The video-streaming market just got a whole lot more crowded. Following the launch of Apple’s TV+ service on 1 November 2019, Disney+ launched on 12 November (today!), and TV and film fans have lots of wonderful choice and/or will soon be bankrupt.
But which is the best choice for you? In this article we explain all the key differences between Apple TV+ and Disney+, such as their content libraries, ease of use, reliability and price, and help you make an informed decision.
When and where are the services available?
Apple TV+ launched in the UK, US and 100 other countries on 1 November. Disney+ launched in the US, Canada and the Netherlands on 12 November. UK viewers, sadly, will have to wait until 31 March 2020 before getting their fix of Disney and Star Wars goodness.
(You can get round this problem by using a VPN, however. Our colleagues on Tech Advisor have an article explaining How to watch Disney+ in the UK.)
How many TV shows have they got?
These are two brand-new services. Have the companies managed to put together large and high-quality content libraries in time for launch?
Apple TV+ gets a decent mark for quality (reviews have been mixed, but the shows are all expensively produced and feature big-name actors and directors), but a poor one for quantity. It launched with just seven original shows: The Morning Show, See, Dickinson, For All Mankind, Snoopy In Space, Helpsters and Ghostwriter. And since the service is only for original content, there are no old and/or bought-in TV shows to bulk out the offering.
Launch the TV app on your iPhone or iPad and you may be deceived by the number of shows: at time of writing we can see His Dark Materials, Seven Worlds, One Planet, Pennyworth, Dublin Murders, The Apprentice, The Only Way Is Essex and Home and Away, among many others. But those are shows available through iPlayer, ITV Hub and other services, and which you can watch on the TV app. They’re not part of the TV+ subscription, and you certainly don’t need to pay Apple any money to watch them.
Disney+ starts with vastly more TV shows: around 7,000 episodes, according to the company. Disney isn’t anywhere near as well-known for its TV as for its movies, of course, so don’t bank on these all being of the calibre of Apple’s line-up; but The Mandalorian, a Star Wars serial starring Pedro Pascal, may have the potential to drive a few subscriptions.
How many movies have they got?
Disney is hugely ahead here. Apple TV+ currently has just one film: The Elephant Queen, a nature documentary. Disney, meanwhile, has roughly 500 films, including Bambi, The Lion King, Pinocchio, The Jungle Book, Dumbo, 18 Pixar films, nearly every Star Wars movie (The Last Jedi and Solo will be added later) and a number of Marvel films including Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. Check out this monstrous list.
Disney is pretty much firehosing all of its properties on to this service, and this makes it hard to resist. There’s only one caveat, really: Disney+ will not host anything that isn’t suitable for kids. Any R-rated films by Fox, for instance, will appear on Hulu instead.
So these services are just for kids?
Disney+ does look that way. Which is weird, because lots of adults enjoy Disney movies, and the company could easily have introduced adult and child viewer accounts, like you get on Netflix. Apple has historically been known as something of a prude, with its squeamishness about sex or violence in apps, but Jason Momoa’s enthusiastic use of that axe thing in See suggests that TV+ is very much the grown-up of these two services.
Incidentally, there have been some queries about editing decisions on Disney+ that may or may not be related to the company’s wish to make everything family-friendly. For example, it seems that Han Solo’s scene with Greedo in Star Wars has been re-edited again.
Are the libraries likely to get bigger or smaller in future?
Both will add more material in future. Apple promises “New Apple Originals every month”, and is already previewing titles such as M Night Shyamalan’s Servant, Truth Be Told, Time Bandits, a Steven Spielberg anthology show called Amazing Stories, a mental health docuseries from Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry, and lots more.
Disney+ has also announced a wide range of films and TV shows it will add over the coming months. Highlights include the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a TV show based on Monsters Inc, and a She-Hulk movie, which might even be enough to persuade this reporter to watch a superhero film.
Which TVs and other devices are compatible?
Aside from iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Mac and Apple TV, TV+ can run on these third-party devices. This service doesn’t work on Android.
You can watch Disney+ on Roku, Chromecasts, Fire TV, laptops, smart TVs, iPads, Android, iPhone and game consoles – even the Nintendo Switch, albeit not at launch.
How much do they cost?
Apple TV+ costs £4.99/$4.99 per month. However, you may be able to get TV+ for free: when you buy a new iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or Apple TV, you’ll get a year of TV+ thrown in, and there’s a free seven-day trial. Sign up here.
Disney+ starts at $6.99 per month (around £5.50) in the US, or $69.99 per year. This base package gives access to 4K content and four streams for each account.
Prepared to spend a little more? Disney will also bundle in Hulu with ads and ESPN+ for $12.99 per month. Don’t expect this bundle to launch in every market, as Hulu and ESPN aren’t widely available outside the US. Sign up here. And here’s how to get a Disney+ discount.
Disney+ pricing for the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain haven’t yet been announced.
How many people/devices per subscription?
Apple TV+ comes with Family Sharing, which means a single subscription can be shared among a family group without paying extra. That’s up to six family members and six simultaneous streams.
Up to four users can watch Disney+ simultaneously.
The smallness of its content library makes it hard to recommend Apple TV+ over rival streaming services, and Disney is a case in point. With the Mickey Mouse company boasting 500 films and 7,000 TV episodes, compared to Apple’s one film and seven TV series, this isn’t a contest.
This may all change as Apple expands its library, and it was only to be expected that a company that’s been churning out classic animation for 96 years would have an advantage over one that’s just got into show business. What’s more, TV+ is free (for a year) to anyone who’s bought a new Apple device, so you may not have to decide.
Want to see how Apple is shaping up against other streaming companies? Take a look at Apple TV+ vs Netflix, and Apple TV+ vs Amazon Prime Video.