App Store customer spending hit record $1.42B from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Eve

Apple this morning released a year-end retrospective of its Services business, which includes the App Store, Apple Music, iCloud, and new in 2019, Apple Arcade, Apple TV+, Apple News+, and Apple Card. In particular, the company highlighted new holiday 2019 records set on the App Store which sees over a half a billion visits from people in 155 countries per week. To date, App Store developers have earned over $155 billion, Apple noted.

What’s remarkable is that a quarter of those earnings came in last year alone.

Apple also noted it saw a busy holiday season on the App Store with customers spending reaching $1.42 billion between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve — a 16% increase over 2018.

On New Year’s Day, customers spend $386 million alone — a 20% increase over 2019 and a new single-day record.

The company confirmed the year’s top 10 free and paid apps and games, with YouTube, Facetune, Mario Kart Tour and Minecraft snagging the No. 1 positions. (Full lists are below). Apple Arcade, meanwhile, grew to include over 100 games.

Beyond the App Store, Apple touted some of the major achievements for its other Services businesses, but not in terms of revenue generated.

For example, it said that more than 50% of Apple Music listeners tried the time-synced lyrics feature on iOS 13. It also noted that its Apple TV+ shows received Golden Globe and SAG nominations in year one. And it said Apple News now as over 100 million monthly active users in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Canada.

On the podcasting front, Apple noted its Podcasts app now includes over 800,000 shows in 155 countries. For comparison’s sake, its chief rival Spotify has over 500,000.

Apple Pay allowed entry to more than 150 stadiums, ballparks, arenas and entertainment venues around the world was available with contactless tickets in 2019, and users could ride public transit in Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Moscow, London, and New York. This year, more cities are being added, including Washington D.C., Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Foshan, plus several U.S. universities.

In terms of security, over 75% of iCloud users have enabled two-factor authentication, Apple noted.

“2019 was the biggest year for Services in Apple’s history. We introduced several exciting new experiences for our customers, all while setting the standard for user privacy and security,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, in a statement. “We begin the new decade with incredible momentum and gratitude to our customers who have shown such enthusiasm for all of our Services, and we continue to celebrate the work of the world’s best creators, storytellers, journalists and developers,” he added.

Top Apps of 2019

Top Free iPhone Apps
  1. YouTube: Watch, Listen, Stream
  2. Instagram
  3. Snapchat
  4. TikTok – Make Your Day
  5. Messenger
  6. Gmail – Email by Google
  7. Netflix
  8. Facebook
  9. Google Maps – Transit & Food
  10. Amazon – Shopping made easy
Top Paid iPhone Apps
  1. Facetune
  2. HotSchedules
  3. Dark Sky Weather
  4. The Wonder Weeks
  5. AutoSleep Tracker for Watch
  6. TouchRetouch
  7. Procreate Pocket
  8. Sky Guide
  9. Toca Hair Salon 3
  10. Scanner Pro: PDF Scanner App
Top Free iPhone Games
  1. Mario Kart Tour
  2. Color Bump 3D
  3. aquapark.io
  4. Call of Duty: Mobile
  5. BitLife – Life Simulator
  6. Polysphere – art of puzzle
  7. Wordscapes
  8. Fortnite
  9. Roller Splat!
  10. AMAZE!!
Top Paid iPhone Games
  1. Minecraft
  2. Heads Up!
  3. Plague Inc.
  4. Bloons TD 6
  5. Geometry Dash
  6. Rebel Inc.
  7. The Game of Life
  8. Stardew Valley
  9. Bloons TD 5
  10. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Former HBO exec Richard Plepler signs exclusive production deal with Apple TV+

Nearly a year after stepping down as chief executive of HBO, Richard Plepler and his production company Eden Productions have signed a five-year deal with Apple TV+.

Plepler started at HBO back in 1993 and became CEO in 2013. During his time in that role, HBO had continued success with shows new (“True Detective” and “Big Little Lies”) and old (“Game of Thrones”). It also launched its direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service, HBO Now, which in some ways was the precursor to HBO Max — an upcoming service from AT&T and WarnerMedia that will incorporate HBO as part of a larger offering.

Plepler left HBO in the aftermath of AT&T’s acquisition of its corporate parent Time Warner. Reports suggested that AT&T executives wanted HBO to ramp up its content production in the hopes of growing the subscriber base and time spent watching the service.

