Best warranty options for your new iPhone

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iPhone 6 Plus Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
What happens if you accidentally crack the gorgeous screen on your iPhone 6 Plus? Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Naturally, you hope your new iPhone will stay in mint condition until you’re ready to upgrade or resell. But the fact is, if you cringe at the possibility of a $200 repair bill for a broken screen, it’s time to think about getting an extended warranty.

You’ve got several options: AppleCare+ is available for purchase with new hardware, and mobile carriers and third-party warranty providers sell plans with different perks. You should also check out your personal insurance provider if you’ve got one. Some homeowner’s and renter’s policies offer protection plans for personal belongings, and you might already be covered. The deductibles tend to be steep, but it’s still worth giving your insurer a call to know your options.

Deciding on a warranty can be tricky, so we’ve done the hard work for you.

Avoid your carrier’s warranty

It’s wise to avoid any extended warranty offered by your mobile carrier. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all offer device warranties for monthly fees, and they’re all generally more expensive than our recommended providers (and also have higher deductibles).

For instance, two years of paying AT&T’s extended warranty ends up costing $240, and the deductible for each service call is $199. That’s ridiculous. Don’t give carriers any more money than what they’re already taking from you.

The only good thing some carriers offer is coverage for lost or stolen phones, which is a perk most alternatives don’t cover. Even then, the cost usually outweighs the benefits.

Best warranty for most people: AppleCare+

AppleCare+

Believe it or not, AppleCare+ is actually the best all-around warranty plan out there. It might seem steep at $99, but when you do the math, it can save you some serious cash in the long run.

Each iPhone purchase comes with a one-year limited AppleCare warranty that covers basic hardware and software defects (basically, anything that’s Apple’s fault is covered). But if your iPhone gets wet or the screen cracks, the free AppleCare won’t help you.

AppleCare+ should be considered if you’re worried about accidental damage, like a cracked screen. Your warranty extends to two years from the device’s purchase date, and covers two incidents of accidental damage. The catch is that each incident costs a $79 service fee plus tax.

If you don’t have the insurance, here’s what it will set you back if you crack your screen and Apple doesn’t have to repair any other part of the device:

  • iPhone 6: $109
  • iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5: $129

Screen repairs don’t seem too expensive at first glance, but Apple will only charge those amounts “if your iPhone has no damage other than the screen.” With the iPhone’s screen so close to the device’s bezel and the rest of the hardware, it’s likely you’ll have to pay the full out-of-warranty repair cost for a good crack.

AppleCare+ should be strongly considered for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

Here is the cost breakdown of getting a full out-of-warranty repair from Apple:

  • iPhone 6 Plus: $329
  • iPhone 6: $299
  • iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5: $269
  • iPhone 4s: $199
  • iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G, Original iPhone: $149

Since out-of-warranty repairs cost more for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, AppleCare+ should be strongly considered for those devices. A full iPhone 6 Plus repair costs $329, but with AppleCare+ and the $79 incident cost, you end up paying $178 for your first repair. That’s a $151 difference. If it happens twice during the life of your warranty, the second $79 incident fee brings your total to just $257 — that’s $72 less than one out-of-warranty repair.

AppleCare+ starts making less sense for the 5s and below, with less than a $100 difference in repair costs. There is really no reason to buy AppleCare+ for the 4s, since the difference is about $20.

You can cancel an AppleCare+ plan after 30 days and get a pro-rated refund minus any service fees. A cancellation fee of $25 or 10% of the refund (whichever is less) is also included.

Cost: $99 with two damage incident fees of $79

Pros:

  • Includes excellent software support from Apple.
  • Much more affordable than Apple’s out-of-warranty repairs for newer iPhones.
  • Express Replacement Service will mail you a new iPhone before you send your broken one to Apple.
  • One free replacement battery (normally $79)
  • Available to buy within 60 days of iPhone purchase.
  • Can cancel after 30 days and receive a pro-rated refund based on percentage of unexpired plan.
  • Warranty ownership can be transferred at any time (but only once) if iPhone is sold or given to someone else.

Cons:

  • Have to take broken iPhone into Apple retail store or send by mail.
  • You don’t get to keep broken iPhone.
  • No coverage for lost or stolen incidents.
  • $99 goes down the drain if you never use the warranty.

