Apple’s long-awaited TV service launches

Apple’s long-awaited streaming video service went live early on Friday morning.

Apple TV+ is a $4.99-per-month service featuring original TV shows and movies bankrolled by Apple. The service is launching in over 100 countries and regions, according to Apple.

It can be accessed through the pre-installed TV app on Apple’s devices, including the iPhone and iPad, as well as through apps for various smart TVs and set-top boxes made by companies like Roku, Samsung and Amazon. Apple is also streaming its shows on its website for people using Safari, Firefox or Chrome browsers.

The launch of Apple TV+ is a critical moment for Apple as it strives to sell content and services to its 900 million iPhone users, instead of just selling them computer hardware and software.

In a sign of how important the Apple TV+ launch is for the company, it held one of its famous launch events this spring centered around the service — and no hardware or gadgets were launched. Apple has also reportedly spent billions on content for the service, including signing up celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston to act in and produce original shows.

Apple TV+ is entering a crowded market. Disney’s Disney+ service launches later this month, offering content from brand-name franchises such as Marvel and “Star Wars” for $6.99 per month. CNBC parent NBCUniversal and AT&T’s WarnerMedia are planning to launch services early next year. Netflix currently has over 151 million subscribers.

Apple is using distribution to its large footprint of active devices to compete against companies with more media experience and content.

Apple TV+ will be free for a year with purchase of iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV streaming box or Mac computer. Those gadgets have to be purchased after Sept. 10, 2019, and if users cancel, they lose access to the service, according to the terms and conditions.

Shows available on the service now include “The Morning Show,” “See,” “Dickinson” and “For All Mankind.” It also includes a few shows for kids, including “Helpsters,” “Ghostwriter” and “Snoopy in Space.” Oprah Winfrey is also hosting a talk show called “Oprah’s Book Club.”

Additional movies, documentaries and shows will be added later. Unlike Netflix, Apple won’t release full seasons of its shows all at once. But there are exceptions. “See,” for example, launched Friday with the first three episodes available right away.

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China officially launches 5G networks on November 1

All the three state-backed telecom operators, China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom, unveiled their 5G plans on Thursday, one day ahead of the official launch of 5G services in the country, with the cheapest package priced as low as $18 per month.

Chinese carriers officially launched 5G services in the world’s largest market on November 1, but the coverage remains limited only to major Chinese cities and key areas in lower-tier cities for the initial rollout.

On Thursday, all three state-backed operators — China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom — unveiled similar 5G plans for local consumers, with plans starting at 128 yuan ($18) per month, which will provide consumers with 30GB data and 500 minutes of voice chat, according to a Sina news report

Subscribers of China Mobile that pay 598 yuan ($85) per month will be able to use 300GB of data with download speeds of up to 1Gbps, whereas the entry-level plans will only have 300Mbps download speeds.

The initial 5G services will be available in about 50 Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as second-tier provincial capital cities like Nanjing and Wuhan, according to local reports.

In Beijing, as many as 5,000 base stations have been installed by China Mobile alone, covering a majority of the core areas, but it is still unavailable for vast rural areas, according to the report.

The launch of 5G by Chinese carriers is a step slow in comparison to local smartphone brands such as Huawei and Xiaomi, as they have already introduced several phone models over the past few months that can support 5G networks.

But local consumers are believed to be excited about the 5G networks as more than 10 million users have registered for 5G plans from the three local Chinese carriers ahead of the launch, Chinese reports said in early October.

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