According to The New York Times, Plepler’s deal will see Eden Productions creating TV shows, documentaries and feature films exclusively for Apple TV+.

In explaining his move, Plepler told The Times that he didn’t want to try to “duplicate” his time at HBO — instead, it made sense to “do my own thing.” He also said that his only serious talks were with Apple: “I thought that Apple was the right idea very quickly, just because it was embryonic enough that I thought maybe, you know, I could make a little contribution there.”

 

HBO’s former CEO said to be in talks with Apple TV+ for an exclusive production deal

The man who oversaw the creation of some of HBO’s most highly-praised ‘prestige TV’ could soon be making shows for Apple TV+, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal. Richard Plepler, who was HBO’s Chairman and CEO up until he parted ways with the company last February following its acquisition by AT&T, is nearing an exclusive production deal with Apple’s new original content streaming service, the report says.

Plepler, who spent almost 30 years at HBO, including six as its CEO during which the media company aired some of its biggest hits, including ‘Game of Thrones,’ would definitely bring some big-name industry influence to Apple’s efforts. Not that Apple TV+ lacks for that in its early offing, either: The premiere slate of original shows include Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon-led ‘The Morning Show,’ and and a show centred around Oprah’s Book Club, just to name a couple of examples.

The deal, which isn’t yet final but might be signed officially “within the next few weeks,” per the report, would be between Apple and Plepler’s RLP & Co., a production company he established after leaving HBO. There’s nothing yet to indicate what kind of projects he’d be working on for Apple TV+, but it’s a logical target for Apple’s new original content enterprise to pursue, given that its focus thus far appears to be on fewer, big budget and high-profile projects, but critical reception hasn’t been up to par with the kind of TV that HBO has a track record of producing.

Original Content podcast: Apple’s star-studded ‘Morning Show’ gets off to a bumpy-but-promising start

We weren’t sure what to expect from the launch of Apple’s new subscription streaming service. There were reports that the company was committed to staying family friendly, rather than exploring the adult content and creative liberties that both premium cable and streaming can offer. Plus, most of the trailers were pretty underwhelming.

For our 100th (!) episode, your regular Original Content podcast hosts are joined by TechCrunch writer Sarah Perez to discuss all the Apple TV+ shows we’ve sampled so far — “For All Mankind,” “See,” “Dickinson” and even “Snoopy in Space.” And we were pleasantly surprised by what we found.

Just a few episodes in, “For All Mankind” (an alternate history in which the Soviet Union won the race to the moon) and “See” (set in a world where everyone has lost the sense of sight) have turned some of us into fans. And even “Dickinson” — which has the seemingly impossible task of telling Emily Dickinson’s story using modern slang— turns out to be a strange and watchable experiment.

We save our most extensive discussion for the most high-profile title of the bunch: “The Morning Show,” which stars Jennifer Aniston as Alex Levy, longtime host of an AM news show also called “The Morning Show,” and Reese Witherspoon as local news anchor Bradley Jackson, whose confrontation at a coal mine protest ends up going viral right as Alex’s show implodes, thanks to sexual misconduct allegations against her longtime co-host Matt Kessler (played Steve Carell).

Obviously, the show has star power, and the leads are supported by talented and familiar faces like Billy Crudup, Mark Duplass and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

The performances are all strong, with Aniston and Witherspoon carrying the show: Aniston convincingly portrays a woman who’s both devastated by the revelations of her on-screen partner’s behavior and desperate to seize the opportunity that these revelations create. Witherspoon, meanwhile, adds complex shading to perhaps her trademark role as a spunky, ambitious upstart.

The writing, on the other hand, is a bit uneven. There’s an unfortunate tendency towards speechifying about big themes like The Role of Journalism in America — at times, it feels almost Sorkin-esque, but without the eloquence or snappiness of Aaron Sorkin’s best dialogue.

So far, though, the speeches have been balanced out by strong characterization and some satisfyingly dramatic twists.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you want to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:30 Apple TV+ roundup
27:02 “The Morning Show” review (spoiler-free)

Can’t find the new Apple TV+ shows, like ‘Dickinson?’ This shortcut can help.

The Apple TV app is so bad, someone had to create a shortcut just to make it easier to navigate to the new Apple TV+ content. Apple may have invested billions in its Apple TV+ streaming service and hosted star-studded events to tout its new shows, but what it apparently didn’t do is give much thought to designing its TV app to help direct users to its exclusive content.