Best third-party warranty: SquareTrade

squaretrade

The most established third-party gadget warranty provider is SquareTrade. Based in San Francisco with an office in London, SquareTrade started in 1999 as a service for resolving e-commerce disputes and morphed into an extended warranty provider in 2006.

Although there are smaller warranty providers out there, SquareTrade has the best options and customer service.

While SquareTrade’s plans aren’t backed by Apple, that shouldn’t keep you from considering them. SquareTrade’s strength is that it’s competitive with Apple’s warranty pricing and offers more flexibility. Instead of only two damage claims, SquareTrade covers up to four claims and offers two-year and three-year plans.

Two years of accidental damage coverage through SquareTrade costs $99, the same as AppleCare+. The three-year plan costs $129.

A $75 deductible is applied to all claims, which is $4 less than Apple. For those who would rather pay a small monthly amount for coverage, SquareTrade offers a $5 per month plan (which totals $120 after two years).

SquareTrade is awesome if you upgrade your iPhone at least once a year

SquareTrade is awesome if you upgrade your iPhone at least once a year. Why? Because you can cancel your plan at any time. So a year of coverage at $5 per month only costs $60. That’s unbeatable.

Cost: $5 per month for 24 months, $99 up front for 24 months, $129 for three years (up to four $75 damage deductibles across the board).

Pros:

  • Buy directly from SquareTrade or through other retailers.
  • Easily manage all of your warranties online.
  • 24/7 customer support.
  • Transfer or cancel warranty at any time.
  • Available to buy within 30 days of your iPhone purchase.
  • Cheapest option for frequent upgraders
  • Choose between cash refund or new device.
  • New phone mailed with free one-day shipping after claim is filed.
  • Will help you cancel carrier warranty.
  • Reimbursed Genius Bar fixes with deductible of $50 to $75.
  • Available in Europe through Tesco, Tech Data Europe and other partners.
  • Will cover bending if Apple won’t (seriously).

Cons:

  • Not through Apple.
  • No coverage for lost or stolen incidents.
  • No software support.
  • No free battery replacement.

Update: Article updated with a few minor corrections on AppleCare+ based on feedback from readers and Apple employees.

  • Eric Willden

    Applecare+ can be purchased up to 60 days from the date of iPhone purchase. Just requires an in store inspection or Apple to do an over the phone diagnostic test of your phone (if you call and order it).

    • You are correct. I’ve updated. Thanks.

  • n0m0n

    Only thing with Verizons warrenty they cover last or stolen.

  • Evan Wawrykow

    You can also cancel AppleCare+ and get a prorated refund.

    • matt

      square trade offers prorated refunds and a square trade point deal if you have no claims

  • Theovandoesburg

    No tax on AppleCare+ service fees in Massachusetts:)

  • Matt

    I would like to add that you can only purchase AC+ (AppleCare+) during the first 60 days. You can also have as many battery replacements as the phone would need in that 2 year warranty period. You CANNOT transfer the plan to a newly purchased iPhone; you have to buy the plan again. However, you can get a prorated refund of the plan if you sell the iPhone before the 2 years is up. The plan will continue on any replacement iPhones you get during the AC+ time. Lastly, the Express Replacement Service has a $29 fee, which is automatically waived if you have the AppleCare+ plan.

    • Apple says you are allowed a “one-time permanent transfer.”

  • mike

    no lost or stolen for apple care! this is huge problem

  • mike

    for $7 a month att covers everything. with a $200 deductible that drops i think $50 every 6 months without a claim. this just seems better then paying anything upfront.

    • Johnny Winedrinker

      So let me get this straight… They want $7 a month ($84) a year vs $99 AppleCare+ which covers it for 2 years? So AT&T wants $168 for two years and still charges your a $200 deductible? I’m failing to see how AT&T is better..

      • Three

        Johnny – It really depends on the type of protection you are looking for — the AT&T product covers loss and theft.

      • lnchbx13

        So if we both lose our phone, a new one for me will cost $175 deductible through T-Mobile. if you lose your phone, apple will ask for $750+ tax. I can easily see the difference. If you still put a case on your phone than no worries, all you need to consider is it getting stolen.

      • mike

        yes but apple care will cost you a $750 if your phone is lost or stolen. that’s how they are better!
        plus the $200 deductible goes down over time

  • stefnagel

    Q: Apple products come with a one year warranty? So the three years is in addition?
    N: Buy AppleCare on Amazon.

    • Michael Weisberg

      Why buy applecare from amazon? Is it cheaper than getting it from Apple?

