"Is Apple One a bargain? It’s complicated" Sep 17, 2020 at 07:54

Apple One, Apple’s long-awaited services bundle, has arrived — or, more accurately, three different Apple One bundles have arrived. It’s a move that highlights both how inaccurate that “Apple One” name actually is and the general confusion over Apple’s services right now.

According to Apple, each of the three plans offers big monthly savings, with the cheapest Individual plan cutting $6 per month off the total compared to buying each of the four included services separately. The Family plan saves $8 per month, and the Premier plan saves $25.

Those numbers are making a big assumption, though, which is that customers want and are willing to pay for all of those separate services. Look closer, and it’s less of a bargain than Apple may want you to think.

Let’s start with the Apple One Individual plan. Offering a single Apple Music plan ($9.99 per month), a 50GB iCloud storage bucket ($0.99 per month), and access to Apple Arcade ($4.99 per month) and Apple TV Plus ($4.99 per month) for $14.99, it seems like it saves you money. But unless you’re interested in subscribing to Apple Music and either Apple Arcade or Apple TV Plus, you’re probably better off just saving the $4 and sticking with an $11 Apple Music and iCloud combo.

(As a side note, Apple does grant everyone in your family plan access to Apple Arcade and Apple TV Plus, even if you subscribe to it through the “Individual plan,” which may impact your calculus.)

Think of it more like a discount on Arcade and TV Plus

It’s a similar story with the Family plan: a regular family plan for Apple Music costs $14.99 per month, and a 200GB iCloud bucket (which can already be shared across a whole family) is $2.99. Once again, if you want either Apple Arcade or Apple TV Plus on top of that, the Apple One bundle effectively gets you both of those services for the price of one, but if all you want is Apple Music and iCloud storage, Apple One doesn’t really offer any benefits.

The Apple One Premier plan is a slightly different story, though. At $29.99 per month, it’s the most expensive of the plans. Comparing it to the unbundled costs, an Apple Music family plan is once again $14.99, while a 2TB iCloud plan is $9.99. If you were already paying for both of those plans — which isn’t unreasonable for a family that’s heavily invested in Apple products — then you’re only looking at a $5 per month increase to gain access to Arcade along with the additions of News Plus and Fitness Plus (which, at $9.99 per month each, are among Apple’s priciest subscriptions).

Apple Music (personal) — $9.99 per month

Apple Music (family plan) — $14.99 per month

Apple Arcade (family plan only) – $4.99 per month

Apple TV Plus (family plan only) — $4.99 per month

iCloud storage 50GB (personal) — $0.99 per month

iCloud storage 200GB (can be shared with family) — $2.99 per month

iCloud storage 2TB (can be shared with family) — $9.99 per month

Apple News Plus (family plan only) — $9.99 per month

Apple Fitness Plus (family plan only) — $9.99 per month

But in most cases, Apple One only makes sense if you’re already subscribing to Apple’s most in-demand services: iCloud storage, which is essential for backing up most iPhones given Apple’s increasingly absurd (and stingy) 5GB allowance for new devices, and Apple Music. And at the end of the day, Apple One doesn’t make subscribing to those two key services dramatically cheaper — it just provides a discount for subscribing to Apple’s less popular services. It’s a good discount, mind you, but one that still results in most customers paying more than they are right now.

The hard numbers confirm this. According to Counterpoint Research, Apple Music had an estimated 68 million users by the end of 2019. Barclays Analysts estimated that the company had 170 million paid iCloud customers in 2018. Comparatively, Apple had just 10 million subscribers as of February 2020 for Apple TV Plus — many of whom were riding along on the free one-year trial that Apple offers for the service, which will coincidentally start to expire for the earliest customers next month. And while estimates for Arcade are harder to come by, it’s likely far below Apple Music and iCloud.

The customers who would see savings from what they already pay for Apple subscriptions are the minority

In other words: the number of customers who already subscribe to Apple services beyond Music and iCloud, the ones who would actually get the benefits of the discounted pricing, are far outnumbered by those that don’t. And that’s the real point of Apple One — not to save you money, but to get you to spend more on services like Apple Arcade and Apple TV Plus that you might not have been considering subscribing to before.

It’s also hard to look at Apple One and not see a glaring omission: the iPhone. Apple has already experimented at including subscription services in a monthly payment for its most popular hardware product with the iPhone Upgrade Program, which offers the latest iPhone and an extended AppleCare Plus warranty for a monthly fee. It’s also possible that Apple may eventually offer some augmented version of that program that factors in Apple One (perhaps alongside the upcoming iPhone 12 announcement expected in October). The company sells a lot of different iPhones, and adding its already complex subscription plans to the mix only makes all of this an even bigger mess to figure out, especially when factoring in families with multiple devices. The last thing Apple One needs right now is more options to choose from.

But historically, Apple has been a company that used software and services to drive its hardware purchases. Things like iCloud, iMessage, iTunes, and the rest of Apple’s software suite were sweeteners in the pot for buying an iPhone or a Mac. But now the reverse seems to be true, with Apple looking at software and services as its main driving force.

Using Apple One to try to boost numbers for its less popular offerings, in that context, makes a lot of sense. And with Apple only looking to emphasize these subscriptions in the future, expect to see more, not less, of this sort of subscription push.

-"Is Apple One a bargain? It’s complicated"