One of the greatest drawbacks of the Amazon Prime service thus far has been that, unlike Netflix or Hulu, you can’t subscribe to it for a month at a time. You’ve got to pony up the whole $99 up front for a whole year’s worth at once.
But that now seems to be changing—at least for Sprint customers. Sprint is now offering its customers the ability to add Amazon Prime service to their contract for an extra $10.99 per month.
News sites like The Verge are making a big thing out of how this is a terrible deal—paying $10.99 per month for 12 months comes to $131.88, compared to buying a whole year at a time for $99—but I don’t think they’re seeing the big picture.
Installment plans have always come at a premium compared to buying the whole thing in one lump sum. Car dealerships call it “financing.” You pay interest to compensate the dealer for the potential interest they’re foregoing by not getting the money all at once. But people still do it because sometimes they simply can’t afford to pay that much money all at once.
By the same token, some lower-income families might not be able to afford to pay $99 all at once, but they might be able to squeeze an extra $11 out of each monthly budget. And that’s not a bad rate for what you get—it’s comparable to Netflix and Hulu’s monthly rates for their streaming video services, plus it adds the free-shipping advantage, one e-book checkout per month, and all those other services Amazon Prime offers. And lower-income families are the ones who have the most urgent need to save money.
It would also be a reasonable deal for people who wanted to try the service out for longer than the one-month free trial just to make sure they really liked it before going all-in for a whole year, or who just wanted to sign up for the Christmas holiday season and unsubscribe for the rest of the year, but that seems like a fairly obscure use case. It will be the lower-income folks who get the most benefit out of this.
It would be nice if Amazon were to offer such a subscription plan to people who didn’t have a Sprint cellular subscription, as there might be many more low-income folks who can’t afford a smartphone either. But at least this is a start.