It was always known that Apple's March 25 event would focus on subscription platforms, but what transpired was a demonstration of the iPhone maker 'pivoting to services' on a scale it hasn't done before from TV shows to credit cards.
By the end of this year, Apple will have created several new businesses. These include, a TV production company with streaming service to take on Netflix; a television channels app to use instead of your cable system; a video game subscription service to take on consoles and Google Stadia; a titanium credit card and banking app to rival established players like American Express and startups like Monzo; plus a digital magazine subscription service to give you thousand of dollars of publications for $10 a month.
That's five new businesses, each of which will demand a monthly fee from customers. As iPhone sales slow, Apple is chasing profits elsewhere — and when you have over $250 billion in the bank, it shouldn't be surprising to see it move into several new industries at once.
Apple announced four new services this week, all due this yearApple
Let us briefly look at each of these new services to better understand what they are and how they'll work:
Apple TV Channels
The Apple TV set-top box will get a new Channels subscription interfaceApple
Essentially, this is a new Apple TV app which will live on the Apple TV set-top box and on iOS devices like iPhones and iPads, plus Mac computers for the first time. The app will let users subscribe to channels and TV packages like HBO, CBS, Acorn TV and Tastemade from within, instead of going off and using the respective apps of each service to consume their content.
Customers can subscribe to the channels they want and only pay for those, instead of signing up to pay for a collection of channels bundled by their cable TV provider, with some going unwatched.
This last point is a particularly big deal, as it means Apple content (provided through a no-doubt slick Apple app) will appear on a huge number of televisions, putting the company in more homes than the Apple TV streaming box currently occupies. The Channels platform will comes to over 100 countries, Apple said at the launch event, but there is no concrete list, no idea of what channels will be included in each country, or exactly when this will happen.
Steven Spielberg is involved with the creation of content for Apple TV+, due later in 2019
Next up, the company announced Apple TV+. This is the Netflix rival which had been rumored for some time, and will see Apple pour serious cash into producing its own TV content. Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell were on-stage to help announce the service, but little is known about it for now.
Apple failed to say exactly how much content will be available to customers of Apple TV+, or how much it will cost when it launches later in the year. We didn't get to see any trailers, but were told content will include documentaries on mental health and workplace harassment, presented by Winfrey. There will also be children's content featuring characters from Sesame Street.
Games from Apple Arcade can be played across multiple devices
Sticking with the entertainment theme (and coming just days after Googlr Stadia wowed the gaming press), Apple announced a new video game subscription service called Apple Arcade. For a flat fee (which hasn't yet been announced), Apple will give subscribers access to flagship iOS video games from leading developers, without adverts or in-game purchases.
It is essentially an all-you-can-play pass to the App Store, giving subscribers the ability to download over 100 new games for free, so long as they pay the monthly free, of course. Instead of being streamed, like with Google Stadia, games from Apple Arcade are downloaded to your iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV so they can be played online or offline.
We don't know a great deal about what games will be on offer, but given the ever-increasing power of the iPad Pro, iPhone and Mac computers, gamers should expect to see a healthy catalogue of high-end titles. Throw in a third-party gaming controller, and the Apple TV is even starting to look like a mid-range video game console.
These three new products — Channels, TV+ and Arcade — potentially turn the Apple TV set-top box into the star of your living room. The small device will earn huge new potential - and remember it already acts as a smart home command center, thanks to Siri and Apple's HomeKit platform.
News+ costs $9.99 per month and gives access to over 300 digital magazines
Another subscription service — and the only one announced this week to get a price — News+ costs $9.99 a month and gives unlimited access to over 300 magazines and newspapers. The catalogue includes some big-name magazines like Wired, Vogue, The New Yorker, and National Geographic, but for now it looks like the only newspapers taking part will be The Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.
Apple says it would cost over $8,000 per year to pay for every subscription individually, making $9.99 a month look like excellent value for money. But we worry that such a move will take much-needed revenue away from publications already faced with falling sales figures.
Of course, titles taking part in News+ will hope to earn enough from their share of the subscription plan to make it worthwhile. There are millions of iOS owners out there to potentially subscribe, but there's no telling how many actually will - especially when Apple will soon offer a large number of monthly subscription services.
Apple News+ is available now in the US and Canada (with a month's free trial), and will expand to Australia and the UK this fall. It isn't known for now if any local newspapers and region-specific versions of magazines for those countries will be involved.
Predominantly a service for Apple Pay on the iPhone, Apple Card also comes with a physical credit card, made from titanium
And finally, Apple announced it is making a credit card. Primarily to be used as a virtual card with Apple Pay on iOS devices and the Apple Watch, the service is backed by Mastercard and Goldman Sachs. It has no fees whatsoever and offers two percent cashback on purchases, or three percent on Apple purchases, such as subscriptions, iTunes content, or items bought in-store.
Apple Card will launch this summer and comes with an application which keeps track of your spending. This appears to work in a very similar way to a number of so-called 'challenger banks' which have launched in recent years, such as UK-based Monzo and Revolut.
Customers can apply for the card from their iPhone, and will also receive a physical card made from titanium for when they want to make a purchase where Apple Pay via their phone or Watch isn't available.
The card features no number, expiration date, signature or CVV, as all of that information is held on the digital card stored in the Wallet iOS app. In a bid to promote Apple Pay, purchases made with the physical card will earn just one percent cashback.
In a bid to promote privacy, Apple says it doesn't know what customers buy with their card, where they shop, or how much they paid for items, with spending data stored on your iPhone and not Apple's servers.
Apple's expansion into services is certainly interesting, and will make its existing physical products stickier than ever. The Apple TV especially will see some serious use thanks to games from Apple Arcade, exclusive Apple content from TV+, and of course with its existing smart home control center, HomeKit.
As for the Apple Card, we can see the shiny titanium card quickly becoming the new must-have status symbol. It may not carry the metaphorical weight of a black Amex, but paired with the simplicity of Apple Pay and the usefulness of the bundling spend-tracking app, we can see it quickly becoming a major hit — especially with up to three percent cash back and no fees.