Despite the cost, some people will upgrade to the latest and greatest iPhone every year. Apple would like more people to be like that, and it seems it's still working on a plan to convince us. Most people either can't or don't see the need to upgrade their phone every year, but perhaps they could be convinced if they didn't need to pay the full price.
That would be the selling point of an iPhone subscription plan, rumours of which have resurfaced. It seems the plan would allow users to rent latest iPhone model each year in exchange for an open-ended monthly fee. But while that might sound like a cheaper way of getting a new phone, I suspect Apple would benefit the most (see our guide to the best Apple deals for discounts).
Although there's still nothing official from the company, Bloomberg's regular Apple analyst Mark Gurman says the iPhone subscription service "should still arrive eventually" after having been delayed by "engineering challenges" and the development of a "next-generation financial system".
It's still not clear exactly how it would work, but iPhone rental would have to differ from the current iPhone Upgrade Program, through which you can spread the cost of an iPhone over 12 or 24 months. The subscription service would be ongoing, with users able to manage it through their Apple accounts. It could also appear as a checkout option in Apple's online store or bundled into Apple One subscription plans. Crucially the user would never come to own the phone.
Why is Apple considering an iPhone subscription service?
A problem faced by Apple and other phone makers is that high-end phones like the iPhone Pros and Galaxy S Ultras are now so expensive that amid the cost-of-living crisis, many people simply can't afford to buy the latest model each year.
And they don't need to either. These phones are built to last years (as you'd hope for upwards of $1,000 / £1,000), and the latest model often introduces only incremental upgrades to performance. A subscription service that costs less than current monthly instalment plans could be a way of convincing people, making Apple more money in the process (and Apple's apparently planning even more expensive phones – possibly the rumoured iPhone Ultra).
Does it make sense for anyone else?
On the face of it, that sounds like a good thing for customers, but it's likely that it would only work out as a saving for those who already buy a new iPhone every year. Aside from the questionable objective of encouraging people to dispose of good working phones even more regularly, it's unlikely that the plan would work out cheaper for those who only upgrade every couple of years – or when it's actually necessary.
Meanwhile, Apple would benefit from locking people into monthly payments, both by tying them into software and because they would no longer own their phone. By turning the iPhone into a service rather than a product, the Cupertino giant's hope would be that people pay for iPhone rental every month for the rest of their lives.
That's kind of disturbing, but I have to admit there are features that Apple could include that might make the subscription plan tempting. For example, if it includes repairs or replacement if your phone is broken, lost or stolen. Removing that risk of having to pay a significant sum upfront if your phone dies, could make iPhone rental worth paying for, like back when TV rental was commonplace.
When will the iPhone subscription service launch?
There's nothing official from Apple about the rumoured iPhone subscription service. Gurman previously suggested that it was planned for the iPhone 14 but suffered delays. So while nothing's certain, it's possible that it could be launched for the iPhone 15 this year.
Will the iPhone subscription service cover other products?
Gurman says that Apple intends to start with the iPhone only. However, he has suggested that there's a possibility that the subscription service could then be expanded to other products such as iPads and even MacBooks.
How much will the iPhone subscription service cost?
We've not heard any details on what kind of pricing Apple is considering for iPhone subscription plans, but they may be launched as part of Apple One.
Apple One currently has three tiers, with the cheapest starting at $16.95 / £16.95 per month. That gets you Apple Music, Apple TV Plus, Apple Arcade and iCloud Plus. An iPhone would presumably be included in a new plan that would be more expensive plan than those currently on offer.
To be attractive the pricing would need to work out as a cheaper monthly fee than Apple's existing iPhone Upgrade Program, which simply spreads the cost of a new phone over one or two years (you can see the best current prices for the latest iPhones below).
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