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Imagine millions of Apple customers holding out on the services introduced last year — Apple Arcade, News+, and TV+ — not out of lack of interest, but because of recurring monthly prices. Arcade and TV+ each cost $5 per month, while News+ is $10 per month, in addition to the $10 average monthly cost of Apple Music, and iCloud plans ranging up to $10 per month. If you were deterred by those numbers, would saving $1 per bundled service change your mind?
That’s apparently what Apple plans to test on customers this fall. According to a Bloomberg report, Apple will finally debut a long-awaited service bundle under the name Apple One, appeasing Wall Street calls for higher guaranteed quarterly revenue streams. But the “deal,” if you can call it that, will be a meager $1 off each service you bundle, which means purchasing Apple Music with Apple TV+ will cut $2 off their combined monthly price, while a bundle with five Apple services will save you around $5 per month.
I can’t speak for every consumer out there, but from where I stand, the idea of such a modest savings is almost insulting. It reminds me of Portlandia’s famous sketch in which Kumail Nanjiani’s restaurant server dragged customers through an endless list of questionable specials, including the “double down” deal, with twice the food at twice the price. Even if Apple might dupe some new customers into bundles with minimal savings, this isn’t the bundle strategy fans have been waiting for.
The concept falls apart if you look closely at the reported particulars. “A basic package will include Apple Music and Apple TV+,” the report notes, “while a more expensive variation will have those two services and the Apple Arcade gaming service.” In other words, every customer must agree to start paying for TV+ — the mediocre video streaming service Apple has been giving away for free. That means “basic” customers wouldn’t be saving anything over what they’re paying today. Assuming the report is accurate, you would need to buy five Apple services to save $5, which means you would be getting Apple TV+ “free” with the purchase of everything else.
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That sounds familiar. Except you currently don’t have to buy four other services to get Apple TV+ at no cost.
The Apple TV+ giveaway may disappear or change this fall, but it still isn’t worth paying for. Moreover, the report suggests Apple next plans to give away a year of free Arcade access with certain hardware purchases, offering users an alternate way to save $5 per month without signing up for Apple One. (A new Apple fitness video service — likely to be called Fitness+, based on a recent renaming of the related Apple Watch and iOS Activity apps — is a wild card.)
Even before Apple introduced new services last March, informed speculation pointed to an “all in” services bundle with iCloud, media subscriptions, and perhaps AppleCare, since there’s undeniable appeal in such an offering. Although it’s not clear how many existing Apple customers are on the fence with hardware-adjacent services, industry watchers believe Apple could multiply the attach rates for Arcade, News+, TV+, iCloud, and AppleCare by leveraging the success of Apple Music and hitting the right combined monthly/annual price points for bundles. I know I’d go from one Apple service to four in a heartbeat if there was a good deal to be had.
But a trivial savings isn’t going to do it for me, especially if that means paying anything for TV+, which is a hard pass based on both existing and announced content. Music and News+, maybe. Music, News+, and iCloud? Even better. TV+ and Arcade? Probably not, though if you make me an offer I can’t refuse, we’ll see. And I’ll gladly commit to a year at a time — if the total package isn’t stupidly expensive.
Unless Apple offers steeper discounts or more flexibility in its bundles, my sense that I don’t really need most of its services will only deepen, and I suspect millions of people feel the same. Right now, Apple has a window of opportunity to convert last year’s fence-sitters to this year’s and next year’s paying customers. Pricing Apple One right will keep that window open, but miserly savings will slam it shut, guaranteeing users’ limited monthly subscription budgets go to rivals instead.
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