing confusion among customers, so let’s end this issue once and for all. Here’s what you need to know…
Apple TV is Apple’s digital media player
The first thing the Apple TV is is Apple’s digital media player. A digital media player is also known as a set-top box or streaming box. Common digital media players include the Apple TV, the rokuand Amazon’s Fire TV.
The Apple TV is actually as old as the iPhone. It was presented 15 years ago in 2007. Since then, the Apple TV has evolved over several generations.
Today’s Apple TV runs on its own operating system called tvOS. tvOS is heavily influenced by iOS. The tvOS home screen is made up of rows of applications and has a dock with your favorite applications at the top of the screen (as opposed to the bottom of the screen on iOS).
tvOS also has its own App Store where the user can download apps and games specially designed for Apple TV. Popular apps include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Max. However, streaming apps aren’t the only apps available. Other popular apps for Apple TV include weather apps and more.
As of August 2022, Apple will sell two models of the Apple TV:
- Apple TV 4K: This comes with the new Siri Remote and is available in 32GB or 64GB storage options. It can play both HD and 4K videos.
- Apple TV HD: This comes bundled with the new Siri Remote and is only available in a 32GB storage option. This model can only play videos with a maximum resolution of 1080p.
Apple TV is Apple’s streaming video service
The next product Apple calls Apple TV is its video streaming service. It’s officially branded “Apple TV+,” but most people just refer to it as the Apple TV.
Apple TV+ competes with other major streaming services such as Netflix and DisneyPlus. Launched in 2019, the service is unique among streaming services in that it doesn’t feature third-party content. With few exceptions, Apple TV+ only offers original content that Apple explicitly commissions for the Apple TV+ service.
This means the Apple TV+ falls far short of the content of its competitors, which offer both older and original content. However, AppleTV+ Content is generally considered to be the highest quality content—content that wins awards. Some of the most popular shows are Ted Lasso, Severance and For All Mankind.
Apple TV+ has another advantage over its competitors: it’s extremely affordable. Apple TV+ is only $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year.
Apple TV is also an app
Finally, Apple TV is also the name of an app that Apple makes. The Apple TV app is bundled with iOS, macOS, and iPadOS. The Apple TV app can also be found on numerous Smart TVs and other devices.
You might think that the Apple TV app is simply the app used to access the Apple TV+ video streaming service, just like the Netflix app is used solely to access the Netflix streaming service.
But that is not the case.
The Apple TV app is home to the Apple TV+ streaming service, but it also acts as a hub for other video streaming services (which Apple TV calls “channels”), as well as the home of the movie and TV library shows you can watch through iTunes bought. Oh, and the Apple TV app also has a built-in store where you can buy movies and TV shows.
Conclusion: Don’t feel stupid if you don’t understand what someone is referring to when they say “Apple TV”. The term can actually refer to three different Apple products.
Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothhaus has been reporting on technology on KnowYourMobile for almost 10 years. Previously he worked at Apple. And before that he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted one of the best novels about Hollywood Weekly entertainment. Michael is also a contributor to other publications including VICE and Fast Company.