A new iPhone subscription service is still in the pipeline, despite some delays – according to fresh rumors – and the service could help to ease a growing issue for both Apple and phone buyers.
According to Bloomberg's (opens in new tab) reliable analyst Mark Gurman, Apple’s iPhone subscription service "should still arrive eventually", despite the fact that it was expected to launch as early as last year.
The service – which could see new iPhones added to app-based subscriptions like Apple One – apparently remained in development alongside the iPhone 14 family. But according to Gurman, it was delayed by "engineering challenges" and the complex development of a "next-generation financial system".
Given that it’s expected to be offered as a payment method for iPhones before potentially expanding to other products, there's a chance it could still launch alongside the iPhone 15 later this year, unless it's scuppered by further delays.
Exactly how the iPhone subscription plan is going to work isn't yet clear. But it's likely to be a development of Apple's existing iPhone Upgrade Program (above), which lets you pay a monthly rolling fee to effectively lease an iPhone 14, then upgrade when Apple launches a new model.
Unlike installment programs, the iPhone subscription service apparently won't simply be the price of the phone split across a set period of 12 or 24 months. According to earlier Bloomberg (opens in new tab) speculation, the subscription service will be an ongoing monthly fee that's managed through your Apple account in the App Store.
It could also appear as a checkout option in Apple's online store or be bundled as part of an Apple One subscription, but it seems we'll have to wait until at least later this year to find out.
Analysis: It still makes financial sense – for Apple
An Apple iPhone subscription service would be designed to solve a problem that's arguably bigger for Apple than phone buyers – smartphones have become too good, and too expensive, for us to upgrade on an annual basis.
According to market analysts IDC (opens in new tab), the period between October and December last year saw smartphones suffer their largest-ever decline in shipments (a year-on-year fall of 18.3%). That period also saw the lowest total shipment of smartphones for a decade.
That's down to a variety of factors, but a big one is the cost-of-living crisis that's making it increasingly difficult to justify buying a premium smartphone. Particularly when rumors suggest that flagship phones – like the rumored iPhone 15 Ultra – are about to get even pricier.
An iPhone subscription service could be a handy new option for those who want the latest models without paying the full asking price, either up-front or in installments. The service likely won't just be a way to pay off your iPhone gradually, instead being an ongoing subscription that'd also let you swap your handset out for a new model.
But a few similar schemes do already exist to help make iPhones more affordable, including carrier plans and Apple's own iPhone Upgrade Program. The iPhone Subscription plan will likely differ from the latter by being included as part of Apple One. This currently starts from $16.95 / £16.95 / AU$21.95 per month for its cheapest plan, which includes Apple Music, Apple TV Plus, Apple Arcade and iCloud Plus.
If you could get a new iPhone as part of this plan, without needing to pay off the total cost of the phone over a set period, that could open up flagship models to a new audience. But it would also nicely serve Apple's need for both fresh smartphone growth and locking fans into its increasingly important software services – a small bonus for us, then, but potentially a bigger win for Apple.