2014 iPhone buyers guide: How to decide what iPhone extended warranty, if any, is right for you
Many new iPhone owners find themselves wondering whether AppleCare+ is worth it or not. More importantly, is AppleCare+ the best option when it comes to protecting your iPhone. When getting a new iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus that's a decision you'll need tomake. Like any other kind of insurance, iPhone insurance is far from one size fits all. So if you aren't exactly sure what type of warranty you need, we can help you decide what best suits your personal situation.
AppleCare vs. AppleCare+
Every iPhone you purchase, whether it's sold by Apple or another retailer, comes with a 1-year limited warranty called AppleCare . This coverage costs you nothing and is automatically activated the day you purchase your iPhone. These are the things that the free version of AppleCare offers -
1-year limited warranty against defects
90 days complimentary phone support
The basic version of AppleCare does not protect against any kind of accidental damage. That's where AppleCare+ comes into play.
AppleCare+ costs an additional $99 and must be purchased either at the same time, or within 30 days of purchasing your iPhone. It will extend the standard one year warranty to two years and give you phone support for those full two years — as opposed to the 90 days after purchase that comes standard. That means if you ever run into an issue with your iPhone, you can dial 1-800-MY-APPLE and ask for AppleCare, or you can call 1-800-APL-CARE directly.
If you break your iPhone or drop it in water, you're covered. AppleCare+ gives you two incidents where, for a $79 deductible, you can exchange your broken iPhone for a new or refurbished one on the spot. The one thing AppleCare+ does not protect you against is theft or loss, which may be something to consider.
Of course, to get the most value out of AppleCare+, it helps if you live close to an Apple Retail Store. If not, you'll need to mail your iPhone out to get it serviced. Unless you have a backup phone laying around, going without for a prolonged period could be problematic for many.
A lot of folks don't seem to realize that many credit cards come with lots of warranty and insurance policies built right in. For example, my AAdvantage Card from CitiBank offers up to one additional year coverage on any manufacturer's warranty. That means the iPhone 5s that I purchased with my AAdvantage card is covered an additional year without any additional cost to me. The only stipulation? That I paid for the entire purchase on that specific card.
A lot of different credit card companies offer these kinds of perks. I don't think I have a card in my wallet that doesn't offer some kind of warranty protection for electronics. It's become commonplace yet a lot of consumers don't seem to take advantage of them. Simply check your member benefits in order to see what kind of insurance policies you're protected by — most of which can easily be found online. A lot of credit card companies even cover theft and loss up to 100% of the purchase price as long as you made the purchase with them.
There are a few third party companies that do nothing but sell electronics insurance. SquareTrade is one of the largest names out there and one of the only ones I know enough about to feel comfortable recommending.
SquareTrade offers warranties similar to what Apple offers but, and this is important to remember, are not licensed by Apple. However, SquareTrade offers a three year plan and up to four accidental replacements per warranty type, which is double what AppleCare+ gives you. Just keep in mind that like AppleCare+, SquareTrade does not cover theft and loss.
Each deductible claim with SquareTrade falls around $75 with the initial up front cost running $99, the same as AppleCare+. You'll also need to purchase your SquareTrade insurance within 30 days of purchasing your iPhone.
On top of 4 accidental replacements, SquareTrade will also reimburse you for Genius Bar appointments, offers next day replacements, and even covers same day repairs through local service shops in your area. This alone can make it more appealing to folks that may not live anywhere near an Apple Store.
Why carrier and big box retailer insurance plans are almost never a good idea
Carrier insurance offerings vary greatly based on what carrier you have, what kind of contract you have, and many other factors. I'm always hesitant to recommend it over AppleCare+ and other options simply because there are always exorbitant monthly fees plus ever-changing deductibles involved, which are typically on the high side.
For example, most carrier insurance costs around $10 a month. Deductibles fall around $200, sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more. That means you've already paid in $120 after the first year. Then you still have to shell out the deductible as well. You've now paid Apple would have charged you for an out of warranty replacement, with zero insurance plan. The only difference is that you've spread the cost out.
It's also worth mentioning that most carrier insurance companies replace devices with refurbished ones that are not tested and guaranteed by Apple. I've seen some pretty nasty stories about replacements being sent out that had dings in them from the previous owner. I know I wouldn't be too happy to pay hundreds of dollars for a replacement that someone else had already abused.
