The first man on the moon said it was a triumph of the Marxist-Leninist way of life. Surprised? You wouldn’t be if you were in the alternative history drama, For All Mankind. The series is about what would have happened if the Soviet Union had beaten the U.S. in the race to put a man on the moon. But to watch the latest from Ronald D. Moore—the creator of Battlestar Galactica and Outlander—you have to have the newest OTT kid on the block.
This new streaming service in town is from Apple. On November 1, the Cupertino-based tech giant rolled out its Apple TV+ service in 100 countries, including India.
Setting up was fairly simple: I downloaded the app on my Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, and then authorised it on my iPhone. I went in for a seven-day trial, after which it would cost ₹99 a month (or ₹999 for a full year). But if you've bought any Apple Device after September 10, you get one year of Apple TV+ gratis.
While I appreciated the smooth interface and Apple’s great design, one thing left me flummoxed. Apple's original programming happily intermingled with the movies I had bought on iTunes, and the movies I could rent or buy. On the iPhone and iPad, the first vertical tab with horizontal scrolling was movies, which had the titles I have bought on iTunes over the years; second came the 'what to watch' tab, where Apple's originals jostled for space with other movies available for a fee on the platform. The only way one could distinguish the originals was by the Apple TV+ logo on the bottom right corner. The Apple TV+ carousel comes only after that.
One of the first originals I binge-watched was—no surprises there—The Morning Show, starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon. The web drama is about a long-running breakfast news show where the co-host is fired over allegations of sexual misconduct, and the power play that ensues. I was done with the first three episodes in no time; I shall have to wait a week, that is till after the trial expires, for my next fix. While watching, I found that on the iPad and iPhone, one can forward or rewind the show by 15 seconds, while on the MacBook you can do so by 10 seconds. The good thing is that you can also download content on to Apple devices.
The next show I binge-watched was the animated Snoopy in Space and I got through one season in one sitting; it helps that each episode is just eight minutes long. Next I watched See, starring Jason Momoa, which is about an apocalyptic future where humans have lost their sense of vision, and possibly a millennium of development, where anyone with vision is branded a witch. All I can say is that it's no Game of Thrones. I'm yet to check out Dickinson, the Emily Dickinson biopic starring Hailee Steinfeld; fantasy Ghostwriters, and Helpsters, targeted at kids. But For All Mankind is one show I recommend.
Apple's streaming service comes at a time the customer is spoilt for choice, especially with all-you-can-watch streaming apps. While Apple seems to have got the pricing right with the subscription being among the cheapest in the business, remember that this only gives you access to Apple's original shows. For everything over and above that, you have to shell out money. And that is where it pinches. There are several platforms which include an exhaustive catalogue of licensed movies and shows the customer has access to after subscribing; others like HOOQ rewards subscribing customers with coupons to rent movies for free. Maybe Apple should also reward its subscribers some way.
If the first few days of Apple’s streaming service are any indication, it is banking on people getting hooked to its originals and the latest releases, such as The Lion King, or those you can rent or buy on the platform. But by being present on just Apple devices, Amazon's Fire TV, and some other devices like some Samsung smart TVs, the Cupertino-based giant is leaving out more than 90% of smartphone users, who are on Android. Apple needs to rectify this fast if it wants to play the volumes game. It helps that one can access the content by logging into their Apple account on a browser (I accessed it on the Google Chrome on my PC and my Android phone), but that’s not ideal in the age of apps.
It's still early days for the Apple TV+ service, and if one goes by the line-up of shows in the works, and the people behind them, things can only get better. But Apple has to iron out the chinks in the app’s interface with an update, and roll it out an app for Android users fast if it is serious about commanding respect in the space.