Apple is planning to start iPhone hardware subscription

What if you never owned your phone? What if you just rented the most important device in your life, paying a company a subscription fee every month for the right to access the newest shiniest hardware, but it’s not really yours?

Apple reportedly may have something like this in the works an iPhone hardware subscription plan turning a $1000 hunk of glass and metal into something that’s treated like your Netflix bill. Apple would not be the first to play with different ways to do phone subscriptions. Google and Samsung have introduced different hardware monthly bills bundled with services. But what would rent your iPhone look like?

I have seen articles talking about how the idea could be great for people who can’t afford the latest iPhones every year, or how it could save money by bundling lots of Apple’s services together. And how it’s great for Apple, of course, because it gets us to keep giving Apple money even if we don’t upgrade phones as often. I’m reading all this conjecture and the idea just isn’t sitting well with me, and I want to talk it out with you. Maybe you can work it out with me in the comments below because something is missing from this chatter.

iPhone hardware subscription
Apple Ecosystem

What happens if we start supporting a payment system like this as normal?

And what power are we giving these tech companies when you fork over cash month after month and you don’t get to keep anything? Like it or not, companies are exploring new payment territories where they can keep collecting fees, and you may not actually own your tech.

Let’s be clear. Apple has not officially announced any sort of iPhone subscription plan. But we can blame Bloomberg once again for stirring up the chatter. Last year, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported that Apple is working on a way for customers to lease iPhones like we lease cars. It did not launch yet, but Gurman reported again this week that it should still arrive eventually.

This would not be like the existing payment plans, something you’ve seen at carriers where you pay for an iPhone through installments over one or two years that are still owning the phone, just spreading out the payments over time. This is also different from Apple’s current iPhone upgrade program. In that system, it includes Apple Care Plus, and after twelve payments, you can trade in your current iPhone to start a new plan with a new phone that starts at about $40 a month. It’s more expensive with better phones, but the payments all go toward you owning the phone if you don’t want to trade it in.

The issue in the industry overall is that customers are not upgrading their phones as frequently. We are holding on to our phones longer.

iPhone hardware subscription
Apple Services

So how does Apple get people to want to dish out more money to them when iPhones are so good you don’t need to upgrade?

Enter the reported subscription program, something that gets you a new phone more often if you trade it in and to entice you, maybe it would lump in access to a bunch of Apple services like music and TV Plus and iCloud storage. It’s yet another type of subscription bundle, assuming you don’t already have subscription overload in your life. But this would let customers maybe upgrade to a new phone more frequently.

I think the key factor here that is driving me nuts is wondering what will happen to your phone if you stop paying for the plan. If you don’t pay for Netflix, it shuts off. Is someone shutting down access to your phone if you don’t pay for your car? There are car repo men. So are there going to be iPhone repo men? This is going to be a very sticky area for Apple to figure out.

So let’s look at how Google is playing around with new types of payment plans. Here is a service called Pixel Pass. It bundles the cost of a new Pixel phone together with a bunch of Google services. But all those payments do go toward the cost of owning the Pixel phone. And then there’s also Samsung Access. It’s a monthly subscription that gets you the newest Galaxy phones, a protection plan, a terabyte of OneDrive, cloud storage, and Microsoft Office apps. If you canceled, the website says you just have to return your previous phone in good condition. And based on other reporting, it seems you can still make enough payments to own the phone.

Renting hardware with software is also something peloton does. If you can’t afford a bike outright, you could just rent it out for about $90 a month and if you cancel, they’ll pick up the bike. Or you could buy it out if you want to keep it. So maybe Apple is going to follow this pattern and also let you eventually own a phone after enough payments. But you have to keep in mind Apple already has an iPhone upgrade program. Apple already has Apple One, which bundles services together. So why would Apple need another subscription service unless the whole point is that you are paying less than owning just to always trade it in? And paying less means also having your whole life linked to Apple services. Is the point for Apple to just get more new iPhones out into the world, with more people trading in perfectly good phones to get something fresh? It doesn’t seem like a very sustainable thing.

We don’t need more phones in the world for the sake of it. The other twist is that Apple can get more customers to dish out money for more expensive phones. Models of iPhones that may be out of the normal budgets. There’s been buzz that Apple is working on some more expensive Ultra version of the iPhone. That could be an extra 200 or $ 300 more than the already high-end models.

iPhone hardware subscription
iPhone Ultra

So how do you get more customers to buy an ultra? You rent it. Maybe. I’m feeling weird about it because I am going through this rabbit hole of rental fees for a tool of mass communication. It feels like Apple could be crafting a new type of grip on your digital life that you didn’t pay your Apple bill this month, which is tied to your phone, your iCloud, your music, and your TV programs. Let’s not forget Apple’s credit card and Apple wallet. So could Apple, just, in a snap, cut you off if you leave the program? Keeps you feeling logged in, now, doesn’t it? Unless you have the option to pay to buy the hardware outright.

All this does make me uncomfortable and you know what it’s not even announced officially by Apple and I’m not going to fall for this as I live in a country where this Apple ecosystem doesn’t mean anything at least for now. Hope you enjoyed reading our blog, do let us in the comments section…