APPLE UNVEILS A SLEW OF NEW SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES

Apple announced several new services on Monday, making its foray into the subscription news and video streaming arena as well as gaming and credit cards.

From left, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg pose for a photo outside the Steve Jobs Theater during an event to announce new Apple products Monday, March 25, 2019, in Cupertino, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Apple announced several new services on Monday, making its foray into the subscription news and video streaming arena as well as gaming and credit cards.

The series of announcements were made at an event at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, to emphasize paid services on its devices.

Apple News Plus

The news service expands on Apple News, a free service already available on Apple devices — now also available in Canada. Media partners include CityNews, 680 NEWS, 660 CityNews Calgary, CityNews 1130 Vancouver and Sportsnet, as well as newspapers, magazines and digital publications from the United States.

The subscription service, called Apple News Plus, will cost $12.99 a month after a free preview month. It already counts The Toronto Star, La Presse, CTV and Global News as Canadian content suppliers.

Subscribers will also have access to articles from hundreds of magazines, including Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and Cosmopolitan and some newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times.

The free version will remain available and both news services require an update of the operating systems to iOS 12.2 for iPhone and iPad mobile devices or to macOS 10.14.4 for Apple laptops.

The tech giant said the News Plus service  will not track what you read and that article recommendations will be made on your device, not Apple’s servers, and advertisers won’t be able to track you.

That sets it apart from other places people read news, such as Facebook and Google. Facebook, for instance, might target ads based on your past reading of specific publications or topics, such as gun control or the environment.

The new subscription is a way for Apple to bring in revenue from selling digital subscriptions as sales of the iPhone decline. Apple says 5 billion articles are read on its current Apple News app each month.

The news industry has struggled for years as advertising dollars shift to social media and other digital media. But some publishers are wary to participate in Apple’s news service because the company is reportedly taking 50 per cent of subscription revenue. The exact financial terms of the agreements between Apple and the publishers weren’t immediately available.

Apple Card

Apple is launching its own credit card, called Apple Card, that can be used anywhere Apple Pay is accepted.

Apple says the card will make it easier to see what merchants charged you. It uses Apple Maps to show users where they spend their money. This is in contrast to the sometimes-confusing alphabet soup people can see on their credit card statements.

The company is also emphasizing privacy and says it won’t know what you bought or where.

The card will live in the wallet section of the iPhone, though customers will also get a physical card made of titanium.

It will include a rewards program of 2 per cent back on all transactions. Apple says the card has no late fees, annual fees or fees for going over the credit limit. It’s a Mastercard issued by Goldman Sachs.

 

Apple Arcade

Apple will launch a subscription service for games this year called Apple Arcade.

Subscribers will get to play more than 100 games, curated by Apple which will be exclusive to Apple’s service.

Games can be downloaded and played offline on the Apple-made iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV.

Notably, Apple says all games in this service will allow unlimited play and will have no in-app purchases, which are common on mobile games. Though many mobile games are given out for free, players can rack up hundreds of dollars for optional extras such as virtual weapons.

Apple says the Arcade subscription will be available this fall. The company did not say how much it will cost.

Google announced its own video game streaming service last week. That service focuses more on traditional video games, though it will also allow games to be played on phones and tablets

 

Apple TV Plus

Apple’s long-awaited video streaming service will be called Apple TV Plus and include original programming that CEO Tim Cook says will show “great storytelling.”

The new service will put Apple in direct competition with big streaming services including Netflix and Amazon Video.

The service will be available this fall, but the company isn’t saying yet how much it will cost or when exactly it will launch.

The streaming service will be free of ads and will be available across Apple devices, some smart TVs and the Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices. That’s unusual, as Apple has historically limited its availability on streaming devices to its own Apple TV.

Apple brought out several celebrities during its announcement, including Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Jason Momoa and Steven Spielberg. They are all involved in making exclusive shows for the new service.

Aniston will star with Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell in a show called “Morning Show.” Spielberg will direct a sci-fi show called “Amazing Stories,” inspired by stories his dad used to read as a kid.

Momoa will star in a show called “Sea” taking place in a world devastated by a virus that wiped out most of the population, leaving survivors blind. Big Bird of “Sesame Street” also showed up to promote a new show for preschoolers.

Winfrey says she has two documentaries in the works for Apple TV Plus and is planning “the most stimulating book club on the planet.” The TV magnate says that will include streamed conversations with authors.

Winfrey received a standing ovation during her appearance where she told the audience, “There has never been a moment quite like this one. We have this unique opportunity to rise to our best selves in how we use, and choose to use, both our technology and our humanity.”

“I’m joining forces with Apple. They’re in a billion pockets, y’all,” she said.

Streaming video services have skyrocketed in popularity in the past several years. Research firm eMarketer expects 205 million people in the U.S. will watch streaming video this year.

Apple is a late entrant to the streaming market, where Netflix has been dominant for more than a decade. Some analysts say it’s not clear yet whether Apple will be able to get ahead.

Colin Gillis of Chatham Road Partners says Apple’s TV Plus service is “not going to be a Netflix killer.” He noted that Apple lacks “polished offerings” in cloud services, voice search and artificial intelligence, and video streaming won’t save the company if the iPhone market declines.

Paul Verna of eMarketer, meanwhile, says Apple left many details out of the initial announcement, making it hard to compare with rivals.

While Apple brought on some big names for original content, Martin Garner of CCS Insights says so far the service lacks “the full range and diversity of content available through Netflix, Amazon and others.” That will limit its appeal.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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