Instead, the Apple TV+ shows were mixed in with everything else at launch — forcing users to scroll past What to Watch recommendations and more from the larger iTunes catalog just to find the Apple TV+ section.

And even if and when you found that Apple TV+ section, each individual show page is poorly organized, too. Instead of following the standard format where a season’s episodes are listed in vertical order on an iPhone, Apple’s TV app opts for a horizontal scroll instead. It’s frustrating. It’s confusing. No one likes it.

Apple TV+ may only include a handful of shows at launch, but it still deserves its own, dedicated tab — like Apple’s very own Netflix within the larger construct of the TV app. Part of the problem, as detailed by 9to5Mac here, is that Apple’s TV app has been designed to be a jack-of-all-trades. It connects you to your iTunes library of rentals and purchases, to your add-on premium subscriptions, to your TV Everywhere-authenticated apps, and to some — but not all — of your favorite streaming services.

But the end result is an app that’s sort of a mess and one that failed to carve out a dedicated space for Apple TV+.

This problem also annoyed MacStories Editor-in-Chief Federico Viticci, who wanted an easier way to navigate directly to the Apple TV+ catalog content.

His solution? An iOS shortcut.

Viticci figured out a way to create URLs that will open any Apple TV+ section you want to get to in the TV app. Similar to how Apple Music web links can be edited to direct to content right in the Apple Music app, Apple TV+ web links can also be tweaked to launch the TV app — without redirecting you through Safari first. This is done by replacing the “https” part of the content URL with “com.apple.tv,” he explains.

With this discovery, Viticci was then able to create a shortcut that lets you go directly to any Apple TV+ page — including the “front page” for Apple TV+ or the individual show pages for shows like The Morning Show, For All Mankind, See, and Dickinson.

Apple TV+’s catalog is a bit larger than that, of course, and will continue to grow. But you can continue to edit the shortcut to meet your needs.

To add something new to the default list of shows, you’ll first have to locate the show in the TV+ app — good luck! You’ll then tap the “Share” button then choose “Copy” to copy the link to your clipboard. In the shortcut, you’ll add a new “Text” item to the action that’s at the beginning of the shortcut, and name it what you like. Finally, you’ll paste in the link you had copied into the “Value” field.

Ta-da! You updated the shortcut!

Or if you just want to use the iOS shortcut as is, so you can get right to Dickinson, you can add it by clicking here.

Viticci tells TechCrunch he expects to keep adding sections as well as links for more shows, as these become available. The shortcut, which is called simply “Apple TV+ Launcher,” will be updated in the MacStories Archive so people can re-download the latest version as needed, he says.

Of course, when people are building a shortcut to work around an app’s poor navigation, there’s a bigger problem that needs to be addressed.

Now, it’s possible that Apple intentionally mixed in Apple TV+ content in such a way to not make it look like it was using its platform power to give its own service a boost, in light of the recent antitrust and anticompetitive investigations into its business practices. But Apple usually doesn’t go so far as to offer a poor user experience — that’s just not in its ethos.

Besides, Apple certainly wasn’t shy about marketing the streaming service in other ways — as with the push notifications or the big Apple TV+ banner at the top of the Apple TV homescreen, for example.

Instead, this just looks like a case of needing to tweak the app’s design.

Until then, we can just use the shortcut to help.

(Image credits: MacStories)

 

NVIDIA’s new Shield TV wins the Android TV market with amazing 4K upscaling

NVIDIA has a new family of Android TV-based streaming devices, as tipped early via a couple of leaks from online stores. The new NVIDIA Shield TV ($149) and Shield TV Pro ($199) replace the existing Shield TV generation of hardware, which debuted in 2017. Both new Shields offer new Tegra X1+ processors, which outperform the predecessor chip by about 25 percent, and make possible one of this Shield’s new highlight features: AI-powered 3K up-conversion for HD content.

Both Shield TV and Shield TV Pro also support Dolby Vision HDR content, as well as Dolby Atmos surround sound. The differences between the two devices center mainly around physical design, with the Shield TV adopting a cylindrical tube design, and the Shield TV Pro looking more like its predecessor (basically a small set-top box form factor). The Shield TV Pro also gets more RAM (3GB vs. 2GB), more storage (16GB vs 8GB) the ability to transcode 1080p streams when acting as a Plex Media Server, support for the SmartThings Link to turn it into a SmartThings smart home hub and advanced Android gaming support, along with two USB 3.0 ports.

