Subscription Service

Subscribe to This – I Don’t Think So.

About two weeks ago, the iPhone app that I use to talk to my car stopped working. For the last 18 months, I have been able to use the BMW Connected app to do things like climatize my i3 before I get in so it’s cool or warm depending on the weather. I can track my driving habits to see how efficient I am and get tips on how to improve my driving to extend my electric range. Or send destinations to the car so when I get in, it knows where I’m headed, and the navigation system is ready to go. Like I said, this all ended a couple of weeks back.

My first I thought it was an app bug since iOS had recently upgraded. My initial thought was OK BMW simply needs to upgrade their software to work with the latest version of iOS. This however turned out not to be the case. What happened is, BMW like so many other companies in the world have gone to a subscription model requiring me to make an annual purchase in order to get the most features out of my car.

I have a couple of issues with this. First off cars aren’t cheap and if I’m shelling out a large chunk of change for my daily driver, I should get all the features that came with the car in perpetuity. Second, it’s not costing BMW anything for my iPhone to talk to my car. There is no proprietary network involved, no server farm to maintain, no hardware to be upgraded. It’s my phone, communicating directly with said automobile. So, in my opinion, this subscription sucks.

The problem I have is this. BMW knows how many people depend on the Connected Drive service. They also know that as cars become dependable and last longer, they require less service or the need to replace them. The average car is now on the road for 10 years or longer. That means BMW has to make up the revenue somewhere else and asking their customer/drivers to pay up for software as a service was a logical step.

The thing is, I’m getting tired of being nickeled and dimed to death by company after company asking me to open my wallet on a monthly or yearly basis so I can access something I already paid for or would like to buy once and upgrade as needed. It’s why I buy my iPhone outright and upgrade every 3 to 4 years. Yes, I don’t need a new iPhone every 12 months.

Another great example of this is my home security system. I have multiple Arlo Ultra cameras installed at my house. I bought the hardware; I have everything backing up to the base station via a memory card. I got the Arlo set up because it has some great features like package detection, monitoring zones, HD recording, etc. The problem is most of the features you get with the camera die after one year unless you are willing to pony up more money in an annual fee. Money for things that really don’t require anything on Arlo’s end like package detection, push notifications, 4K recording to your base station, two-way communication to the cameras via my iPhone.

Once again, I bought the hardware and because Arlo knows that is probably a one-time purchase, or a repurchase that will only happen if the hardware were to fail after the warranty runs out, they need or I should say want, another revenue stream. Like BMW, they got me hooked on the feature set and now want to charge me for it. It feels like that classic drug dealer scam, “I’ll give you a taste and if you like it you can get some more from me later”. Get them hooked then charge them for it.

It seems like everyone is going to the subscription model and I don’t see any company ever going back. It’s like the 21st century form of leasing a product that is designed to make you think you are getting the benefit of new shiny stuff on a regular basis, when you really don’t need it. I get subscriptions for streaming services. You are paying for content, infrastructure, storage, bandwidth, convenience. Services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime, Spotify are what the cable companies used to be. Software companies like Adobe and the Creative Cloud subscription offer the convenience of having the latest feature set, and individuals are making money off of what they create using the software provided.

Subscriptions like these seem more logical to me. I’m paying for content or software not hardware and related services that are not dependent on cloud-based storage, streaming, or bandwidth. I’m paying for features that allow me to get the full functionality of that pricey piece of hardware that I purchased a year or so ago. It just seems a bit skewed to me. More about greed rather than providing an actual benefit. I know, you are probably saying “But you are paying for the benefit of being able to have your phone talk to your car and get notifications from your security system”.

My point is, neither of these examples really require anything from the manufacturer of the product. My phone and car don’t directly interact with some cloud-based system controlled by BMW. My security system is not communicating directly with Arlo because I don’t store any recorded video to the cloud. The Arlo services are simply turned on and interact with the base station in my house, on my Google Fiber network.

I don’t know about you, but I’m already getting tired of it, and unfortunately, I think we are reaching the point of no return on subscriptions. Hell, there are even car companies that now allow you to subscribe so you can get a new car as regularly as every month.

Here’s a thought. Add up everything you subscribe to now, and ask yourself is the subscription model slowly making me poor and allowing me to own very little? Is it worth it?

I’m spending about $2500.00 a year on subscription services. I have a feeling I’m using about $500.00 worth.