Apple TV+ offers its original television shows and movies at a very high quality, with higher streaming bandwidth than any other service. However, this also means Apple TV+ uses a lot of data. Here’s how to change the playback quality settings to save on data usage, especially useful if you are streaming on cellular with data caps.

Apple TV+ content is available in 4K with HDR on supported devices like the Apple TV 4K. 4K streams and downloads naturally use a lot of data. The Apple TV+ service will adjust dynamically based on the current device what it serves but it will always attempt to maximize the quality for the current screen — on default settings.

To get an idea of how big these files can be, a download of an episode (episode 4, ‘The River’) of SEE clocks in at 3.43 GB. The Elephant Queen movie runs 1 hour 36 minutes, and downloading the movie will use up 6.1 GB of your iPhone storage.

If you want to download Apple TV+ TV shows or movies for offline viewing, there are currently no options to download at a lower quality to get a smaller file size. However, for streaming playback, Apple TV+ offers a basic quality switch. However, the setting is very buried:

How to save data when streaming Apple TV+

  • Open the Settings app.
  • Tap TV.
  • Tap iTunes Videos.
  • Tap Wi-Fi or Mobile Data in the Playback Quality section.
  • Change from ‘Best Available’ to Good.

Despite the section header being named iTunes Videos, the playback quality affects Apple TV+ streaming content.

The difference between Best Quality and Good is significant although still be wary that TV+ video streaming can consume a lot of data on its lowest quality setting. For ten minutes of the aforementioned SEE episode, ‘Best Available’ will use 329 MB of data. If you watched the full show, you would use up 2 GB of your mobile data plan. Watching the same portion of the episode in ‘Good’ quality uses up 122 MB. That works out to approximately 750 MB for the full hour-long episode.

The savings will vary depending on the content of each show but in this case dropping from ‘Best Quality’ to ‘Good’ saves 1.25 GB over the course of an hour of streaming. Testing was conducted on an iPhone 11 Pro.

Hopefully, Apple will expand the quality options in the future and add more sophisticated download controls. It would be nice if when you go to download a show, it would ask you what quality you want to use and show estimated file sizes. Right now, you don’t know how big the file will be until you actually download it and check used storage in the settings.

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About the Author

Benjamin Mayo

Benjamin develops iOS apps professionally and covers Apple news and rumors for 9to5Mac. Listen to Benjamin, every week, on the Happy Hour podcast. Check out his personal blog. Message Benjamin over email or Twitter.