When Apple first took the wraps off its new video streaming service back in March, it also promised to deliver one of the features that we’d been hearing rumours about leading up to the event: support for its TV app on Roku set-top boxes.
Although the original details of that were somewhat murky, the goal seemed fairly clear — to ensure that Apple TV+ was available on as many streaming devices as possible, even those that were in direction competition with its own Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K set-top boxes.
While Apple had previously announced that the app would be coming to Samsung and other smart TVs, embracing Roku, its number one hardware competitor, showed that the company was serious about Apple TV+.
In fact, Apple was so determined to provide as many options as possible for users to enjoy (and subscribe to) Apple TV+ that it even took the extremely rare step of releasing an update for its almost-forgotten third-generation Apple TV.
Beyond the initial passing announcement, however, both Apple and Roku remained fairly quiet on when the TV app would arrive on Roku devices, exactly what form it would take, and which devices would be supported.
Today, however, with Apple TV+ set to launch in less than three weeks, Apple wants to make sure Roku users are ready, and Roku has just announced that the Apple TV app is officially available for its set-top boxes.
What Models Are Supported?
Surprisingly, contrary to earlier concerns, almost all recent Roku devices will support the TV app. Roku has published a full list in a support article, but for the most part it seems that everything from the entry-level Roku Express and the older 2015 Roku 2 to the modern Roku Premiere and high-end Roku Ultra are fully supported.
In fact, what’s even more interesting is that the Roku Express+ is on the list as well. This is the version of Roku’s set-top box with analog outputs, which means it’s a great way to get Apple TV+ on an older TV that doesn’t have HDMI inputs. In fact, it’s probably the only way to do so, since even Apple’s older Apple TV models have never offered anything other than straight HDMI outputs.
Unfortunately, due to the way that Roku releases its devices, you’ll need to check your specific model number to see if it’s compatible, as the company has often released new revisions of its devices under the same model names. For example, the Roku Express and Express+ devices were first released in 2016, but only the Oct 2017 or later versions are supported. The same is also true with the Roku 2, which came out in 2013, but received a 2015 update under the same name.
Roku is also limiting the app to devices in specific countries, although it’s a fairly long list that naturally includes the U.S. as well as Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
How Do I Get It?
The Apple TV app is available as a “channel” on Roku devices, in the same way as any other app. That means that you should easily be able to search for it in Roku’s Channel Store just like any other channel.
Since Roku has just announced the availability of the new channel/app today, however, it may take some time before it’s fully rolled out and appears in the Channel Store everywhere. Once downloaded, it should look very similar in concept to the Apple TV app on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, and users can simply sign in with their Apple ID to get started.
What Can I Do with It?
As is the case on Apple’s own set-top box, there’s actually a lot more to the Apple TV app for Roku than just watching Apple TV+.
Users will also be able to access any of the movies and TV shows they’re purchased from the iTunes Store, and there’s also support for Apple Channels, meaning users can subscribe directly through the Apple TV app for services like HBO, Starz, Showtime, and CBS All Access.
In fact, the only major difference between the version of the TV app found on Roku and other non-Apple devices and the native Apple TV version is that the Roku version won’t act as a catalog for content from third-party services that aren’t otherwise available as Apple Channels. It’s limited only to that content that you can watch directly through the TV app.
For instance, while the Apple TV will show HBO content, since that’s an available “channel” within the TV app, it won’t surface content from Netflix or Hulu, since those are handed off to third-party apps that may or may not be available on other platforms, and of course Apple doesn’t have the kind of OS-level access on Roku boxes and smart TVs to handle these kind of interactions with third-party apps like it can on its own platform.
Other than that, however, it looks like users will be getting the full Apple TV+ experience, and will even be able to subscribe to Apple’s new streaming service directly on their Roku boxes.
This adds another considerably less expensive option for users who may not already have an Apple TV but want to easily watch Apple TV+ in their living room — Roku’s streaming devices start at $40, which is a far cry from even the $149 price tag of the 2015 Apple TV HD, not to mention the current Apple TV 4K model that starts at $179.
That said, it’s also worth noting that the purchase of a new Apple TV HD or Apple TV 4K also includes a free one-year subscription to Apple TV+, which is a $60 value in itself. If you’re planning to subscribe to Apple TV+ anyway, this makes the purchase of an actual Apple set-top box considerably more attractive, especially with support for Apple Arcade now as well.