On Subscribing To vs Owning Apple Gear

As I’m sure you’ve seen, the usual cohort of Apple websites today reposted something from Bloomberg about Apple considering a subscription service for iPhone and iPads instead of a straight sale.
(see here and here).

I’m curious what people here think. The natural instinct, I suspect, is to push back.
But on second thought, I found myself noting that I already purchase a rolling monthly AppleCare+ subscription for each of the following: Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad (2x), Macs (2x), and now Studio Display. Behind the obvious fact that I have too much stuff at the moment and some of it needs to urgently go on eBay, I think the takeaway here is this: Apple devices have long been impossible and/or super expensive to repair, forcing me and many of us into perennial insurance.

So my question is this: in what sense can you really own something that you cannot repair?

At what point do we conclude that most Apple devices are already a subscription: you’re dependent on Apple for insurance and updates, and if you have neither of those your device is vulnerable to software risks as well as to hardware repair costs that, often, exceed the value of the device, especially after a couple of years of purchase. And of course there is little to no competition in the repair market to bring those costs down.

To be clear: I’m not trying to say that therefore the move to subscription hardware is ok or welcome – I haven’t really thought my way around what I think about it – but I’m trying to say that in some sense it’s already happened.

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I would choose to own because:

  • At end of life for each of my Apple devices I evaluate whether it is time to move to Android/Windows/Linux/etc
  • I don’t think I upgrade often enough for the subscription to break even, and I would be surprised if many (non-Apple-tech-reviewer) people were in the category where the subscriptions is a better deal than one-time purchase
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Nope. Nope. Nope. But at the same time I wonder if they’re just trying to rebrand the monthly payment option into a “subscription”

I have no desire to get on the hardware upgrade hype train. I’ve owned an iPhone since the original and have never purchased AppleCare. Also, since the iPhone 3G I have been off the annual update cycle. For my other Apple products I still have a 3 year old Apple Watch, my current Mac is a 2017 iMac and before that it was a 2011 MBP.

I will be highly disappointed if the subscription move does away with Apple’s long software support for their products. I’d rather they go back to the $49 OS X updates versus a subscription. Even if the subscription was less than $49!

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Fun question. I prefer 0% installment financing on the Apple Card to either the upgrade program or this kind of subscription. In addition to a vague sense of ownership (which I feel about some other largely unrepairable things), I like:

  • the ability to sell it to anyone I want, whenever, and it being my choice to sell before I’ve finished payments or not
  • the ability to pay off the contract at any time and not to have to cancel a perpetual agreement
  • being able to keep using it as long as I want. It’s good for me to have to choose each replacement rather than defaulting into hardware upgrades
  • the right to use third party development shops or modify the device

As to your point about AppleCare+ and repairability, I think, too, the trend is slowly going towards repairability, so locking into a system assuming otherwise is too pessimistic for me. And I don’t buy AppleCare for every device, so I wouldn’t necessarily save by having that baked into the subscription.


I am already on the Apple iPhone upgrade program. I get a new phone every year and ship my old one back. Works great, so I am practically already doing the subscription thing. For phones, I am good with it.

Even before the Apple One bundle came out there was some talk about a subscription bundle that would combine Apple hardware and services (can’t remember if it was on Upgrade or Connected). Basically combining Apple One and the iPhone Upgrade Plan. Not for me, but it’s a sensible offering for Apple to have.

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How many lease versus buy their car? Rent versus buy a home?

This seems similar to me. As long as there is an option to buy along with the ‘subscription’ I’m fine with it.

I can’t imagine that Apple would ever even consider switching to a subscription model as the only way to do this, but it 100% makes sense for them to have an option for people to do this if they want to.

Before the iPhone 12 I was doing the annual upgrade with my iPhone via the iPhone Upgrade Program. I decided to stop for uninteresting reasons, but I’ve been amazed at how well the battery has held up over 18 months (so far) which was always my main desire to upgrade annually. So I think I’m going back on the cycle of upgrading every 2 years and taking the 0% interest that Apple offers.


I personally would find such a service very appealing, as part of a well rounded bundle of device + services for a flat monthly rate. I tend to replace my devices every 3-4 years as of late, and miss the days when I was getting new devices every year (grad school was a hell of a wallet draining endeavor). Something like a form of an “iPhone lease” would be alright by me.

I’ve had five iPhones, an original, a 4S, 5S, 6S, and currently an 11. My iPhone 11 is nearly 30 months old and the battery health is 94%. I’ve never had a single battery problem with any of them (so far) :grinning:

BTW, I still have my 2007 silverback and it still works. Apple isn’t perfect but they do know how to make a phone.


Funny how we have almost opposite strategies. I (almost) only upgrade when there are chassis updates: original, 3G, 4, 5, 6, X, 12 (mini) …and 13 mini (broke my own rule for the battery life)


I guess my strategy is “If it ain’t broke . . . “ :wink: Long story short, my priorities changed back in the ‘80s and I stopped buying everything I wanted and (mainly) started buying what I needed.

I traded in my 6S on my 11 because I wanted a better camera to use on a trip I had planned. And so far Apple hasn’t added anything that I want or need so I’ll probably keep the 11 for a few more years.

From an environmental standpoint, I admire you, of course.
But don’t start thinking too hard about that line dividing want and need because you may find that there are holes all over it. I tend to be all or none in all things. And that means that, to me and for me, it’s very obvious that I don’t need any tech at all. I could go to a library to check my email once a day. I don’t need to take photos, or text people, or read the news online – let alone to know what my oxygen saturation was while I was sitting on the bus. It’s all wants, from my inflexible all or none perspective.

That said, once, some fifteen years ago, I was so busy living life that I had temporarily stopped following the Apple news. And then, as a tourist in Lisbon, I walked into a mall and saw an aluminum iMac. I had a white one at home back then, and somehow I managed not to even hear about the metal ones coming out. I just saw it like that, in the store – unbelievable! Now, I hope that one day I’ll be again that distant from all consumerist-tech stuff. There is no greater freedom than just not caring, really. But I’m miles away from that for now.

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I upgrade often enough that this probably makes sense. Even when I buy an expensive iMac and tell myself, “I’ll use this for 5+ years!” Then Apple goes ahead and creates the M1 chip and I just can’t help myself. . .

Thanks, but I didn’t do it to be environmentally responsible.

Totally depends on the subscription price for me.

But since I’m still using my iPhone X as my main phone I guess that amount will be too high for me.

Being cynical this would allow Apple to “sell” more annual upgrades of phones. If you’re on a subscription and it makes no odds which model you’re on, of course you’d upgrade every year.

With Apple increasing phone costs gradually, people are holding onto them for longer to reduce their month on month costs.

I don’t think repairability (or not) is a factor for most people (we’re a bit sheshul on this forum) the number of people I see with broken screens suggest many don’t get them repaired.

I have no interest in going to a subscription. Phones are on a 3-4 year upgrade cycle for me and iPads are even longer. I don’t buy apple care and pay for everything with cash. I just don’t see it doing anything but costing me more money in the long run.

Speaking of cynical, my first thought was Apple is getting ready to raise prices significantly and is hoping a subscription plan will soften the blow.


A hard no for me. I move to a new phone when the current one no longer meets my needs, meaning it no longer runs apps as well or is slowing me down in other ways. And I always buy used or refurbished. Similarly for iPads.