Apple’s Business-only 'MacBook Upgrade Program' Should Be for Regular Users Too

Even if it isn’t the cheapest or greenest

Key Takeaways

  • Apple’s new Mac Notebook Upgrade Program provides MacBooks starting at $30 per month.
  • An iPhone-upgrade-style plan for individuals might be a great idea.
  • Buying, using, then selling your Mac is the cheapest way to go.
14- an 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops back to back

Apple

Who wants a new MacBook every single year?

Apple appears to be launching a 'Mac Notebook Upgrade Program,' a way for businesses to pay a monthly flat fee and get regular replacement units. It makes perfect sense for businesses—you can forget about buying, maintaining, and selling individual computers. But what about individual people? Don't we want the same opportunity to get regular upgrades?

"[You] need to only look at the iPhone upgrade programs that providers currently have to see that, when it comes to Apple products, consumers are driven by desire rather than actual need," Amir Khella, CEO of AirTag rival PingTag, told Lifewire via email. "Perhaps the MacBook upgrade program will end up being equally popular."

Why Buy?

Macs are expensive. For a 2021 MacBook Pro, you’re looking at spending $2,000, before tax, for the most basic model. Even if leasing turns out to be more expensive than buying, it’s tempting to pay the extra just to avoid that initial layout. For businesses, this evens out the investment over the year. For individuals, it might be the difference between getting a Mac or not.

According to this CIT Group page, Apple’s business program for Macs costs $60 per month for the 14-inch MacBook Pro. That’s $2,160 total over three years if the standard period is three years (details have not yet been made public). 

MacBook Notebook Upgrade Program prices

CIT

"For consumers, those performance improvements will likely be noticed every three to four years. Paying $30/month for three years exceeds the actual price of the MacBook," says Khella.

If our hypothetical MacBook Upgrade Program was to follow the pattern of the iPhone upgrade program, it might even end up a little cheaper. With the iPhone, if you replace it on a regular schedule, then you pay more or less the same as buying the phone outright, along with AppleCare.

Even then, do we want a new Mac every three years? iPhones are more or less mature, but their cameras are improving at a rate that means it makes sense to buy a new one every couple of years. But Macs, like iPads, progress far more slowly. 

Apple Business Essentials: MacBook, iPhone, and iPad

Apple

The Apple Silicon transition we're in right now, where Apple is switching all its computers to use its own chips instead of chips from Intel and others, is an anomaly. The M1 generation of Macs is absurdly fast and power-efficient compared to the Intel Macs that came before, but that's a one-time switch. Apple may well keep improving its M-series chips at a fast clip over the coming years, but today's MacBook Pro is going to be extremely capable for many years to come. 

And then there's resale. If you take part in Apple's iPhone upgrade program, you have to send the iPhone back when you get the new one. If you buy your own iPhone (or Mac, in this case), then you can do what you like with it. You can sell it, keep it as a spare, pass it on to a family member or friend, and so on.

"MacBooks have a great resale value, and it's easy to sell a MacBook for 50% of its price three years after buying it," says Khella. 

"... when it comes to Apple products, consumers are driven by desire rather than actual need."

The point is, a three- or even five-year-old Mac is still a capable machine for most people. I used a 2010 iMac daily until I replaced it with a Mac mini last year, and with an SSD upgrade, it was more than good enough. I have a friend who used their 2012 MacBook Air as their primary computer up until this year. 

With any type of lease or replacement program, it all comes down to the small print. And since there is no such thing (yet) as a personal Mac Upgrade Program, there’s not even any large print to go on.

For those folks desperate to rent a MacBook, there are alternatives. For instance, Grover, a gadget-leasing company, lets you rent tech instead of buying.

In the end, this author is happy to keep using his Macs until they can no longer cope, then replace them with a new model. It winds up being cheaper—and environmentally better—than forever chasing the newest thing.

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