AppleCare+ vs. insurance vs. nothing: Which iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c protection plan should you get?

AppleCare+ vs. insurance vs. nothing: Which iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c protection plan should you get?

2013 iphone buyers guide: How to choose the perfect AppleCare+, third-party insurance policy, or no iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c protection plan at all for you

One of the last things you have to decide on when buying a new iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c is whether or not to pony up for the optional AppleCare+ protection plan. It's an additional $99 but it gives you an extra year's warranty as well as a much lower deductible if you damage and need to replace your iPhone. If you're not buying from Apple directly, you might also have the option of getting retailer, carrier, or other third-party insurance. And, of course, you have the option of getting nothing at all. Before deciding which is the best choice for you, here are some factors to consider!

AppleCare+ vs. third party insurance

The AppleCare+ advantage

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 get help.

Also, while the standard one year warranty does not cover accidental damage, AppleCare+ does. That means 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.

Of course, to get the most value out of AppleCare+, it helps if you live close to an Apple Retail Store. if not, you would have to mail your iPhone out to get it serviced. Unless you have a backup phone laying around, going without for a prolonged period can be problematic.

There are two other types of insurance you can get for your iPhone, the type offered by carriers or retailers, and the type offered through a third-party service like SquareTrade.

I never recommend carrier insurance as it typically involves monthly fees, a high deductible that changes based on weird formulas, and refurbished devices that are not certified through Apple. Likewise, big box retailer product plans involve you having to deal with big box companies and staff, and the service just can't ever be as good.

Companies like SquareTrade offer warranties similar to what Apple offers but again, are not licensed by Apple. However, SquareTrade specifically offers a three year plan and up to four accidental replacements per warranty type, which is more than what AppleCare+ gives you.

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.

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 think you may break your iPhone in that first year, it still may be worth the purchase.

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 like OtterBox are a good idea for users that are accident prone or want to be extra careful as to not break their new iPhone.

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 if it falls out of your hand with no protection. So think about how often you use a case with your iPhone.

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 may be a cheaper option in the long run than a warranty.

Who should get AppleCare+?

You know yourself and your iPhone usage habits better than anyone. For $99 you get quite a bit of coverage and peace of mind. If you're accident prone, unlucky, and especially if you plan on keeping your iPhone for more than one year, get AppleCare+.

Who should get third party insurance?

As far as carriers and retailers are concerned, I can't find one instance in which I'd recommend purchasing insurance through them over buying AppleCare+ outright. Even if there is no Apple Store close to you, AppleCare's turnaround time on device replacement will be much quicker and you'll get a much higher quality replacement than you will through your carrier.

If you need more coverage than what AppleCare+ offers, however, look at something like SquareTrade.

Who should stick to the standard warranty?

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, 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.

Still not sure?

If you still aren't sure whether or not you should pick up AppleCare+ for your new iPhone, a great place to get some advice is the iMore forums. Several of our members have debated and made decisions on a lot of the same issues you're currently facing. Once you've made the best decision for you, let us know - did you go for AppleCare+, something else, nothing at all? And why?

Allyson Kazmucha

Help and how to editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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There are 46 comments. Add yours.

davjaxn says:

1-800 MY APPLE is for Apple purchases. AppleCare support is 1-800 APL CARE.

Sent from the iMore App

Allyson Kazmucha says:

You just say apple care or tech support and it's the same thing. Just an easier number to remember.

Sent from the iMore App

ame says:

I actually pay for carrier insurance AND applecare+. I've had a phone stolen and it jacked my account up so bad it was frying phones for a year and a half. But Applecare wouldn't have covered that. Carrier insurance would have covered that, but would not have covered the 30 (yes 30) replacement phones Applecare replaced the fried phones with over the last year and a half due to the issue.

onix7cv says:

Apple doesn't theft w/AppleCare?

ame says:

Theft and loss are not covered with AppleCare.

Justin Houser says:

Remember, insurance plans exist to make a profit. It is EXTREMELY EASY to fake the loss of a phone.

So the cost of insurance to cover phone loss is likely to be roughly as expensive as the phone itself.

Handsets are expensive, but they aren't nearly as expensive as a car or house or a medical issue. Insurance for a handset is always going to be a good deal for the insurer. It will likely be a bad deal for the insured. Only get insurance if you absolutely need it, or if you know it will be a good deal for you.

lissathecocoa says:

No, it's not more expensive. I pay $7 per month for my insurance with a $200 deductible on my brand new iPhone 5S 64GB. Let's say I lose the phone 6 months from now. That's only $242 that I've spent total for a phone that costs $850 brand new and that I probably can't get for less than $700 used. But let's even say that I lose my phone after 20 months. That's still only $340; even if we say that I can buy a used iPhone of the same capacity for $500 from eBay next year, I'm still saving $160 by having handset insurance.

