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Hardware subscriptions are a horrible idea
But undoubtedly a lucrative one
Friends, there’s been news, horrible, horrible news: Apple’s rumoured iPhone subscription service may drop in March.
Please, let’s join hands and pray this crime away.
Being a rumour, precise details of Apple’s hardware subscription are sparse, but thanks to some rather enterprising insiders we do have some detail. The general idea is that users will pay a monthly fee and receive an iPhone and Apple One membership.
On the surface, cool. That could be hella useful. But there’s a catch.
While similar subscriptions services (like Pixel Pass) mean you actually own the phone after a defined period, it’s rumoured this will never happen with Apple’s program.
To put it another way, you’ll pay for the privilege of using an iPhone, but, if you decide to cancel the service after a couple of years, you’ll be left with nothing. Apple, on the other hand, will have your cash, and an old iPhone it can refurbish and sell on.
It’s a deviously clever idea — and one we’re bound to see more of if it’s successful.
Think of how lucrative subscriptions have been for software.
Consider Adobe. It used to be that you simply bought Photoshop and, well, that was that. You owned the program. Yet, this changed in 2010 when Adobe switched to a subscription model, effectively creating a money printing machine.
Anyone who works with Photoshop effectively always will, meaning the change potentially delivers the company decades of continuous revenue, rather than a one-off payment.
Subscriptions as a money-making methodology have infiltrated everywhere.
As an avid collector of physical media, it’s disheartening to see how streaming has turned us into a generation of renters. We no longer own the movies, TV shows, or music we love, meaning they can be taken away or changed without our consent.
At first, these services seem like a good deal, but, after a few years, you realise just how much money you’ve sunk into the subscription and just how little you have to show for it.
Apple, the clever bugger that it is, has spotted an opportunity to do the same with hardware.
Currently, the lines between owning and renting are blurring. Companies like John Deere and HP are accelerating this shift, ushering us into a world where physical possessions are leased, rather than entirely ours.
Renting, of course, has been around forever. But it functions best when the objects we’re leasing are something we only need intermittently; a moving van or pressure washer, for example.
If the rumours are accurate, Apple is planning to take a core object — something we use daily — and removing our ownership over it. And the reason? Money. It’s all money.
Yes, a hardware subscription might lower the barrier of entry to using an iPhone, but it also removes people’s ability to own that device.
In a way, this is a microcosm of late-stage capitalism. Companies are beholden only to their shareholders, businesses grow only to serve their financial interests.
This results in companies like Apple moving away from its core business; instead of making excellent products, its goal is to squeeze out cash from people through things like its financial services arm and hardware subscriptions.
If Apple really wanted to help consumers, it’d offer worldwide 0% pay-later schemes and trade-in options that weren’t criminally underpriced, not this bullshit.
But, of course, there’s not enough money to fuel growth in that.
Fundamentally, we’re all just cash udders waiting to be milked. So, no, I’m not a fan of hardware subscriptions.