Yes, Virginia, there is an Amazon Prime Video app on the Apple TV. You’ll have to search for it in the App Store because it’s so new that it’s not yet featured anywhere. Once you’ve installed it on your Apple TV, you can browse without logging in, but unsurprisingly, to watch anything, you’ll need to sign in to your Amazon account.
Usually, I’d insert something snarky here about how no, this app is not available for the third-generation Apple TV and never will be. But surprise, Amazon Prime Video is also available on the third-generation Apple TV, as demonstrated by Doug Miller on Twitter! Third-generation Apple TV buffs, your faith has been rewarded. And you have to wonder how long Amazon has been sitting on this app.
When you log in, you have the option to either sign in directly on the Apple TV or register it online — in the latter case, you visit a special Amazon Web site, log in to your account, and enter an onscreen code. I was surprised to find that if you have two-step authentication enabled on your Amazon account, either one works. On most platforms, you have to register the device online to activate it.
(And you really should have two-step authentication enabled on your Amazon account. Here are Amazon’s instructions for enabling it.)
However, signing in directly on the Apple TV isn’t the smoothest experience if you use two-step authentication. The smart way to sign into stuff on the Apple TV, if there’s no online activation feature, is to use the Apple TV Remote app (or Control Center widget), and copy your username and password from a password manager like 1Password and paste it into the Remote app. But Amazon switches away from the keyboard for the two-step code — you have to enter it by moving the cursor around the screen. It’s frustrating enough already, but to make things extra difficult, you only have a few seconds before the code changes.
I hope Amazon fixes this. In the meantime, I recommend doing online registration.
After you sign in, it looks pretty much as you’d expect, with a set of links across the top. Search is most prominent, followed by a link to the main Home screen for browsing. Then it lists various content collections (including Originals, Movies, TV, and Kids), purchased items in Video Library, things you’ve marked for later in Watchlist, and Settings.
Although it offers access to content you’ve purchased from Amazon on other platforms, like every other iOS and tvOS app, you cannot purchase content directly from Amazon with the Apple TV app.
Individual shows show up in horizontally scrolling lists organized by various categories, much like the Netflix app, and clicking any one of them displays more information about the show and lets you play it.
It isn’t always obvious how you add a title to your watchlist. Movies, like the above screenshot, provide a simple button to do so. But for TV shows, you have to navigate to its seasons list and then press and hold the touchpad to add the season to your watchlist. Why is it so awkward? Why not just put a button there?
Amazon Prime Video supports both system-wide search and the TV app (leaving Netflix as the only major streaming service still holding out), but there are bugs. Since the Amazon Prime Video app supports both content included for free with your Prime subscription and content you can purchase from Amazon, it borks things up.
For example, if I search for “My Cousin Vinny,” click the Open In button, and choose Open in Prime Video, it takes me to a totally useless listing, since the movie isn’t available via Prime, nor can I purchase it from the page. Also, it was apparently directed by Fox, Fox, Fox, Fox (ad infinitum).
Given that Amazon has apparently been sitting on an Apple TV app for years (as evidenced by the app for the third-generation Apple TV), it’s somewhat surprising that it has so many rough edges. But you can also see why Apple and Amazon butted heads for so long.
The fact that Amazon mixes free (with Prime) video with paid video conflicts with Apple’s TV business plan. On the other end, Amazon’s Prime Video app on other platforms is designed to encourage you to buy stuff (like all of Amazon’s offerings). You open the app to view the free stuff and Amazon hopes you’ll buy some stuff while you’re there. Apple and Amazon were clearly at loggerheads.
From a user perspective, ideally Amazon would have designed the app to strip out the stuff for sale and left behind only Prime video and purchased titles. But from Amazon’s perspective, why should it invest additional resources to make things easier for Apple users, when tvOS is the only TV platform that doesn’t let them sell their wares?
In any case, bugs or not, I’m glad to have Amazon Prime TV on the Apple TV. It now feels like a complete platform.