Apple might want you to subscribe to your next iPhone

Apple Store
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What if instead of buying your next iPhone or even spreading payments out for the nearly $1,000 device across multiple months, you leased it, like you would a car?

Bloomberg is reporting this week that the Cupertino tech giant is investigating the possibility of launching yet another subscription service to stand alongside iCloud, Apple Music, Apple TV+, and Fitness+. But instead of accessing digital services and online programs of video-conferenced exercise gurus, you'd pay a subscription fee for iPhones and iPads (and maybe other Apple hardware).

The details in the report are thin. The rumored service would charge a monthly fee for access to hardware. The benefit, as it is with leasing, is that someone might be able to get an iPhone 13 Pro Max (worth $1,099 / £1,049 / AU$1,849) for no money down, but the agreement to pay a monthly recurring fee for as long as they have the phone. 

It's not clear if the program would work exactly like leasing and allow you to turn in the phone at the end of the lease agreement to start a new one with a replacement or upgraded phone, buy the phone from Apple at whatever value the company ascribes to it, or walk away with no phone and the sunk costs of the subscription.

While this could be a smart way for someone to quickly access a powerful new iPhone or iPad (and maybe a MacBook or Mac Studio), it could also be a clear win for Apple.

A bigger business

The company is already home to a vibrant subscription business that makes billions each quarter and has grown into a sizeable part of its overall revenue picture (iPhone sales still generate the most revenue).

Apple already has a monthly installment plan for iPhone called The iPhone Upgrade Plan, which for $35.33 (and up) a month ensures you always own the latest, greatest iPhone every single year. You can't get a new phone before you've made 12 monthly payments. A subscription program might offer more flexibility, though, it would also likely mean that you would never own the iPhone.

If nothing else, launching such a hardware subscription business would align hardware with the wide array of subscription services Apple already offers. It's also clear that Apple likes to consolidate things as it did in 2020 when it unveiled Apple One, which, at the top tier ($29.95 / £29.95 / AU$39.95), offers Apple Music, Apple TV+, Arcade, News, Fitness+ and 2TB of iCloud storage.

A win-win?

Some industry watchers see this potential service as a boon for Apple and consumers. "This is a more convenient way to offer hardware and services and [Apple] could open it up to include other Apple hardware devices in a Chinese menu format," Chief Analyst and Creative Strategies Chairman Tim Bajarin told us via email, adding, "It would also tie their customers into a long-range services model that is more predictable."

Such a subscription model might also address the stress consumers feel as their shiny new, and expensive, iPhones quickly turn into last year's slowing and obviously less-valuable devices. The problem of rapid depreciation could, with a subscription model, fall in Apple's lap.

You already use all these services on Apple hardware. The question is, would you pay for an Apple One Premium Plus (we're guessing at a name, here) subscription that includes your choice of a leased iPhone, iPad, and (maybe) AirPods, Apple TV box, and MacBook or Mac? And what would you pay each month for such service?

Apple has offered no comment on the Bloomberg report. Apple also declined to comment to TechRadar on the matter.

Lance Ulanoff
Editor At Large

A 38-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.