Shield TV Review

Nvidia Shield TV 4I’ve been using the Shield TV for around a week now, and this is definitely a worthwhile upgrade for anyone looking to get the best possible experience available in an Android TV home theater device. NVIDIA has clearly done a lot to survey the market, look at everything that’s come out in the two years since it last updated this hardware, and delivery generational improvements that help it stand out from the crowd in meaningful ways.

Android TV now ships on a lot of smart TVs, and there have been many generations of Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices introduced since we last saw a new Shield from NVIDIA – all of which adds up to needing to really do something special to ask for $149.99 from consumers to invest in a new dedicated streaming media box. NVIDIA has always delivered a lot of value for the upfront cost of their streaming hardware, with consistent updates over the life of the devices that add plenty of new features and improvements. But this new hardware packs in some excellent features not possible with software alone, and that are also unique when you look across the options available in this category.

AI Upscaling

Chief among the additions NVIDIA has made here is the AI upscaling made possible with the new Tegra X1+ chip. You might have heard of ‘upscaling’ before, and you might even think that your TV already handles that well. But what you probably don’t know is that often content from streaming media sources doesn’t actually get upscaled by your TV, which means if you have a 4K display but are often watching YouTube or other services with large quantities of non-4K content, you might not be getting the most out of your hardware.

NVIDIA has addressed this with on-device 4K upscaling, which is powered by on-device machine intelligence that has been trained on a deep neural network to turn both 720p and 1080p signals into much sharper, 4K-equivalent images. Having used this on a variety of content, including media streamed from YouTube, non-4K Netflix content and stuff from Plex, I can attest to its ability to produce visibly sharper images that look great, especially on my LG C8-series OLED 4K TV.

The Shield TV’s tech is trained on popular movies and TV shows, and so does a remarkably good job of guessing what the 4K version of the HD image it’s looking at should properly look like. Considering that there’s a ton of content out there that hasn’t been made available in 4K, despite now a lot of TVs supporting that resolution, this is a big advantage for NVIDIA, and again one that they uniquely offer among their peers.

Dolby Everything

These new Shields also support Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, across more services than anything else out there on the market right now. These HDR and surround sound modes really do offer the best audio-visual experience you can get, provided you have TVs and audio output equipment that supports them, but what you might not know is that even on other streaming hardware that technically support these standards, they might not be supported across all services.

Shield TV supports Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos across Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Vudu and Movies Anywhere, so you should be getting the most out of these technologies, too. I asked about the forthcoming Apple TV+ service, which is rolling out to Roku devices, for instance, but NVIDIA didn’t have any news to share just yet – it does seem like it’s a good idea to stay tuned on that front, however.

Like AI Upscaling, Dolby support across everything might not seem like a big competitive advantage, but it’s absolutely a decision tipping factor for people who are looking for the best possible A/V experience in a home streaming device.

New and Improved Remote

Nvidia Shield TV 5NVIDIA is shipping the new Shield TVs with a brand new redesigned remote in the box. There’s a dedicated ‘Netflix’ button, which is a nice touch, but the remote overall is just an improvement over both Shield remotes past, and other competing remotes, in every way. It’s powered by AAA batteries (included) and it has a new pyramid-shaped body design that makes it easier and more pleasant to hold.

There are also lots of new buttons! Yes, NVIDIA actually put buttons on their remote control – what a novel concept! Whereas the remote from the last generation seemed to be adopting a lot of the questionable choices Apple has long been making on their remotes, this one feels like it’s made with humans in mind, with dedicated play/pause, back, forward, volume and other buttons. A wealth of buttons.

This remote also has automatic backlighting, which will serve you well when using it in a darkened room. Because of the bulkier body design, it also stands on its end, and there’s a lost remote finding function, too. Chalk up a win for human-centric design with this remote, it’s a joy to use.

Simple physical design

The design of the device is not flashy, but it is smart. There’s an Ethernet port, a power connector, an HDMI port and a micro SD card slot, dividing across both ends of the tube. This makes it perfect for placing behind a console or media bench, on the ground or next to your other power cables.

