Stop us if you've heard this before: Apple is streamlining its TV app to make it a one-stop shop for all your TV and movie entertainment. That was the plan in 2016, when the stand-alone TV app was announced, and it was the plan again in 2019, when the all-new TV app promised to "bring together favourite shows and movies from Apple TV channels, iTunes and over 150 video apps". And now Apple's doing it again. But this time it's doing it properly, with one TV app to rule them all.
Despite Apple's streamlining efforts, it still has three TV and movie apps on the Apple TV 4K: the TV app, which integrates Apple TV Plus and third party streaming services such as Paramount Plus, Disney Plus / Hulu and more. TV Shows, which connects to that part of the iTunes Store, and iTunes Movies, which does the same for the movies section. The iTunes apps are going to be killed off, and so are the respective parts of the iTunes Store. Going forward, if it's a movie or a TV show it'll be in the TV app.
Why we're looking forward to this big app update
The news of the app update was broken by Bloomberg (the story is behind a paywall), which describes how Apple wants to have a single app for customers to find video and suggests that the update will happen within weeks in a tvOS update scheduled for "around December".
It's a move that's long overdue, because the TV app already covers TV and movie purchasing and rental – so for example when I wanted to rent Barbie, I didn't even think of going to the Movies app on my Apple TV 4K. I just rented it from inside the TV app. The iTunes apps are holdovers from the days when iTunes was the everything app, something that caused it to become horribly bloated as it moved from providing music to providing TV, movies and apps too.
The main Apple TV app also includes third-party subscription services, and that's important. As we also saw today with the Amazon Prime Video deal to distribute Crunchyroll's anime catalog, streaming app platforms are keen to eliminate friction – so instead of having to run multiple TV and movie apps on your device, you can use the Amazon or Apple app and your Amazon or Apple account to access all kinds of content from all kinds of places.
The hold-out in this simplification and streamlining is Netflix, which on Apple TV is not included in the recommendations that the TV app shows you from non-Apple services: to see what's new there you need to launch the dedicated Netflix app. You can understand why Netflix doesn't want to appear as just another one of Apple's TV channels, but I do wonder if that's counter-productive. I know that nine times out of ten when I'm flicking through my Apple TV to find something worth watching, I only really bother opening the Netflix app when I've run out of other options.
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Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.