An Introduction to Apple’s New TV App

It’s time to take a look at Apple’s revised version of the Apple TV app.
Let’s walk through it.

Showtime signup. Image credit: Apple

First, we need some definitions.

  1. Apple TV [4K]. Apple’s black, hardware Over-the-top (OTT) streaming box.
  2. Apple TV Application. Apple’s tvOS and iOS app that’s the gateway to your purchased video library, streaming video, and Channels.
  3. Apple TV+. Apple’s own streaming service “Featuring original shows and movies across every genre…”
  4. Apple TV Channels. New in iOS/tvOS 12.3, Channels is like Amazon Prime’s Channels which allows the user to subscribe to, for example, HBO Now, Showtime, STARZ, Cinemax, Acorn TV and more.

For those who are fond of firing up a tvOS or iOS app, say Netflix or Amazon’s Prime Video app, and watching favored content there, that’s still possible. One can live in those encapsulated apps. But there are people who don’t want to have a myriad of apps. They’d rather live in just one app.

Of course, that’s not entirely possible now. Netflix is not [yet] available as an Apple TV Channel. Netflix sees Apple as a strong competitor and would rather keep you in the Netflix app.

For a comprehensive survey of the offerings, see “Apple Launches New TV App, Providing Access to Over 150 Video Apps Including HBO, Hulu, CBS, Showtime, Starz, ESPN and Amazon Prime Video.” Note:

The Apple TV app also provides access to other third-party video services including Hulu, CBS All Access, ESPN+ and Amazon Prime Video, with the ability to search for and browse selections from those apps.

That is, if you are subscribed to those services.

Subscription Management

The TV app is very similar on iOS and tvOS. In iOS, your library is found in the middle tab at the bottom of the app. In tvOS, it’s found at the top right of the app’s screen. You can do everything in the iOS app that you could on the tvOS app.

However, viewing and managing your subscriptions is a little different. Here’s Apple’s tech note. “View, change, or cancel your subscriptions.

In tvOS go to Settings > Accounts > Manage Subscriptions.

In iOS [From Apple]:

  1. Go to Settings > [your name] > iTunes & App Store.
  2. Tap your Apple ID at the top of the screen, then tap View Apple ID. You might need to sign in with your Apple ID.
  3. Scroll to Subscriptions, then tap it.

If you don’t have any subscriptions, there won’t be an entry. If you do, you’ll see something like this.

Image credit: Apple

Subscribing to a Channel

In the TV app, you’ll need to scroll down past all the main sections. What to Watch, then New and Noteworthy and, finally, all the Featured entries. Eventually, you’ll get to this:

Left part of Channels. To see more drag left.

If you tap on one, you’ll get a verification page. It’ll look like this.

Pay careful attention to the free trial period POLICY as to when you must cancel the free trial without being charged.


I had to poke around to find the controls for the subtitles in iOS. In iOS, that’s managed by a small info box at the bottom right of the player controls.

iOS: Image credit: Apple

But on the Apple TV, in tvOS, swipe down on the remote touch surface to bring up the subtitles option. Swipe up when done.

tvOS: Subtitle control is the middle item. Image credit: Apple.

Final Thoughts

I think it’s very weird and confusing that Apple makes us scroll past a lot of noise sections before we see the subscription offerings below them. Subscriptions really should be in their on tab.

Also, the days of determining for yourself what’s of interest, then finding it, seem to be forever gone. The TV app presents us with a boatload of what I call happenstance selections. You see something in one of the sections, for example, “What to Watch” and often end up in a time-wasting rabbit hole. This design is visually pleasing at the cost of being clean and direct.

Speaking of direct, the app doesn’t distinguish between what you have access to already, thanks to subscriptions, and what you’ll have to pay for. This seems a lot like pandering for dollars. Shows that will require one to subscribe to a new service to view should have a special $ icon in the corner.

After more testing, I found that the Recently Watched section just up and moved from the top of the Watch Now tab to the bottom. Crazy. Plus, if you only watch a few seconds of a video (for testing) it gets dropped into Recently Watched. What is the app thinking?

I found the “Up Next” entry obtrusive and confusing. I suppose it’s for people who can’t remember what they watched last. At least a long press on the thumbnail for the title allows one to delete it from “Up Next”  and “Recently Watched” sections. Apple is good with housekeeping sanity issues like that.

Long press the title icon.

In the fall, it’s likely Apple TV+ will be added to the available subscriptions. That’s when subscriptions in their own tab, with Apple TV+ showcased, should really be made to happen.

One thought on “An Introduction to Apple’s New TV App

  • John:

    Many thanks for a thorough review. This clears up many of questions I had, although I really hadn’t attempted to delve deeply.

    I can confirm that the iOS app does not appear to know which subscriptions I already have, like Curiosity Stream. Perhaps if I had attempted to resubscribe, it would have come back with said message, but better still to proactively show my subscriptions, which are located in System.

    Perhaps an in app tutorial is in order. Apple?

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