[gallery ids="1904249,1904250,1904246"]

It still provides hardwired connectivity options in case you do things like in-home game streaming or GeForce NOW cloud gaming, and it offers expandable storage via the microSD slot.

Bottom Line

NVIDIA’s new Shield is a great option for anyone looking for a versatile streaming device, with access to all of Google’s Play Store apps for Android TV, and support for the latest AV standards. It’s real bonus advantage is that AI upscaling, however, which is something that NVIDIA is uniquely poised to do well, and which goes a long way in making that $149.99 price point seem like a tremendous value.

SHIELD TV Family

Spotify gains Siri support on iOS 13, arrives on Apple TV

In a long-awaited move, Spotify announced this morning its iOS 13 app would now offer Siri support and its streaming music service would also become available on Apple TV. That means you can now request your favorite music or podcasts using Siri voice commands, by preferencing the command with “Hey Siri, play…,” followed by the audio you want, and concluding the command with “on Spotify.”

The Siri support had been spotted earlier while in beta testing, but the company hadn’t confirmed when it would be publicly available.

According to Spotify, the Siri support will also work over Apple AirPods, on CarPlay, and via AirPlay on Apple HomePod.

In addition, the Spotify iOS app update will include support for iPhone’s new data-saver mode, which aids when bandwidth is an issue.

Spotify is also today launching on Apple TV, joining other Spotify apps for TV platforms, including Roku, Android TV, Samsung Tizen, and Amazon Fire TV.

The app updates are still rolling out, so you may need to wait to take advantage of the Apple TV support and other new features.

The lack of Siri support for Spotify was not the streaming music service’s fault — it wasn’t until iOS 13 that such support even became an option. With the new mobile operating system launched in September, Apple finally opened up its SiriKit framework to third-party apps, allowing end-users to better control their apps using voice commands. That includes audio playback on music services like Spotify, as well as the ability to like and dislike tracks, skip or go to the next song, and get track information.

Pandora, Google Maps and Waze were among the first to adopt Siri integration when it became available in iOS 13 — a clear indication that some of Apple’s chief rivals have been ready and willing to launch Siri support as soon as it was possible.

Though the integration with Siri will be useful for end-users and beneficial to Spotify’s business, it may also weaken the streaming company’s antitrust claims against Apple.

Spotify has long stated that Apple engages in anti-competitive business practices when it comes to its app platform, which is designed to favor its own apps and services, like Apple Music, it says. Among its chief complaints was the inability of third-party apps to work with Siri, which gave Apple’s own apps a favored position. Spotify also strongly believes the 30% revenue share required by the App Store hampers its growth potential.

The streamer filed an antitrust complaint against Apple in the European Union in March. And now, U.S. lawmakers have reached out to Spotify to request information as a part of an antitrust probe here in the states, reports claim. 

Despite its new ability to integrate with Siri in iOS 13, Spotify could argue that it’s still not enough. Users will have to say “on Spotify” to take advantage of the new functionality, instead of being able to set their default music app to Spotify, which would be easier. It could also point out that the support is only available to iOS 13 devices, not the entire iOS market.

Along with the Apple-related news, Spotify today also announced support for Google Nest Home Max, Sonos Move, Sonos One SL, Samsung Galaxy Fold, and preinstallation on Michael Kors Acess, Diesel and Emporio Armani Wear OS smartwatches.

 

Apple’s new ‘For All Mankind’ trailer focuses on the people dealing with a Soviet space race win

Apple’s new premium subscription TV service is launching on November 1, and there’s a new trailer for one of its original shows, the Ronald D. Moore project “For All Mankind.”

The series is a fictional period piece set in the late ’60s/early ’70s that follows an alternate timeline in which Soviet Russia, not the U.S., is the first to land a man on the Moon. It seems like there will be a lot of fallout as a result of the U.S. losing this key battle in the space race, but the biggest divergence from our actual history might be that the Americans seem to go all-in on an astronaut qualification and training program for women much earlier than they did in real life.

Watching this, which is more focused on the various cast members than previous trailers for this show (which set up the premise), I get strong “The Calculating Stars” and the entire “Lady Astronaut” novel series vibes, which are great books by Mary Robinette Kowal if you’re looking for alternative history with a space bent right now (and don’t want to wait for Apple’s $5 per month service to launch).