Handset insurance turns a profit not because it's the same price as buying a new phone, but because it operates on the premise that only a small percentage of the insured will actually make a claim from year to year. And it's a good premise - I've had handset insurance since my first iPhone in 2009 and I've never made a claim, because I've never lost or damaged my phone. But it's nice knowing that I can replace it - even if it gets stolen or I leave it on the train - and won't have to spend my whole paycheck on a new phone, lol.

blessed2bamommie says:

Everyone iMessages, dh has a note and we SMS but for some reason pics aren't going thru. We Skype with our kids while he's at the office, I d/led BBM thinking dh and I would go old school again but he never accepted the dang invite! I did FB Msgr when in went iOS and found he's logged in so we do that and there are a couple friends who use it.

BooBeeNYC says:

I use the carrier insurance for the piece of mind that if I lose it I'm not out of a phone or paying $500+ for a replacement. The only downside is damage which would be the same deductible for lose so I've already planned that if my screen shatters I'll just take it to one of those NYC shops that fix the screens for like $60. While I've never lost a phone or broke one, my luck would have it that if I stopped getting insurance I'd lose or break my phone. Insurance for me is just part of owning a mobile phone (IMO).

nolhayes says:

This is the exact reason I get and keep carrier insurance. $650 retail for a 16gb (I actually have a 32) is way to pay for losing a phone!
Applecare needs to support lost or stolen, especially with activation lock being present.

Gazoobee says:

I always go for the "nothing" option. It's the cheapest, and all it requires of me is to practice minimal attention and care with my stuff, and to suck it up the one time in a million that something bad happens outside of my control. Hasn't failed me yet, and I've saved a fortune in "insurance" over the last ten years or so.

cardfan says:

Yep, that's the smartest route to take. And in the unlikely event you do screw up and break your device, just take it to apple store for a repair or swap out. Screen breakage is around 149. Full repair/swap out is around 229.

Spinell says:

The deductible for AppleCare (at least in the US) is $49. And while accidental damage coverage is especially needed for some people, the extra year of warranty while you are on a two year contract is highly beneficial. Doesn't matter how "careful" you are if something happens to your phone manufacturing wise.

Good OL MC says:

It will be changing to $79, unfortunately.

Bill_Johnson says:

Sadly, the $49 deductible is now $79 going forward. I'm quite sure current contracts are still at the $49 cost.

onix7cv says:

Spinell, AppleCare deductibles for iPhones recently went up to $79 (in the US).

Gazoobee says:

Manufacturing defects are covered for free actually. Just report it within the first month or so (which of course it was a manufacturing defect it would show up right away like that anyway).

Behshad says:

No insurance here. And the only time we had a problem was when wife dropped her iphone 5 and it shattered the glass. Apple did a one time complimentary replacement . Free.

mclarensr says:

No insurance for mine and my wife's phone. Has worked well for us and hope it continues that way.

Good OL MC says:

The ONLY exception to this is in the case of Lost/Stolen protection for carrier/Asurion insurance.

Let's say I lose my iPhone 4S with partial coverage for lost/stolen. I'll only do 20 months of insurance as that is when Sprint allows upgrades and it would make no sense to have the protection after that point unless I was allowing my contract to end.

$9*20 = $180
Deductible: $200
Total: $380

Right now as I near the end of my commitment and used iPhone prices are falling at the same time this obviously doesn't make much sense anymore, but last year at this time I would have been paying at least $380 for a good condition Sprint 4S. With the insurance I'd at least be getting the same phone next day and more than likely not worrying about it's quality (though that isn't always the case, unfortunately).

Now, if I lose the phone again (bad, bad luck) my cost goes up to $580 for two phones. Now it IS cheaper than having purchased two used phones or one new. Plus, there is the added bonus of having paid in to the system for this replacement over time rather than eating the cost all at once.

So, I think there is a case to be made for it. Like I said: I didn't take the Asurion package and opted for AC+ instead, figuring that I'd be more likely to get my phone wet or break it than lose it. The cost is obviously better with AC for covered incidents.

csal80 says:

You should get the carrier insurance if you are worried about loss or theft of your phone, apple care obviously doesn't cover this. My wife is more prone to this happening so I actually got both for her. That way if it gets broken she uses apple care so she doesn't have to pay the high deductible from the carrier, but is also protected against loss or theft.

Csaba Gal says:

I still have about 1 year left on my AppleCare+ left on my iPhone 5. I wonder what will I be getting as a replacement, in case anything goes wrong with my iPhone 5, will it be iPhone 5S or 5C?

nolhayes says:

a refurbished 5. Oh they have them ready, just for cases like this.

eawortman says:

They manufacture more than they sell for instances like this. This past January they replaced my 64GB iPhone 4S with a new one in-store. They hadn't sold that model since October last year.

bettiol says:

I don't purchase any form of insurance for my Apple gear. My credit card automatically doubles the original manufacturer's warranty, and provides some insurance against accidental damage and loss.