Some carrier insurance plans offer protection from theft and loss. Just realize that you're banking on a rather large "what if" scenario and in most cases, the deductible plus monthly fees is almost never in your favor.
As far as big box retailers such as Best Buy, they typically outsource to a lot of the same companies carrier do, meaning you can expect the same experience. The only difference is the plan may cost more upfront. Regardless how the cost is split up, much like carrier insurance, the numbers are not ever in your favor.
Some things to consider
As I said previously, iPhone insurance is definitely not one size fits all. What's right for me may be totally wrong for you. That's why there are a few more things we need to consider before actually deciding on what insurance plan to go with.
Your upgrade cycle
All iPhones come with a one year manufacturer's warranty against defects at no additional cost to you. If you have to have the latest and greatest each and every year, you may be wasting some money on purchasing AppleCare+ since you most likely won't utilize the second year of coverage.
Just keep in mind that the one year warranty that comes with your iPhone does not cover accidental damage, only defects due to no fault of your own. If you are particularly clumsy, insurance may still be a good idea.
Care and craftiness
Some of us take very good care of our iPhones. Some of us don't. While using a protective case can't completely guarantee you won't break your iPhone if you drop it, it can definitely help minimize the chances. Using heavy duty cases are a good idea for users that are accident prone or those who just want to take the extra precaution.
There are lots of people that hate cases since they add bulk to their iPhone and take away from the joy of using it the way Apple intended you to. It may feel better in the hand without a case on it, but it also greatly increases the chances of it breaking.
Also, DIY iPhone repairs are typically a heck of a lot cheaper than a warranty claim or the cost of a new iPhone. If you're careful with your iPhone, and handy with fixing things, DIY repairs are almost always guaranteed to save you loads of cash. Just understand that opening up your iPhone can and will void the manufacturer's warranty.
How to decide whether you should get AppleCare+ or something else
Now that we've covered the basics of what each plan covers, what it doesn't, and how they differ, it's time to decide what insurance plan is right for you. Here are my current recommendations, in order of how you should consider them.
Check your credit card benefits right now
Before you read any further in this article, you should absolutely stop what you're doing and check your credit card benefits before you even buy your new iPhone. Purchase your new iPhone with the card that offers you the best possible member benefits. Then and only then, should you decide what other kind of protection or extended warranty you need.
Who should buy AppleCare+?
AppleCare+ is great for anyone who isn't terribly accident prone and plans on keeping their iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus for more than 1 year.
For $99 you get the peace of mind in knowing that if you do break it, you only have to pay $79 for an Apple certified replacement. Just take into consideration what your proximity is to your nearest Apple Store as that may play an important role.
If you're particularly accident prone or don't live within close range to an Apple Store, Square Trade may be your best option. Not only do you get 2 more incidents than what AppleCare+ offers, Square Trade also offers more flexible options than many other warranty plans.
If you don't live close to an Apple Store, can't for some reason subscribe to Square Trade, and don't have any kind of protection through credit cards, then maybe it's worth considering carrier insurance.
I always struggle to find a reason to recommend carrier insurance. Aside from being able to spread the cost of a replacement out, I can't find another reason to suggest it. If you have a good argument for carrier insurance, by all means lay it on me in the comments!
Who should buy insurance from a big box retailer?
No one. Read my argument above against carrier insurance. Much of the same applies here as well.
Who should stick to the standard AppleCare warranty?
For those of you who have made it to this last section, you're most likely wondering if you need additional insurance. And you know yourself and your usage habits better than anyone else. So go with your gut.
If you take incredibly good care of your iPhone, never drop or otherwise damage it, and are handy enough to DIY fix it if and when you need to, or don't mind paying for someone else to do it, then you might be just fine with the standard warranty that comes at no additional cost. This is especially true if you upgrade once a year, or more. People that don't like what-if scenarios also tend to feel better about only paying for service when and if they need it.
Still not sure?
If you still aren't sure what insurance plan, if any, is right for you, the iMore forums are a great place to seek advice. Several of our members have debated and made decisions on a lot of the same issues you're currently facing.
Once you've made your choice, let us know! Are you opting for AppleCare+, SquareTrade, or something else?
Note: Originally posted, September 2013. Updated, September 2014.