Samsung, please copy Apple and bring back phone subscriptions

Wait, is it copying if you did it first?


We learned yesterday that Apple is planning a new, subscription-based sales model. The plan will reportedly include hardware like iPhones and iPads, plus insurance and access to subscription services like Apple Music, bundled for one discounted monthly fee. Here in Android land, we don’t really have an analogous option. Sure, there’s Google’s Pixel Pass, but that’s more of a financing plan — you pay for two years, then the phone is yours. Samsung briefly offered a program called Samsung Access that was more along the lines of what Apple’s planning, but the program isn’t available anymore. I think now would be a great time for Samsung to bring it back.


Starting at $37 a month, Samsung Access included a Samsung phone, warranty coverage, a terabyte of cloud storage through Microsoft OneDrive, and Microsoft 365 Personal access. Customers were able to return their leased device and walk away fee-free after subscribing for at least three months, and Access offered the opportunity to trade up to a new device every nine months. The program’s landing page is still accessible, but it only mentions the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy Note20, and there’s no way to actually subscribe — the handful of “SUBSCRIBE” links on the page only lead to error messages, if anywhere at all.

In light of Apple’s subscription plans, this year would be an opportune time for Samsung to revive Access, or something like it. The Samsung Mobile Upgrade Program does exist, but only in some countries — and it just includes hardware. An all-in-one hardware and software bundle subscription is a very appealing proposition to a certain kind of customer.

There is, of course, the question of what services Samsung could include in such a bundle. Samsung Care+ is a given, but while productivity apps may be a value-add for some shoppers, they don’t have the mass appeal of music streaming or fitness subscriptions — both of which will reportedly be included in Apple’s future subscription bundle in the form of Apple Music and Apple Fitness+.

Samsung’s close relationship with Microsoft makes me imagine a bundle including a Samsung device and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — it could even come with an Xbox controller and phone mount to nudge subscribers toward Xbox Cloud Gaming. Deals with other third parties like Spotify also aren’t unheard of: Galaxy phones come with a three-month trial of Spotify Premium already, and I have to think a bundle that included a leased Samsung phone and a subscription to Premium for a discount would appeal to a lot of people.


The reported Apple plan is also said to include options to lease other Apple hardware like the iPad and Apple Watch, and Samsung’s currently the only Android manufacturer that could hope to compete in that arena. Google doesn’t have any tablets or smartwatches to speak of that it could include in Pixel Pass (at least not yet), but Samsung makes some of the best Android tablets money can buy, and its Watch4 series comprised our two favorite smartwatches of 2021 .

Pixel Pass is the closest thing we’ve got to Apple’s rumored subscription model right now. And for a small subset of Android users, it’s a good option: if you plan on keeping a Pixel 6 for two years and already subscribe to the services the bundle includes, it’s kind of a no-brainer. But in the eyes of many American smartphone shoppers, android exclusively means Samsung. I hope the company brings back some kind of subscription-based hardware/software bundle — it’s the only one that could pull it off on our side of the aisle.

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