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Apple launches new credit card and TV streaming service to rival Netflix and Amazon

Natasha Bernal
Actors Steve Carell, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston speak during an Apple special event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino - REUTERS

Apple last night entered the online video arms race with its own TV streaming service as it hunts for growth outside of its core iPhone business.

In a flurry of announcements at its Silicon Valley headquarters, the tech giant also unveiled its own credit card in a major push into financial services, released a paid-for magazine subscription app and announced a subscription service for iPhone games.

The string of new services marks Apple’s attempt to move beyond its flatlining hardware division and generate more revenues from monthly subscriptions and software.

The centrepiece of the announcement was Apple TV Plus, the result of a billion-dollar investment in original content and a years-long attempt to woo Hollywood. Stars including Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Aniston  appeared at last night’s event to unveil the service.

Titles will include The Morning Show, a drama set around a TV chat programme, and Amazing Stories, a reboot of Mr Spielberg’s Eighties fantasy series, when the service launches in the autumn. Apple did not announce a price.

The company also announced a string of deals with other video providers including HBO and Britbox, the US streaming collaboration from BBC and ITV.

Apple will sell access to the services, which will appear on its new TV app and is designed to be a central portal to multiple television subscriptions.

Apple has dallied with online video in recent years but last night’s launch marked its biggest attempt to crack Hollywood. Under its chief executive Tim Cook, the company is attempting to reinvent itself as a business driven by services such as the iPhone App Store and Apple Music.

Illustrating the shift towards its fastest-growing business, Monday’s launch event contained no new gadgets or devices, but was entirely focused on the company’s software and content.

Its credit card, called Apple Card, is designed to work with the iPhone’s contactless payment service, Apple Pay, and has been launched with Goldman Sachs as its issuing bank.

The metal card will give users extra cash back for using the contactless Apple Pay service or with purchases from Apple and will be released in the US in the summer.

Mr Cook said it would represent the “most significant change to the credit card experience in 50 years”.

The magazine subscription service, Apple News Plus, is paid-for version of its news app, giving readers access to more than 300 magazines including the New Yorker, National Geographic and Rolling Stone.

The company has signed up two major US newspapers - the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.

Apple said the service, which costs $9.99 a month, will be released in the UK this autumn.

The company’s game subscription service, known as Arcade, will give users access to around 100 games, instead of having to buy them directly. The company said it would release it later this year.

The launch of the TV service brings Apple into an increasingly crowded online video market. Netflix, which began streaming shows in 2007, has close to 150m subscribers, and Amazon has bundled its own video service with its Prime membership. Disney is set to release its own streaming service by the end of this year.

Subscriptions to online streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky’s Now TV surpassed traditional pay-TV services in the UK last year, according to Ofcom.

Apple’s investment in online services comes as the hardware business it is best known for falters. Apple reported a rare fall in revenues at the end of last year, with sales of the iPhone dropping by 15pc. Sales from the services division, meanwhile, grew by 19pc.

Cook has outlined a plan to double revenues from Apple’s services business between 2017 and 2020. Last year, the division brought in $40bn, and it is now Apple’s second-biggest earner after the iPhone.

6:57PM

That's all folks

Tim Cook has exited the stage after asking all Apple employees involved in the services launch to stand up. 

That's it from the team in the UK - keep watching this space for further updates and analysis on the Apple launch. 

6:45PM

Apple's ace card

"There has never been a moment quite like this one." Indeed. Apple has just pulled out its ace card in its new streaming repertoire: Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah said she has “joined forces” with Apple to “heal divisions” in communities.

“They are in a billion pockets y’all, a billion pockets. That represents a major opportunity to make an impact,” she said. 

Oprah plans to build the “biggest book club on the planet” where Apple stores stream conversations between Oprah and writers to connect to people through books.

Tim Cook’s voices cracked as he talked about the artists that he claimed have “changed our culture”.

“What a fun morning,” he said. “The customer is and always will be at the centre of what we do.”

Credit: Apple

6:39PM

Ad-free TV

Apple TV Plus will be an ad-free service, everything will be downloadable, with exclusive content. Available in 100 countries from this Autumn.

"We think it will encourage new ways of looking at the world," says Tim Cook.

6:33PM

Big Bird makes the big show

Sesame Street star Big Bird has sauntered on stage to present a new show for children that will help them to learn how to code. The show, which was created by Sesame Workshop, will be called Helpsters.

6:22PM

How successful can Apple Arcade be?

The Telegraph's gaming editor Tom Hoggins has some thoughts:

"As is par for the course with initial (and over-polished) announcements there are plenty of questions over Apple Arcade. How much it will cost and whether its model is sustainable long-term for developers are the ones that come instantly to mind.

