Apple is purportedly attempting to help as we enter what analysts believe will be a financially difficult year for many of us by launching a subscription service for its iPhones, iPads, and other hardware items.
According to a new claim from Bloomberg, the development may make owning an Apple device akin to paying a monthly app charge – albeit the concept is still in development, according to the publication’s unidentified sources.
For the first time, consumers would be able to subscribe to (and essentially auto-lease) Apple’s hardware rather than merely its digital services through the service. Yes, Apple has previously provided payment plans to stretch the cost of purchasing its products, but not through a subscription model connected to your Apple account.
Adopting a hardware subscription scheme would mark a major strategy shift for a company that has generally sold devices outright and at full cost, albeit occasionally using instalment models or with carrier subsidies. Crucially, this idea would differ from an instalment programme because the monthly charge would not be the price of the device split across 12 or 24 months. Rather, Apple could keep you locked in for longer, because the cost of your monthly subscription would be a yet-to-be determined fee dependent upon on the next device you choose.
According to the story, Apple has explored letting iPhone or iPad lease users (or iLeasers, as they will most likely be referred to) to change out their gadgets for newer ones when new hardware is released.
Apple typically releases new versions of its major devices annually: the iPhone 13 Pro Max is currently the pinnacle of Apple’s smartphone offering, but we’re expecting the iPhone 14 in September, and while the iPad Air recently arrived in its fifth iteration, the iPad Mini 6 launched in 2021 and the original iPad is into its ninth update.
The iPhone is currently Apple’s biggest seller, generating nearly $192 billion last year, which is more than 52 per cent of the company’s revenue. Meanwhile, Apple’s iPad offering accounted for just 8.7 per cent of Apple’s sales last year, while services (which include Apple Music and iCloud subscriptions) made up 18.7 per cent of Apple’s revenue.
The upside of the subscription model for Apple is undoubtedly that it will make the process of purchasing an iPhone or iPad similar to paying for iCloud storage or an Apple Music membership each month – and hence much more bearable. According to the source, Apple intends to make the process even easier by allowing users to subscribe to devices using their existing Apple ID and App Store account.
Bloomberg‘s report claims that the company has already had preliminary internal discussions about adding a hardware subscription to its Apple One bundles and AppleCare technical support plans too. (Apple launched these bundles in 2020 to let users subscribe to several services, including TV+, Arcade, Music, Fitness+ and iCloud storage, for a lower monthly fee.)
The report adds that Apple has been working on the subscription scheme for several months, but that the project was recently put to one side in an effort to speed up the launch of a “buy now, pay later” service.
So when can we expect it? Bloomberg‘s sources say Apple’s subscription service is still expected to launch at the end of 2022, “although it could be delayed into 2023 – or end up getting cancelled”.