Box, app and streaming service. They are all named Apple TV but there are big differences. The app for LG, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio TVs cannot replace the streaming box. Here is an overview.
Apple TV vs. Apple TV
Apple uses the same name for multiple products and one of the more common questions that we get is if the Apple TV app for Smart TVs is a replacement for the physical streaming box. The answer is no, these are two very different things.
The Apple TV app is available on select Smart TVs from other brands. The app lets you buy or rent movies (iTunes) and access the company's new subscription streaming service Apple TV+. In addition, it lets you access content from partner streaming services (depending on your region).
What is Apple TV?
Apple TV 4K & HD
Apple TV app
The same app is available on the company's TV operating system (known as tvOS), which powers the two media boxes Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD. It is one of many apps available on tvOS, just like iOS apps on an iPhone. The 'Apple TV app' for Smart TV largely mirrors the app for tvOS although there are some differences in terms of features and user interface elements.
The crucial difference between the Apple TV app for Smart TV and the physical Apple TV box is that only the latter is powered by tvOS, which includes the tvOS App Store, games from Apple Arcade, AirPlay 2 (receiver and transmitter), HomeKit, music from Apple Music, and more.
Also read: List: TVs with Apple TV app, Apple TV+, AirPlay 2 & HomeKit
In addition, some Smart TVs feature AirPlay 2, which allows you to wirelessly push media content from an iPhone, iPad or Mac onto the TV, as well as HomeKit, which is a platform for the connected home. Lastly, Apple Music is available on select Smart TVs. However, you will not find the tvOS App Store on any Smart TV, and Apple Arcade is currently reserved for the company's own devices too.
Here is an overview.