But I find myself instantly thrilled by the concept. In theory, this is Apple curating the very best paid iOS games (of which there are many) and removing them from the rat race of the App Store. Apple’s devices have some fabulous and inventive games --positioning Gorogoa on screen was no accident-- which don’t always cut through the noise.

This sounds like a way of doing just that, while creating a safe space for games free of microtransactions and questionable mechanics. While I wouldn’t want to disparage all free-to-play games, their volume and success is not always conducive to great game design. Apple Arcade looks like an idyllic vision that prioritises the premium experiences the company’s devices are capable of.

Plus, announcing an exclusive sequel to Revolution’s brilliant Beneath A Steel Sky in a surefire way to my own heart. (Plus, I told you Charles Cecil was in town for a reason)

If the reality lives up to the pitch, which is by no means guaranteed, Apple Arcade could be genuinely transformative."

6:19PM

The stars are out

Steven Spielberg is out to talk about the launch of his new sci-fi series while Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston are on stage to talk about The Morning Show, their new offering for Apple TV Plus.

Jason Momoa, former star of Game of Thrones,  has just turned up to tell us to smell, touch, taste, but also to shut our eyes. “See” is a programme about a future with no sight, and he’s rather excited to be starring in it.

Kumail Nanjiani is promoting his show Little America, which is a show featuring immigrants and the children of immigrants in the US which will chronicle their experience in the country.

JJ Abrams and Sara Bareilles are working on a show called “Little Voice” based on her experiences… and gave a piano rendition of the theme song.

Credit: Apple
Credit: Apple
Credit: Apple

6:13PM

Apple TV Plus

An “incredible new service” according to Tim Cook.

But what is it?

Three minutes in, and we still don’t know.

An all-star promotional video featuring directors Stephen Spielberg, Sofia Coppola, J.J. Abrams, M Night Shyamalan and Ron Howard, actors Reese Witherspoon, Octavia Spencer and Jennifer Aniston have spoken about stories being told and the magic of cinema.

But we don’t know how Apple TV Plus comes into it... Yet.

Credit: Apple

6:02PM

Apple's answer to Netflix looks a lot like... Netflix?

HBO, Showtime, Starz, Epics, CBS Access will be available through the Apple TV app, in one single place, as well as fellow streaming giant Amazon Prime.

Apple says it has redesigned the app to make it even simpler to find your favourite shows, but we can't help but feel that it looks a lot like its biggest competitor Netflix.

5:59PM

Apple TV

Personalised for you: welcome to the newest version of Apple TV.

The existing Apple TV has 150 streaming apps with shows that can be viewed across different devices. but the all new Apple TV app has been redesigned.

Peter Stern,  Apple's VP of services has the lowdown: 

"You can now access all of the sports, news and direct TV from apps like Hulu, PlayStation etc."

“You can pay for the channels that you want, in one app. You can watch anything on demand and ad free. You can download the shows and take them anywhere. You can enjoy the best picture and sound and can share it with family.”

Apple TV is already available in 10 countries, but now Apple plans to roll it out in 100 countries. It will also be available on smart TVs for the first time.

5:49PM

Apple Arcade

"iOS has become the largest gaming platform in the world," says Tim Cook, but the company will not stop there. Meet Apple Arcade, the next step in the company's foray into gaming. 

“Arcade is about giving ideas that could have never have been done by the mainstream,” according to the promotional video from Apple, and will be available in 150 countries and regions around the world.

Single subscription will grant over 100 new and exclusive games, and users can download them any time.

“You won’t find these games on any other mobile platform or on any other subscription service,” Apple said.

It will be on a tab on the App Store and can be used across multiple devices.

Users can play anywhere regardless of their internet connection. It will be all you can play, so all updates will be included. There will be no adverts.

Like the Apple News Plus, the subscription will be available for families at no extra cost.

Games will include Sonic and Zelda - and will be available this Autumn in over 150 countries. The company did not confirm the pricing of the service.

Credit: Apple

5:41PM

Monzo-esque

The company is working with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard - the latter partnership will mean Apple Card will be accepted all over the world. Every purchase will be authenticated by touch ID or Face ID.

The card is titanium and names are “lasered” on to them. These cards will have no card number, no CVV security code, no expiration and no signature.

Apple Card will be available in the US from this summer.

James Titcomb weighs in: 

5:28PM

Apple Card

Next up, Apple's payment service Apple Pay.  Tim Cook started by talking about Apple'e existing payment service and announced the next step in the company's payments push.

"We are changing the entire credit card experience. Today we are introducing Apple Card," says Tim Cook. 

“We had a vision to replace the wallet. It’s the simplest most private way to pay. We are on target to surpass 10 billion transactions this year. This is huge. We are looking forward to a future where all payments happen this way.” 

“By the end of this year we expect Apple Pay to be available in over 40 countries."

