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Apple’s subscription business is about to explode

Published Jan 11th, 2021 10:02AM EST
iPhone apps
Image: Apple Inc.

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  • A new analyst report suggests that Apple might soon add subscription tiers to a number of existing iPad and iPhone apps.
  • Loup Ventures thinks that Apple might soon add services like Podcasts+, Stocks+, and Maps+ to the likes of Apple News+, Apple Music, and Apple TV+.
  • Back in the fall, Apple launched the new Apple One subscription bundle that packages different iOS apps together, in various combinations, since paid subscription products are now so big a component of Apple’s overall business that it’s tantamount to the revenue of a Fortune 50 company all by itself.

This is not a perfect comparison, but one way to understand what a powerhouse Apple’s subscription business has become thanks to products like Apple TV+ and Apple Music is to consider how quickly the latter has grown relative to its rivals.

A new Loup Ventures report, for example, highlights the rapid clip at which Apple Music has racked up paying subscribers relative to Spotify. While it took Spotify 14 years to accumulate 144 million paid subscribers, Apple notched more than half of that (85 million) in five years. In fact, Apple has built a gigantic subscription business on top of services like that app, to the point that the iPhone maker’s services are now tantamount to the size of a Fortune 50 company by revenue. And Loup Ventures thinks Apple is about to double-down along these lines, predicting in its new report (h/t MacRumors) that Apple will look to extract even more revenue by essentially building subscription tiers on top of default iPhone apps like Mail and Podcasts.

Loup Ventures is so bullish about this idea that the report leaves the impression this could help propel Apple to a three-trillion-dollar market capitalization. And it’s not like Apple is going out on a limb here. Spotify, for example, is rumored to be prepping a premium, subscription-based podcast app which would be broken off from the main Spotify app wherein users currently enjoy podcasts episodes. Apple could do the same, but for a lot more apps.

Podcasts+ could be one such offering, which tracks with the news we reported back in the fall of 2019 — that Apple wants to plow deeper into the funding of exclusive podcasts.

The Loup Ventures report goes on to hint at the possibility of Apple adding new premium functionality to its stock Maps app to support Maps+, along with the possibility that Podcasts+ could eventually make its way into the Apple One bundle that includes various combinations of apps like Apple Music and Apple TV+. Additionally, we could eventually see a Stocks+ app emerge — especially now that Apple has dipped its toe in the water of consumer finance with the likes of Apple Card — and offer financial services through the Stocks app.

Illustrating how important subscription services are to the future of the company, Apple at its most recent big, annual September event launched Apple One — which includes different packages of paid Apple apps so that you don’t have to maintain multiple subscription payments. For example, a basic Apple One package costs $14.99/month, and for that one single payment, you get Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50GB of iCloud storage (saving you $6 compared to if you’d paid for all of that separately).

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.