The iPhone “Subscription” – is it the best way to get the newest gadget, or an insidious way for Apple to get more of your money?
Early in September, Apple announced a new plan for its zealous fans – the ability to subscribe to the iPhone upgrade program. There’s been huge amounts of discussion since, ranging from contempt directed at anyone who thinks it’s a good deal to considering it a wash, to those who think it’s a game changing shift in the industry. An overlooked aspect is what this means for your company if your organization has embraced iPhone as the standard smartphone platform.
From an individual’s perspective, the iPhone upgrade plan is really just a measure in what is worth more to them, time or money. If they’re the type to immediately upgrade their phone each time a new model comes out, the upgrade plan makes sense. Those who prefer to wait, to resell their old phones, or hand down the older phones to family members, are unlikely to find the plan as appealing. There are pros and cons to each, and every person you ask about the plan is going to have their own opinion.
This becomes important when reviewing your mobile device policy within the company. If your organization supports BYOD and provides reimbursement for device purchases, you’ll need to consider whether your policy needs to change to accommodate employees who subscribe to a device upgrade program. The implications of the device subscription model could make you completely rethink how your organization reimburses for device purchases.
First, there are the hard costs. An iPhone 6s purchased at full retail from AT&T costs roughly $650. Compare that to the iPhone 6s purchased through the iPhone Upgrade Program, at $32.41 per month – or nearly $780 over the course of the iPhone Upgrade Program’s 24 month financing. iPhone fanatics might not balk at the $130 difference because the iPhone Upgrade Program includes up to two years of AppleCare+, but that might not be enough cost justification for your finance department. Do extended warranties or equipment protection programs qualify for reimbursement under your organization’s BYOD policy? Or are they even mentioned at all?
To further complicate policy revisions, what happens when an employee, who is a member of the iPhone Upgrade Program, decides to exercise their option to upgrade their iPhone after 12 payments? The employee’s monthly iPhone payment increases, and they’re locked in to a new 24 month financing cycle. If your policy does allow reimbursement for financed phones, is the reimbursement capped at a certain number of months? A dollar amount? If your company can’t justify reimbursing perpetual device payments, you’ll need to be sure this is clearly stated in your mobile policy, and be ready to enforce it.
Of course supporting BYOD for iPhone Upgrade Program members isn’t without hidden costs – usually in terms of lost productivity. If a significant portion of your employees starts upgrading phones more frequently, the time spent supporting the upgrades will add up fast. How long does it take your IT team to set up access to corporate resources on an employee’s new phone? For troubleshooting and ad-hoc training while the employee is getting started with their new device? And don’t forget the employee’s old phone, which gets returned to Apple under the terms of the upgrade. Are they being wiped of sensitive company data? Do you need to create new training and awareness campaigns to mitigate that risk?
On the other hand, you could decide phones purchased via subscription are no longer eligible for reimbursement – at the cost of potential resentment from employees who really do believe the latest iPhone makes them more productive. If you think this could happen in your organization, you’ll need to also weigh how much your organization values employee satisfaction and consider the consequences if it takes a nosedive.
As with any development in mobility, the launch of the iPhone Upgrade Program gives enterprise mobility stakeholders and policy makers a lot to consider. If you didn’t have a solid mobile policy in place before, this is your cue to develop a comprehensive policy and get it in place as soon as possible. You could do it yourself, or allow a Managed Mobility Services company like Wireless Analytics to handle the difficulties for you. Whichever option you choose, it’s better to be prepared early than scrambling to cope with problems later.