That said, I’m definitely still very interested in checking this out when it is available, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s from the same creator who brought us the early 2000s’ “Battlestar Galactica” reboot and “Outlander,” my favorite time-traveling British history romp.

I hope Apple Arcade makes room for weird cool shit

Apple Arcade seems purpose built to make room in the market for beautiful, sad, weird, moving, slow, clever and heartfelt. All things that the action, shooter and MOBA driven major market of games has done nothing to foster over the last decade.

I had a chance to play a bunch of the titles coming to Apple Arcade, which launched today in a surprise move for some early testers of iOS 13. Nearly every game I played was fun, all were gorgeous and some were really really great.

A few I really enjoyed, in no particular order:

20190524 WCF GameplayScreenshot wcf screenShot mcFishShakeJump 1080

Where Cards Fall — A Snowman game from Sam Rosenthal. A beautiful game with a clever card-based mechanic that allows room for story moments and a ramping difficulty level that should be fantastic for short play sessions. Shades of Monument Valley, of course, in its puzzle + story interleave and it its willingness to get super emotional about things right away. More of this in gaming! Super satisfying gameplay and crisp animations abound.

20190729 Overland GameplayScreenshot 09 Basin

Overland — Finji — Overland is one of my most anticipated games from the bunch, I’ve been following the development of this game from the Night in the Woods and Canabalt creators for a long time. It does not disappoint, with a stylized but somehow hyper-realized post apocalyptic turn-based system that transmits urgency through economy of movement. Every act you take counts. Given that it’s a rogue like, the story is told through the world rather than through an individual character’s narrative and the world does a great job of it.

20190517 Oceanhorn2 Oceanhorn2 Screenshot 7

Oceanhorn 2 — Cornfox & Brothers — The closest to a native Zelda you’ll get on iOS — this plays great on a controller. Do yourself a favor and try it that way.

20190712 Spek GameplayScreenshot Spek Screen C 3

Spek — RAC7 — One of those puzzle games people will plow through, it makes the mechanics simple to understand then begins to really push and prod at your mastery of them over time. The AR component of the app seems like it will be a better party game than solo experience, but the effects used here are great and it really plays with distance and perspective in a way that an AR game should. A good totem for the genre going forward.

I was able to play several of the games across all three platforms including Apple TV with an Xbox controller, iPhone and iPad. While some favored controller (Skate City) and others touch controls (Super Impossible Road), all felt like I could play them either way without much difficulty.

There are also some surprises in the initial batch of games like Lego Brawls — a Smash Brothers clone that will be a big hit for car rides and get togethers I think.

My hope is that the Apple Arcade advantage, an agressive $4.99 price and prime placement in the App Store, may help to create an umbrella of sorts for games that don’t fit the ‘big opening weekend’ revenue mold and I hope Apple leans into that. I know that there may be action-oriented and big name titles in the package now and in the future, and that’s fine. But there are many kinds of games out there that are fantastic but “minor” in the grand scheme of things and having a place that could create sustainability in the market for these gems is a great thing.

The financial terms were not disclosed by Apple but many of the developers appear to have gotten up front money to make games for the platform and, doubtless, there is a rev share on some sort of basis, probably usage or installs. Whatever it is, I hope the focus is on sustainability, but the people responsible for Arcade inside Apple are making all the right noises about that so I have hopes.

I am especially glad that Apple is being aggressive with the pricing and with the restrictions it has set for the store, including no in-app purchases or ads. This creates an environment where a parent (ratings permitting) can be confident that a kid playing games from the Arcade tab will not be besieged with casino ads in the middle of their puzzle game.

There is, however, a general irony in the fact that Apple had to create Apple Arcade because of the proliferation of loot box/currency/in-app purchase revenue models. An economy driven by the App Store’s overall depressive effect on the price of games and the decade long acclimation people have had to spending less and less, down to free, for games and apps on the store.

By bundling them into a subscription, Apple sidesteps the individual purchase barrier that it has had a big hand in creating in the first place. While I don’t think it is fully to blame — plenty of other platforms aggressively promote loot box mechanics — a big chunk of the responsibility to fix this distortion does rest on Apple. Apple Arcade is a great stab at that and I hope that the early titles are an indicator of the overall variety and quality that we can expect.

