With A-Listers on Hand, Apple Unveils a Future Focused on Services

Tony Avelar/AP/Shutterstock
March 25, 2019

By Hope King and Spencer Feingold

In one of its most anticipated announcements in years, Apple on Monday unveiled its long-awaited original video subscription platform and several other services.

CEO Tim Cook and other executives made the announcement at the Steve Jobs Theater on Apple’s new campus in Cupertino, California. Apple ($AAPL) announced its upcoming streaming service, Apple TV+, as well as, Apple News+, Apple Arcade, and the Apple Credit Card.

Monday’s event marked a new chapter in Apple’s history. The company known most for its hardware business is now shifting to focus on software-driven businesses that Apple calls services.

Apple TV+

Apple TV+ is Apple’s answer to Netflix and pay-TV bundles, combining movies and shows from both the digital and legacy media worlds.

The upcoming platform will include shows from cable channels such as HBO, Showtime and Starz, as well as Tastemade and Noggin. In addition, Apple has been working major names in Hollywood to produce original shows and films, including Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carrell, and J.J. Abrams.

All five of these A-listers took to the stage Monday to pitch their projects, which range from a show about morning television wars, “The Morning Show,” to “Little Life,” produced by Kumail Nanjiani and Alan Yang Cook.

Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard were also on hand to preview their sci-fi show “See,” which takes place in a world where humans are born blind.

But the celebrity who received the biggest reception of all was Oprah Winfrey. She took the stage as the last presenter of the morning.

“My deepest hope is that we all humans, get to become the fullest version of ourselves … To leave this world more enlightened, kinder and better than we found it,” she said. “And to move together 1 billion plus strong into a future of our own design, all connected through Apple.” (The word Apple, she emphasized in her signature way -- emphasizing the “ah” and dragging out the “pple” as she closed her eyes, extended her arms and shook her head.)

Winfrey repeated the 1 billion number a few times during her speech, driving home the point that though Apple may be over a decade late to the game (Amazon’s Prime video service launched in 2006, Netflix’s digital service in 2007, and Hulu in 2008) it has 1.4 billion active Apple devices around the world which could receive all the new content.

While Apple’s TV+ announcement got the most love Monday, exact timing and pricing were not revealed.

“We’ve done it because we love TV,” Cook said. “TV at its best enriches our lives.”

The Apple TV app will also be available on other platforms such as FireTV and Roku, and smart TVs from Samsung, LG and others.

Apple Card

The second most significant announcement Monday was Apple’s new credit card and updated wallet app.

The Apple Card is an Apple -- and Goldman Sachs -- created credit card built into the Apple Wallet app on iPhones.

The credit card sign up process takes “minutes” and can be used in stores in the real world, in apps, and online. Some of the key features also include a streamlined view of purchases, history, and payment options. For those familiar with Apple’s Screen Time, or even the Bedtime app, the different layouts will be easy to understand. Business categories are color-coded and an adjustable wheel displays how to pay down balances.

On stage, Cook called the Apple Card the most significant change for the credit card industry in 50 years.

“{This is} created by Apple and built on principles we stand for -- like simplicity and transparency and privacy,” he said. Purchase data, for example, will not be shared with or sold to outside companies for marketing and advertising.

Those who qualify in the U.S. will be able to start signing up for the card later this summer, although no details were provided on what’s required to be qualified.

An option to receive a physical credit card made from titanium will also be available for use in stores that do not accept Apple Pay.

The credit card has no fee -- to sign up, late, international or over-the-limit -- and Apple says interest rates “are among the lowest in the industry.” To sweeten the deal even more, there’s also a cash back component with immediate redemption. Apple-related purchases qualify for 3 percent cash back, Apple Card purchases using Apple Pay receive 2 percent, and Apple will reward customers with 1 percent cash back for the physical card.

(The physical cards do not feature a credit card number, a CVV security code, or an expiration date. Transaction histories are also stored only on the owners device and are never saved on Apple servers.)

Apple News+

As rumored, Apple also introduced a major expansion of its Apple News app, the company’s news aggregation app.

Apple News+ is a new $9.99-month service that gives people access to over 300 magazines, newspapers and digital outlets. The Wall StreetJournal, Los Angeles Times, Billboard, Essence, Wired, Vogue, The Skimm and Esquire are a few examples.

“We’ve got magazines for every passion under the sun,” Roger Rosner, Apple’s vice president of applications, said Monday.

Recommended stories and articles are curated by human editors and Apple News+ does not let Apple or any advertiser track what people are reading.

Apple News+ is available starting Monday in the U.S. and Canada, which includes English and French publications. The company plans to make the app available in Australia and the United Kingdom later this year.

Apple Arcade

Last but not least, Apple announced on Monday an all-you-can-play gaming subscription called Apple Arcade. At launch, the service will feature 100 new games and continue to grow.

“This is the first game subscription service for mobile, desktop, and living room,” Ann Thai, senior product manager of the App Store, said onstage. “{It} will appeal to the kid in all of us.”

Games will be playable offline and, as part of the subscription, they will not contain ads or in-app purchases.

As with all the other services in Apple’s business, Apple Arcade will not collect player data without their consent.

The cost of the subscription will be announced at a later date, Thai said.

Shares of Apple closed down 1.2 percent Monday. Soon to be competitors Netflix, Disney and AT&T saw their shares close up 1.5 percent, down 0.4 percent, and down 1 percent respectively.