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An iPhone subscription plan could be coming (Updated: You can't keep the phone)

Updated: Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reports that you'll "never fully own" your iPhone with Apple's rumored subscription plan.
By
April 4, 2022
iPhone 13 Pro review in hand showing camera
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Apple is reportedly working on an iPhone subscription program.
  • The initiative has been likened to iCloud storage or Apple Music subscriptions.
  • It’s believed that you won’t fully own an iPhone using this plan.

Update: April 4, 2022 (2:10 AM ET): Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman has now addressed the iPhone subscription program in his weekly newsletter. The journalist specifically noted that you won’t actually own your device if you subscribe to this program. Read the excerpt below for the full quote:

The iPhone hardware subscription is more like a lease because you are paying a fee that is not simply the cost of the iPhone split up over two years. You’re paying off a portion of the value of the iPhone, but you never fully own it. And you can replace it when a new version comes out — just like with a car lease.

In other words, you’ll still want to stick to a carrier contract, prepaid purchase, or the iPhone Upgrade Program if you want to keep your phone.

Original article: March 25, 2022 (8:07 AM ET): Cloud storage, music, and apps have all mostly migrated from the buy-once model to a subscription-based offering. However, it sounds like Apple could be the latest company to switch business models.

Bloomberg reports that Apple is working on a subscription service for the iPhone and other consumer hardware products, citing sources familiar with the topic. So what does this actually mean?

The outlet likens this mooted iPhone subscription service to an “auto-leasing program.” It draws further parallels between this new service and subscription services like Apple Music and iCloud storage.

Paying for a phone that isn’t yours?

iPhone 13 Pro in hand with search and keyboard
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Apple already offers the iPhone upgrade program, allowing users to pay for a device across 12 or 24 months and allowing users to upgrade each year. However, Bloomberg claims that the new subscription plan wouldn’t spread the device cost over 12 or 24 months but would be a yet-to-be-determined monthly fee instead.

It’s unclear whether users would be able to keep their iPhones after a set amount of payments, but the comparisons to Apple Music and iCloud suggest this might not be the case.

For what it’s worth, the iPhone upgrade program allows users to keep their current phone after 24 payments have been made. Google’s Pixel Pass program also allows customers to keep their Pixel device after two years of payments.

What do you think of phone subscriptions?

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It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen what is effectively a leasing program, as rental initiatives are available from some carriers and retailers. Nevertheless, this could be the first time we see a leasing or subscription-based program from a major manufacturer.

It all sounds like a rather worrying trend, as your most personal tech wouldn’t actually be yours if it turns out you can’t keep the phone. However, it could potentially make sense for people who need a phone for a short period of time (e.g. a business trip or your previous device broke) or for those who want to try a device first.