iPhone subscription service — rumors and how much it could cost

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro Max in green
(Image credit: Future)

We may see a new iPhone subscription service debut at the Apple event, which could really shake up the way you acquire the iPhone 14 and other Apple handsets.

It's no secret that iPhones are expensive phones, and the rumors are suggesting that the iPhone 14 Pro in particular will be more expensive than ever. Having the option to pay for the phone monthly but without having to get a new phone contract could be what you need to enjoy the latest hardware without needing to pay a large lump sum.

We've only heard about this rumored subscription service from one source so far, but it's one with a proven track record. Here's a round-up of what we know about the iPhone subscription service, so you can figure out if this might be how you buy your next iPhone, whether that's this year or in the future.

iPhone subscription service: How it could work

According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman (opens in new tab), we should see the iPhone subscription service appear "before the end of the year." There was no mention of a subscription model at the Apple September event, but Gurman still says there's a chance of seeing it arrive this year, or otherwise next year. Perhaps we'll instead see the subscription model debut at the rumored Apple event in October where it could appear.

Going back to Gurman's original reporting in March (opens in new tab), this hardware subscription plan will apparently work similar to leasing a car, or like a cell phone payment plan with a carrier, only without the service included. It's not simply a payment plan though, Gurman says, as you can already opt for monthly payments when buying a phone through the Apple Store. 

Instead, this rumored subscription plan sounds more like a rental plan, with the idea you aren't actually paying off the device but are loaning it for a short period of time. Having this in place may mean Apple retains some control over your iPhone that it wouldn't otherwise have. It wouldn't want you continuing to use the phone without paying for it, after all.

One interesting detail Gurman adds is that this subscription may not be an independent program, but part of the existing Apple One subscription. That could mean you have to pay for all of Apple's other subscription services like Apple Music, Apple Fitness Plus and Apple TV Plus as part of a bundle with your phone. As described, that sounds like it could be more expensive than just paying for the phone, but at least you'd get the full iPhone experience when subscribing.

The closest thing Apple offers to this already, aside from payment plans, is its existing iPhone upgrade program. This lets you pay a set amount each month for your iPhone and Apple Care Plus; you're then entitled to an upgrade when the next iPhone model arrives. 

We may even see Apple offer this for other devices aside from the iPhone, according to Gurman, allowing us to dream of trying out Apple's most luxurious products like a Mac Studio without having to pay thousands to buy one outright. For now, though, it seems like Apple will be starting off this new payment plan with its signature product.

iPhone subscription service: How much it could cost

It seems logical that the price of your iPhone subscription would depend on which model you want, and Gurman agrees. He estimates monthly prices of $35, $45 and $50 for the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max respectively, based on the iPhone Upgrade Program's pricing. At that rate, you would end up paying off the price of the phone (and then some) over the course of two years, but if Apple's trying to make this different from a regular payment plan, perhaps it won't allow you to keep the device for that long.

Also, Gurman's pricing there may not account for the Apple One bundle he also says could play a part in the iPhone subscription service. Since an Apple One sub costs from $14.95/£14.95 a month, that cost (or a percentage of it) may be added onto the rumored price above, therefore giving you the full breadth of Apple's services but at a much higher price per month than buying the phone and subscribing to Apple One separately.

However this new plan works, we'll be waiting to see if this new service is revealed at the Apple event tomorrow (September 7). Take a look at the other Apple event rumors, as well as our iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro hubs to ensure you're in the loop right up to the moment Tim Cook walks on stage.

Richard Priday
Staff Writer

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.