While the iPhone 12 is sure to be a big deal for Apple, there's an even more important product coming this fall and it isn't an iPhone, or an iPad, or a Watch.
According to Mark Gurman at Bloomberg, it will be called Apple One.
I actually called this back in October 2019, when I wrote that Apple should introduce an all-in-one subscription plan that includes AppleTV+, Apple News+, Apple Music, iCloud, and Apple Arcade. Later, reports suggested Apple was actually considering such a move to be announced this year.
At the time, I called it Apple+. To be fair, I was wrong about the name, but in concept, this is exactly what I thought Apple should do. I'm not claiming any sort of magical foresight--it just seemed obvious to me that Apple could leverage its user base to convert more subscription revenue by bundling multiple services at one lower price.
Apple's services division has been its most important business in terms of growth for a while now. On its own, it generates over $50 billion a year in revenue, which, for comparison, is more than Delta Airlines or American Express pulls in. It also puts it not far behind Disney or Facebook in terms of revenue without even taking into consideration the company's device sales.
That's important because even though sales of the iPhone set records in the second quarter of this year, they have slowed over the past few years. Some of that is because the market for smartphones is mostly saturated--everyone who wants one already has one. As a result, it takes more than incremental updates for people to upgrade their devices.
The introduction of the updated iPhone SE earlier this year seems to have been a major win for Apple, especially in terms of capturing more budget-conscious buyers who would have previously opted for a lower-cost Android device. Also, the upcoming iPhone 12 is expected to drive a massive upgrade cycle. Still, neither of those two things is nearly as important to Apple as services.
Here's the thing: For Apple to make money off iPhone users, it has to sell them a new iPhone. That's been a pretty successful model, except, again, as the smartphone market has gotten more saturated, it's become more difficult. Also, Apple makes roughly the same margin on each new generation of iPhone. Those dollars are certainly important and are largely responsible for the fact that Apple is the most profitable company on earth, not to mention the most valuable.
Except, in the future, that won't be enough. The real opportunity for Apple is to sell services to those iPhone users. And, make no mistake, iPhone users are the target for all of the services. Yes, it's true that you can use Apple News+ on your Mac, but with the possible exception of iCloud on your Mac, and Apple TV+ on your, well, Apple TV, the iPhone is the platform that all of these services are designed to complement.
I have no idea how the figures break out, but if I had to guess, I'd bet that iCloud users primarily use it for backing up their iOS devices and Photos. I don't know anyone who uses it as their primary cloud storage service for their Mac. All of these services are really an add-on to the iPhone.
As a bundle, Apple could easily add incremental revenue above and beyond with each iPhone sale. You're already planning to sign up for Apple Music, Apple Arcade, and iCloud? Now you can add Apple TV+ and Apple News+ for only a few dollars more.
In fact, Apple News+ and Apple TV+ are fine, but if we're being honest, there's nothing remarkably exciting about either as a standalone service. As an added benefit, however, they become a reasonable incentive to sign up for Apple One, instead of simply subscribing to one or two services individually. Those few dollars may not seem like much, but honestly, month after month they add up to real money.
This is exactly what Apple is counting on, and it's why I think Apple One is the company's most important product launch this year. Maybe even ever.