Monday, May 7, 2018

A hypothetical build-your-own Apple Upgrade Program

As I recently wrote, subscriptions are the norm these days, whether they are for goods, services, even applications. As much as I don’t love signing up for new ones, there is a theoretical one I would sign up for in a heartbeat. The iPhone Upgrade Program has spoiled me, and now I want more.

iPhone Upgrade Program

Apple introduced its own iPhone Upgrade Program in 2015 with iPhone 6S. The promise? After 12 payments or equivalent, you become eligible to trade in and upgrade to the latest model iPhone. AppleCare+ is also baked in as part of your monthly payment, which is a nice convenience. Having been part of the program since its inception, I am largely satisfied with it, despite how Apple mishandled the first upgrade cycle from iPhone 6S to iPhone 7. It is a huge boon for early adopters and the impatient (read: me). It is also a marked improvement over the hassle that comes with selling your old iPhone to buy a new one.

Apple fine tuned the upgrade process for the iPhone 8/8 Plus/X cycle, which resulted in an even bigger advantage to those in the program. I was able to become pre-approved for the upgrade and select my preferred model of choice days before pre-orders. At 12:01 on pre-order day — or as I call it, iDay — it was simply a manner of a couple taps, and the device was secured for pickup on launch day. Sure as hell beats scrambling like a mad man to enter payment info and whatnot. It turned an anxious, frantic experience into something seamless. It just worked.

Financing is in the form of a small, no interest loan. Apple parters with Citizens One to handle credit approval and loan management, but I would like to see the financing method changed for what I’m proposing.

Apple Upgrade Program

So, here’s my pitch: a build-your-own Apple Upgrade Program for those that are dedicated to having the latest and greatest of Apple’s main offerings: iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.

Enrollment & Scope

To enroll, you’d choose up to four devices from the following categories:

  1. Any iPhone
  2. Any Apple Watch
  3. And iPad
  4. Any Mac or MacBook, with exception of iMac Pro and Mac Pro. These devices are more niche, so I wouldn’t include them.

All devices would come with the benefit of AppleCare+, using the existing appropriate terms and limits for each (e.g. accidental damage replacement).

Instead of a loan, I propose it should function more like wireless carrier financing. You’d still need to run your credit, but you wouldn’t take out a loan for the products you’re buying. You would just pay Apple directly each month via iTunes billing for a total of 24 months. Apple could slap an early termination fee on the agreement and call it a day.

So, as an example, let’s use my current slew of devices that fit into the applicable categories: iPhone X (64GB), Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular, iPad Pro 10.5-inch with cellular (64GB), and 2016 MacBook Pro 15-inch with Touch Bar (base model). Total for all of these devices, plus AppleCare+ equates to approximately $5,000 before tax. 1 In the context of my proposed upgrade program, that shakes out to 24 payments of about $208. Remember, that’s all interest free. Sign me up, already! I’d much rather pay Apple directly than some credit card company.

Side note on the topic of credit cards: the Apple Rewards Card from Barclay has been a good solution for the time being, since they offer deferred interest financing promotions.

During enrollment, Apple could offer perks and/or upgrades for its growing and maturing services (i.e. iCloud storage, Apple Music). Perhaps they could even include an additional 10GB of iCloud storage for each device added to the plan (+40GB max). Apple’s measly 5GB free tier has always been a bit of a head-scratcher, so this would be a conservative step in the right direction.

Upgrading and Adding Devices

Upgrading would be very similar to the iPhone Upgrade Program. Once you’ve made 12 payments or equivalent, you’d be eligible to upgrade to the latest versions of the devices you have, if and once they are available.

You could theoretically add to your plan at any time if you don’t have a device from a specific category. Eventual upgrades for added devices would also be held to the 12-minimum-payments threshold or equivalent (off cycle from your other devices).

Benefits

An upgrade program of this nature would be mutually beneficial. Diehards and early adopters get what they want, and Apple provides the utmost encouragement for folks to stay within their ecosystem.

And look, I’m not saying every single device release is going to be universally loved by everyone (looking at you, current-gen MacBook Pro). Nor am I saying you should upgrade to new versions blindly. Being in the program doesn’t mean you must upgrade, it just means you are in the best position to do so.

Essentially: if I’m going to give Apple a decent amount of money every so often for devices in these product categories, I just want an easier and more convenient way to do it.


  1. On a totally unrelated note: my wife is awesome.