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+ 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.
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.
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.
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+.
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.
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.
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?