Why I won't be joining Aliv's Apple for life program

A few months ago I got a call from Aliv asking me to take part in a survey. Since we're living in an exciting time for mobile phones in The Bahamas, I was only too happy to contribute. They asked if I would be willing to switch from BTC (I would), what service was most important to me (data), and, most notably, whether a payment plan for the newest iPhone would be a factor in my decision (HELL YES).

I was so excited about the prospect of an affordable way to upgrade my phone that I found myself checking the Aliv website from time to time to see if they'd published the details of their upcoming plan. When they finally did, my excitement disappeared faster than smiles in a government office. Even with the cheapest option available, I'd have to pay $1,700 for access to a phone that would cost $700 if I bought it directly from Apple. And it would be a long and painful relationship. Here's why.

First, you'll need at least $499 to join the program. That's the non-refundable down payment. You might qualify for a trade-in deal but the most you can get for that is $400. If you've got an iPhone 7 or later you'd do better selling it yourself. If your phone is older than that, you probably won't qualify for the full trade-in, but maybe I'm being cynical. Also, you may not qualify to join the program at all. It's not clear what the qualifications are, but you can apply on their website: https://www.bealiv.com/appleforlife.

Let's be optimistic and say that you've got the ideal trade-in, or, you sell your phone for enough to cover the $500 down. Great. Next, you're going to need to commit to 24 months of paying $125 a month a.k.a. $3,000. That's not all for the phone, though; most of it goes towards your calling plan. So let's get the plan price out of the way and figure out what you're paying for the phone itself.

There are two plans available, AFL75 and AFL120. They're identical to the liberty 75 and liberty 120 Aliv plans. We'll assume you're going with the cheaper option because there are already too many numbers in this review (sorry, I tried). The liberty 75 setup that AFL75 mimics costs $75 a month and comes with 12 gb of data, 900 minutes and 900 texts. 

So back to that $125 a month. You're paying $75 of that for your phone service which leaves $50 a month going towards the phone. For 24 months. That's $1,200 plus your $499 down payment—$1,699! How much would the same iPhone cost if you went straight to Apple? Well, it would cost $700, just $200 more than the down payment you'd need for Aliv. All told, you're paying $999 more for the same phone. Why would you do this?

Well, with Apple for life, you can upgrade your phone once you've made 12 consecutive payments. That's cool, but then what? Do you start another two-year contract at $125 a month? It's not clear, at least to me. If you don't upgrade (and you don't have to) the phone will be yours after 24 months of payments.

There are a few other things you should know.

  • Once you sign up, you're stuck with the plan for 24 months. If you want out before then you'll need to pay off the balance.
  • Aliv's warranty lasts 90 days. After that, repairs or replacements are up to you, and, if you want to upgrade your phone, it's going to need to be in good working order.
  • You've got to sign up for the auto-payment plan and “Customers should maintain enough credit on their Aliv account to enable auto-renew of the selected plan” so you'll need to keep on top of your payments.

After doing the math, I'm left wondering, who exactly is this for? Who is going to pay an extra thousand dollars and lock themselves into a two-year contract so that they can upgrade in 12 months?

Here's a comparison of Aliv's iPhone prices compared with Apple's. I've subtracted the cost of the calling plan so this is just the cost of the phone.

Keep in mind that the calling plan adds $1,800 and if you bought the phone outright, you could go with a cheaper plan too. 

For comparison, I looked at similar plans in the US. With Sprint's plan for the iPhone 8, you're looking at $125 down and and $95 a month. That's $30 a month for the phone and $65 for unlimited data, calls and texts. With Verizon it's $60 to sign up and $110 a month; $30 for the phone and $80 for unlimited data, calls and texts. Now, these prices are based on you having a good credit score and I don't expect Aliv to be able to match American prices but that's a pretty big difference. When my brother got an iPhone during his college days in the US, it cost him $400 to sign up due to his lack of credit history but he was not paying $50 a month for the phone.

I don't know about you but I'm not even mildly interested. Maybe it doesn't make sense for Aliv to price their phones or plans any lower, I'm sure they've done their research. But for me, this just doesn't make sense. I'm happy to pay off my phone's cost in what essentially becomes a never-ending rental arrangement, but not when the sign-up cost is damn-near the cost of a new phone and the monthly payments are high and inflexible.

I can't think of anyone that could make good use of this. The closest I can come is someone who's got a decent phone to trade in and already uses a monthly plan of at least $75. Even so, the $50 a month adds up and there are cheaper ways to borrow money. If you're excited about this plan I'd love to know why.

I was really hoping that the competition from Aliv would encourage the kind of programs that reward loyal customers with easy access to phone upgrades. Looks like it's still a ways off though.

Linkage:

Aliv Terms and Conditions https://www.bealiv.com/apple-for-life-terms-and-conditions
Aliv Apple for Life FAQs https://www.bealiv.com/apple-for-life-faqs
Aliv Apple for Life sign-up https://www.bealiv.com/appleforlife