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Apple’s subscription service for iPhones, iPads: What we know so far

Apple’s subscription service for iPhones, iPads: What we know so far

While the exact terms and conditions are not exactly clear, the service might launch late this year or early next year.

(Photo: Apple) (Photo: Apple)

There might soon be a new way for you to get an iPhone or an iPad and not empty out your bank account at one go. We aren’t talking about EMIs, though. According to a report by Mark Gurman, Apple is working on selling iPhones and iPads as a part of a hardware subscription service and it could arrive either late this year, or early next year.

Now, Apple has never sold hardware on subscription before but this fits with the company’s plans of pushing “subscription services as a whole”. Over the last few years, Apple has been pushing subscriptions like Apple Music, Apple Fitness Plus, Apple TV Plus, Apple News Plus, and even Apple Arcade to users. Many of these services have also been conveniently, and affordably, bundled into the Apple One subscription bundle as well.

But these subscription plans seem to have been in the works for a while, albeit slowly. Apple had added a monthly subscription model for AppleCare’s warranty extensions as early as 2019. And 2015 onwards Apple has been offering its iPhone Upgrade Program that allows users to pay for AppleCare and a new iPhone over 24 months with an option to “trade in their device after 12 months of payments”. For all practical purposes, both these plans are party hardware subscription anyway.

According to Gurman’s report, the monthly charge users will pay for iPhones and iPads is not going to be the price of the device divided over 12 months or 24 months, but a monthly subscription cost with an option to upgrade to new device when they launch. Like Apple’s all other subscriptions, this too is going to be tied to an Apple ID account and there also might be options to include AppleCare and Apple One services as a part of the bundle.

Currently, monthly plans are available for the services, and EMI options are available for the devices. However, these plans are independent of each other.

On the other hand, as The Verge points out, “it’s hard to imagine that Apple will simply be lending out devices on a monthly basis — will you really be able to just pay to ‘subscribe’ an iPhone for a single month, like you can for Apple TV Plus to binge a season of Ted Lasso? Similarly, a world where Apple has customers invest months of capital to rent a device only to have them return it at the end of the process seems equally unlikely.”

What might be possible is that Apple is “simply looking to cut out the middleman and expand its installment-based payment offerings to other products”. On the current plans, like say the iPhone Upgrade Program in other countries (not India), customers take out an interest-free loan with Citizens One which is then repaid over 24 months. In India, the EMI options are available from various banks with varied interest rates. Apple also allows Apple Card users to pay for Apple products with monthly installments, with no interest, but there aren’t that many Apple Card users as compared to the number of Apple customers.

A subscription service that is controlled by Apple entirely would cut out third-party involvement and also allow the company to expand it to any hardware product of its choosing. For now though, the details regarding this are still unclear.

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Published on: Mar 29, 2022, 2:00 PM IST
Posted by: Jhinuk Sen, Mar 29, 2022, 1:52 PM IST