      • stefnagel

        Yep. But not for the iPhones. I realize I’m talking non iPhone Apple devices.

  • Chris Weaver

    Call square trade at 1-877-927-7268, ask about the warranty. Say you want to consider it, and they will ask for your email. They will send a 40% off coupon (i should say UP TO 40%). Looking at the monthly, I’ll be paying 4.67 a month woo woo.
    And you can get a pro rated refund with SquareTrade too if you do the yearly. I did a lot of research. And having sold and honored AppleCare for 6 years, SquareTrade isn’t that bad of a gig at all. And the people are awesome on Twitter :P
    I sound like a spokesperson…lol.

    • lnchbx13

      Does squaretrade cover if it is loss or stolen? if so, i’m switching from t-mobile jump/insurance tonight…

      • Chris Weaver

        no sadly. that’s the only flaw i found. carrier insurances scare me. but i figure, with find my iPhone and the new iCloud activation utility, i should be safe :)

      • lnchbx13

        Ironically enough, I actually had a 5S lost 3 times and was able to be lucky enough that the person that found it didn’t try to wipe it and sell it on craigslist. Two honest cab drivers (though one almost sounded like he was asking or money or insinuating he wouldn’t give it back) and then one guy found it in a parking lot and started calling people in my call history until someone knew how to get a hold of me. But for me it’s still about the piece of mind and also being able to upgrade every 6 months with t-mobile…though I guess it’s not much considering i usually sell the phone outright instead of using their trade in function.

      • Chris Weaver

        Damn! At least you got them back! I’ve seen horrible stories, but not lost 3 times! Carrier insurances have never appeased me, and I’ve heard you have to jump through hoops after paying a deductible. This will be my first time using squartrade. Hopefully they won’t let me down if something happens!

      • Satisfied customer

        I’ve used SquareTrade for last three iPhones I owned (4s, 5s, and now 6). EXCELLENT customer service and super fast response. I had a phone go underwater. Paid my $75, took it to the Apple Store and paid the $199 for a replacement. Emailed my receipt to SquareTrade and was reimbursed $199 in a couple of days via PayPal. I wish they covered loss/theft, but everything else they offer and their superb service has won my business :)

    • Guest

      square trade coupons are INVALID on smart phones, because the smart phone plans are already discounted. i have already tried.

      • Chris Weaver

        Nope. Worked great for me. Probably a used code.

      • Chris Weaver

        damnit, is my screenshot showing up?

      • matt

        i deleted what i said.. maybe they changed the rules in the last few years. i remember them not letting me use a 30 % off coupon onan iPhone plan. because the iPhone plan was already 18 % off

  • Frankie Tommy DeVito

    I called a few days ago to ATT. I dropped the Mobile Insurance Package on my old 5 last year (you’re right, its complete waste of money) Somehow it ended up on my new bill! Real sneaky sh*t, I went down the whole list of the bill with a fine tooth comb..I dont trust the tiny nickel and dime BS the carriers slap on us.

  • T_Will

    Our Liberty Mutual homeowners insurance covers broken/lost/stole phones and computers with only a $50 deductible. It’s definitely worth checking if your homeowners insurance has this term included.

  • JSIMs

    Do any of these cover water damage?

    • That’s considered an incident of accidental damage, yes.

  • Bee

    We have insurance through Best Buy and we had to use it once. No deductible, no questions asked. Phone didn’t work so we just got a new one. We actually got an upgrade from an iPhone 5 to a 5c for nothing.

  • matt

    I’ve heard square trade covers full immersion in water where applecare+ won’t
    other things:
    applecare on a computer covers your airport extreme and time capsules for up to 5 years.

    if something breaks and its apple’s fault after the first year, square trade will still charge you a deductible.

    square trade offers mail in service on every apple product. desktops such as the Mac mini are not eligible for mail in service from apple.

    you can get square trade as long as your original insurance policy is in effect, with applecare you have up to the first year to get regular applecare or 60 days to get applecare +

    applecare has no overage limit, square trade has a coverage limit on all policies. for example a $999 iPhone can not have more then $999 repairs over the warranty period. if the repair would cost more then the coverage amount remaining , you are given a check

  • Fulbright

    If you have a Wells Fargo credit card (NOT DEBIT) and bill your cell phone to that card each month, they have a $600 insurance policy with a $25 deductible that includes lost or stolen phones.