What Is Apple TV – An App, Product, or A Streaming Platform?



Is Apple TV a streaming service, an 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 that are called the Apple TV – and these products are all related but very different from one another at the same time.

This similar naming breeds confusion among customers, so let’s put this issue to bed once and for all. Here’s what you need to know…

What Is Apple TV – An App, Product, or A Streaming Platform?
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The 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 a streaming box. Common digital media players include the Apple TV, the Roku, and Amazon’s Fire TV.

The Apple TV is actually as old as the iPhone. It was unveiled 15 years ago in 2007. Since then the Apple TV has advanced through multiple generations.

The Apple TV of today runs its own operating system known as 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 designed specifically for the 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 the Apple TV include weather apps and more.

As of August 2022, Apple sells two models of the Apple TV:

  • Apple TV 4K: This comes with the new Siri Remote and is available in 32 GB or 64 GB storage options. It can play both HD and 4K video.
  • Apple TV HD: This comes with the new Siri Remote and is available in only a 32 GB storage option. This model can only play videos at a maximum of 1080p resolution.

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 Apple TV. 

Apple TV+ competes with other major streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus. The service debuted in 2019 and is unique among streaming services in that it does not feature third-party content. With few exceptions, Apple TV+ only features original content Apple commissions explicitly for the Apple TV+ service. 

This means Apple TV+ has nowhere near the content of its competitors, which offer legacy as well as original content. However, Apple TV+ content is generally regarded as content of the highest quality – content that winds awards. Some of its most popular shows are Ted Lasso, Severance, and For All Mankind.

Apple TV+ has another advantage over its competitors: it’s extremely cheap. Apple TV+ is just $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year. 

Apple TV Is Also An App

Finally, Apple TV is also the name of an app Apple makes. The Apple TV app is bundled with iOS, macOS, and iPadOS. The Apple TV app is also found on numerous smart TVs and other devices.

You might think 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’s not the case.

The Apple TV app is the home of the Apple TV+ streaming service, but it also acts as a hub for other video streaming services (which the Apple TV calls “channels”) as well as acts as the home for the library of movies and TV shows you’ve bought through iTunes. Oh, and the Apple TV app also features a built in store where you can buy movies and TV shows.

Bottom Line

Bottom Line: don’t feel dumb for not understanding what someone is referring to when they say “Apple TV.” The term can actually refer to three different products from Apple.

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Michael Grothaus

Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.
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