Apple may be working on a subscription service to allow customers to "subscribe" (lease) iPhones and other Apple devices such as MacBooks. According to a report from Bloomberg, the subscription service would be similar to Apple's current subscription services, iCloud (opens in new tab) or Music (opens in new tab), but with devices.
According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple "wants to make owning phone like subscribing to apps" and it "could tie into AppleCare and digital service bundles." So basically, you would be leasing your equipment directly from Apple, and like a car lease, you would receive upgraded devices as part of the subscription service or possibly when it was time to turn your current back in.
If this sounds familiar, Apple does already have the iPhone Upgrade Program. This allows you to get a new iPhone every year with AppleCare+ included starting at $35.33 per month. Other than potentially extending to devices outside of the iPhone it is unclear at present how this would differ from the Upgrade Program.
Subscription hardware services take some of the bite out of the costly upgrade cycle, but like any lease, this will have users locked into essentially perpetual subscription contracts. This would be great for Apple and becomes a significant revenue driver, but will it be good for consumers? Will there be a way out of your subscription that won't cost you a massive fee for returning a device you're not happy with or want to move on from?
Although Apple is trying to make the process of buying an iPhone or other Apple devices more streamlined and pretty much as easy as subscribing to iCloud or any of its other services by simply using your Apple ID, it does feel a bit forced. What will cellphone providers like Verizon and T-Mobile think about this as it may cost them millions in revenue?
Apple is hoping to launch the new service by the end of 2022 according to the report, which makes sense as the company usually reveals the new iPhone, Apple Watch and other hardware in the fall, and this 'subscription" launch could be set up in time for the Holiday shopping season
Last year, Bloomberg reported that Apple was working on a "buy now, pay later" service for Apple Pay transactions. There were also rumors about the company developing a hardware subscription service, but it quieted down.
Soon, Apple will probably start an excellent old-fashioned layaway program to pull more folks into its ecosystem. As products get more expensive, I believe you may see more companies moving to hardware subscription services to ensure that users have access to the latest and greatest tech.