Apple TV+ to launch November 1 for $4.99/month, one year free comes with select Apple devices

Apple today formally announced its launch plans for its new TV streaming service, Apple TV+, which will be available starting on November 1st, 2019 and will cost just $4.99 per month for the whole family. The service will be available across Apple’s platforms in over 100 countries through the Apple TV app.

As an unexpected surprise, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that when buy an Apple device — including an iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV — you’ll get a year of Apple TV+ for free.

According to Cook, only some of the shows will be available at launch. Others will be added every month.

A higher price point of $9.99 per month was previously reported by Bloomberg, which would have made Apple TV+ more expensive than rivals like the $6.99 per month Disney+, $5.99 per month Hulu (with ads), or the $8.99 per month single screen Netflix plan. It would have been less expensive than Netflix’s $12.99 per month standard plan.

The $4.99 per month price undercuts all. And bundling a free year with new Apple hardware should boost sales as well.

Apple’s entry into the TV streaming market has been public for some time thanks to leaks and reports from Hollywood media news sites and announcements of programs from Apple itself. The company then officially introduced Apple TV+ this March at a special event focused on the company’s services and subscriptions.

The event brought out a cavalcade of stars to discuss their involvement in the new streaming platform, including Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, Reese Witherspoon, Jason Momoa, Alfre Woodard, Kumail Nanjiani, J.J. Abrams, Sara Bareilles, and even Big Bird.

Some of the more anticipated shows arriving include a morning show drama starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston; a Witherspoon-backed comedy based on Curtis Sittenfeld’s “You Think It, I’ll Say It;” a thriller called “Truth Be Told” starring Octavia Spencer; a revival of “Amazing Stories” exec-produced by Steven Spielberg; a new space drama “For All Mankind” from “Battlestar Galactica’s” creator Ronald D. Moore; a show from “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle; an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation;” original shows produced by Oprah Winfrey; a psychological thriller “Servant” produced by M. Night Shyamalan; an animated series called “Central Park” from “Bob’s Burgers” creator, and many others.

(Here’s a full list.)

Despite the numerous high-profile names attached, Apple’s service isn’t really a Netflix alternative. There’s not a big back catalog of licensed TV shows and movies, as you’d find elsewhere. Instead, the focus is on original content. If you want more, Apple TV Channels offers paid subscriptions to other premium services.

As Apple SVP Eddy Cue told attendees at SXSW 2018: “we’re not after quantity, we’re after quality.”

Services, like Apple Music, iCloud and AppleCare, have been a bigger focus for Apple in recent years, and may even become its most profitable sector, according to reports. As of its third-quarter earnings, Apple reported its services revenues, which include App Store fees, subscriptions, and other online services, had grown to $11.456 billion. At the same time, the iPhone made up less than half of Apple’s business.

The slowing iPhone sales have to do with the quality of the devices — even older models are still very good, and the improvements in new versions are not enough to prompt as frequent upgrades. To diversify, Apple has been focused on growing services revenues with launches like Apple News+, Apple Arcade, and now Apple TV+.

Apple is also clearly willing to spend in order to grow its media business further.

Last year, Apple had said it would spend around a billion dollars acquiring ten shows for the streaming TV service. But it later signed deals with Oprah, Steven Spielberg, and Sesame Workshop, which likely pushed that number much higher. A newer report from the Financial Times in August claimed the figure was now around $6 billion instead. 

What we don’t yet know is how well Apple’s investment will attract new subscribers in a market where there’s an increasing number of services offering premium, award-winning on-demand content, including Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and soon, Disney+.

The few trailers Apple has released so far have been fairly iffy — the first one of “The Morning Show” almost felt like a parody, while the latest, “Dickinson” seems to have turned the celebrated poet Emily Dickinson into a CW-style feminist punk rock hero.

Apple said the trailers had been watched over 100 million times.

At the event, it unveiled the trailer for the post-apocalyptic drama starring  Jason Momoa, “See,” which is Apple TV+’s take on Netflix’s “Bird Box,” apparently. It takes place in a world where all have gone blind.

As media critics finally get their hands on the shows for reviews, we’ll know more about whether Apple TV+ is worth the price.

“Our mission for Apple TV+ is to bring you the best original stories from the most creative minds in television and film,” said Cook, speaking to the audience at the iPhone press event today. “Stories that help you find inspiration that are grounded in emotion. Stories to believe in. Stories with purpose,” he said.