JamesTheLess says:

This is a good point, but it's worth reading your credit card benefit's fine print. As I understand it, for my credit card, it doubles the original manufacturer's warranty up to the amount you paid with your card. Since iPhones are usually subsidized, my credit card will only pay up to the amount I actually paid for the phone (in my case, $299 (for the 32 gb model).

So, if my iPhone fails and needs a complete replacement in the 2nd year, my credit card will only match Apple up to $299.00.

bettiol says:

Yes, definitely check your card agreement. Some cards are very generous, whereas others are very stingy.

John Speros says:

I had a 4S with a severe battery drain (even when powered-down). It was a few weeks past Apple's one-year warranty so Apple wanted $199 to fix it. Fortunately, I charged the original purchase on a Visa credit card. I took advantage of Visa's doubling the warranty (up to a year). Apple repaired it (by swapping it for a refurbished phone) for $199 and Visa reimbursed me for the repair cost.

marktaylor22 says:

What about if your iPhone is lost or stolen? Neither AppleCare nor Squaretrade will help you out. Carrier Insurance is your only route. With iPhones being a top stolen device it's a easy choice to chose carrier insurance over Applecare or Squaretrade anyday.

nolhayes says:

The "no insurance" people make me cringe. Idk how you do it.

Keldog says:

I have carrier insurance, as does my wife's phone, but I just consider it a necessary evil. When she dropped her 4 in water recently, a new 5 on contract was just slightly more than the deductible for a refurb 4. We went with the new 5 on contract.

Ireadmore says:

instead of insurance I got a lifeproof case now I know bulky cases like this arnt for every one but it works great I don't have to worry about breaking or me being clumsy and dropping it in water and I dont have to pay each year for insurance

Allyson Kazmucha says:

Valid points about theft and carrier insurance I suppose. I would just claim it thru CC insurance or homeowners for no monthly fee though.

Sent from the iMore App

DocTauri says:

SquareTrade rocks. I've used it on two of our phones over the last year. Take your phone to Apple, ask for an "out of warranty repair". $149 for iPhone 4, $199 for iPhone 4s, and $249 for iPhone 5. Email the receipt to SquareTrade, they cut you a check (or paypal). Easy and reliable. I will always use them from now on.

Dark_Blu says:

Perhaps that lady who does the beautiful anodized color treatments for iPhones (AHEM) would consider creating some sort of kevlar based treatment for iPhones that protects the back side better? some sort of screen covering/treatment in bullet proof glass would be good too, although getting it to respond to touch, might be difficult. :-)

Dark_Blu says:

When I got my 4S in 2011, I bought Applecare, but SPRINT charged me for it, without my consent. I had to jump through hoops to get it off my bill. Maybe I'll just let them add it this time or wait to see if they will do so before going back to the Apple store and buying it.

uKno_TJ says:

Also with AppleCare+, if you purchase a new iDevice, regardless of whether its iPhone, Pad,Pod... you can transfer your coverage. But Only once. Its listed in the AppleCare+ T&C's & i've done it before. So if You upgrade yearly to iPhones, you will get to be covered for both years of your AppleCare+ service.

kidkb1 says:

I definitely do carrier insurance. Unfortunately the fees have gone up, but the monthly fee works out to be cheaper than Apple Care ($6.99/mo vs $8.25/mo). Most importantly they cover loss and theft in addition to accidental damage. Since iPhones are so popular, I'm actually more concerned with it being lost or stolen than breaking it. *knocks on wood*

frudoc ponto says:

I'm curious which carrier insurance you are getting on the iPhone for $6.99/mo and how you came up with the $8.25/mo cost for Apple Care+. Isn't Apple Care+ $99 for two years, which would be About $4.14 a month? I may very well be missing something. It would not surprise me!

rdubmu says:

How about the Jump program from T-Mobile not only is it for upgrades but it doubles as insurance.

Cus Serv says:

Regardless of which iPhone you get you need good insurance. Esurranty was the first to offer insurance for the iPhone 5s and 5c. We have been covering iPhone's since they came out and mobile device since 2001. Coverage starts the day you get purchase a policy and the price is less than anyone else. We offers loss, theft, accidental damage, water damage and all other coverage you need for less than apple care. Check us out and compare the rest.

Karen Davenport says:

Looking again, sorry, went to Securranty, not Esuuranty.

Karen Davenport says:

Actually it is Securranty website, don't see Esurranty.

Cus Serv says:

esurranty.com is the site and we offer loss and theft.

BBooDad says:

I don't think all carrier-offered insurance is slow and bad. I got CRM insurance from the Verizon store I got my iPhones from, and when my wife's 4S buttons got wonky and screen got funny from kids playing/dropping it, a simple phone call, no hassle discussion, and 2 days later, a new 4S was on our porch. Didn't seem refurb, either. But $149 deductible if I remember right!