An Apple executive explains that in just minutes you can use the Apple Card worldwide and will be available on all devices.

You can see everything you need to know, like how much you have spent and when your payment is due. You can text them as well to ask about a transaction or update your details.

Credit: Apple

5:25PM

Apple News Plus will cost $9.99 per month

This will be available with family sharing at no extra charge.

It is available from today, and the first month is free and will be available in the US and Canada in English and French. Later this year it will be coming to Australia and Europe, starting with the UK, Rosner confirmed.

5:16PM

Apple News Plus

Our first reveal is here and it's called Apple News Plus. Roger Rosner, VP of Applications at Apple takes the stage to tell us more.

"It will bring you 300 magazines across all sorts of topics, like entertainment, fashion, news and politics. Great health style magazines and travellers," he says. 

Wired, Marie Claire, Elle, Time magazine and the New Yorker are among the titles included.

The app will include a “live cover”, a moving image of the individual front covers of magazines featured, and will include a table of contents as well as swipe functions.

“We wanted to give titles their unique ability to express themselves through their typography and imagery.”

Apple News+ will also include digital subscriptions including TheSkimm, TechCrunch, Vulture and Los Angeles Times.

 “We download groups of articles on our servers and use on-device recommendations to make intelligence. We don’t know what you read and we don’t allow advertisers to track you," says Rosner.

“What you read on Apple News will not follow you across the web."

Credit: Apple

5:08PM

Tim Cook gets straight to the point

No beating around the bush here, from Apple's chief executive. Today is all about services, not smartphones.

5:04PM

Apple Event kicks off

The Apple event is underway with a colourful presentation that feels like a cross between a Quentin Tarantino picture and The Pink Panther. Buckle up.

4:49PM

Gaming editor Tom Hoggins: All eyes are on Apple after Google Stadia

We don’t know for sure if Apple will reveal any details about its rumoured gaming service at today’s event. It seems likely Apple will want its TV and News service to take the limelight and save the big gaming reveal for WWDC in June. That will get its new gaming proposition in front of developers, become part of the gaming conversation ahead of the E3 conference and give whatever plan Apple has its moment in the sun.

That said, we have spotted that British games industry legend Charles Cecil, founder of Broken Sword developer Revolution software, is in Cupertino ahead of the reveal.

Why would the Apple gaming advocate and all-round good egg be jetting off to the US if there wasn’t some gaming news in the offing? According to Bloomberg, Apple’s service is not going to offer cloud gaming a la Microsoft’s Xcloud and the recently announced Google Stadia.

Instead, the service is said to focus on games for iPad and iPhone (and presumably Apple TV devices), bundling together a catalogue of paid games to download for one monthly price. Developers will then apparently get a cut depending on how much play time their games get.

To not get into the upcoming cloud gaming bunfight makes sense to me. Instead Apple can focus on iOS’s strengths as a gaming platform. There are some great games on there, and the chance to dip in and out of its collection more freely is a service I’d certainly sign up to.

I do worry slightly about that ‘developer’s cut for hours spent’ rumour. To focus too heavily on playtime for profit seems counterintuitive to good game design, with some of iOS’s best games --such as Device 6, Monument Valley or Gorogoa-- being short, sharp and perfectly formed. Hopefully that will not be the case and any subscription service will allow some of the platform’s more inventive titles to shine.

4:36PM

So… how big an opportunity is this for Apple? 

Going by figures from business consultancy Grand View Research, the streaming sector is set for explosive growth. According to a report from the firm, the market is forecast to grow to $124.6bn globally by 2025.

In the UK, a Broadcasters' Audience Research Board report from early 2019 found that over 11m households have subscribed to an online streaming service, growing by 22pc compared to 2017.

4:26PM

A first look on the ground from The Telegraph’s James Titcomb  

The Telegraph's Silicon Valley Bureau Chief is on the ground in Cupertino ahead of Apple's big reveal

4:06PM

Ahead of the launch, a little fun 

Uncharacteristically for Apple, the days leading up to this launch have been anything but silent. Tim Cook managed to turn himself into a meme, for starters…

And the day before the launch, the company decided to livestream the empty Steve Jobs theatre where the announcements will take place.

4:00PM

How much will Apple's TV shows cost?  

Apple is expected to charge for its original TV streaming app, although it is not clear how much that will cost yet. The feature will appear on smartphones and iPads and is expected to be available on third-party smart TVs in the same way that users can stream Netflix. It is not clear if it will be launched on non-iOS devices.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Apple will offer "one click" subscriptions to HBO, Showtime and Starz through its app, costing $9.99 a-piece. Apple is also said to be in talks to include its app on Roku streaming devices.

4:00PM

Hello and welcome to our live blog

Hello to everyone from London and San Francisco, where we will be covering Apple's big announcement. Follow @jamestitcomb for live updates from the launch.