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I broke my iPhone 7, and I'm so glad I didn't have AppleCare+

On Sunday, I broke my iPhone screen. I dropped it, it shattered, and I let out a slow-motion "Nooooooooo" that was frankly way better than Darth Vader's in Episode III. The damage was done.

My first (highly misguided) thought was, "Ugh, I wish I had AppleCare+." But after researching the problem and getting my screen replaced at the Apple store the next day, I'm here to tell you I'm so glad I don't have AppleCare+. Not having it actually saved me money.

The numbers

It breaks down like this: AppleCare+ used to cost $99 for new iPhones, but when the iPhone 6s came out, Apple raised the price to $129. Currently, AppleCare+ for an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus is $129 (opens in new tab), so if I'd bothered to purchase it when I bought my iPhone 7 outright in September 2016, I'd have paid $129.

That $129 AppleCare+ plan would have entitled me to a screen repair at the Apple store for $29. In fact, it includes coverage for "two incidents of accidental damage," at $29 for the screen or $99 for anything else.

Reading that, you'd assume that without this special coverage plan, having Apple replace my screen would be even more expensive. Ugh, what is this gonna cost me, I wondered: $149? $179? $199?

Reader, I paid $129.

No, that's not a typo. An out-of-warranty screen replacement, done the same day, in about 2 hours, cost me $129 plus tax, A.K.A. the exact same price I would have paid for the AppleCare+ plan that then would have dinged me another $29 to actually fix the screen.

So why would anyone want AppleCare+ then?

Beats me. OK, to be fair, if I drop this phone a second time and break the screen again, that's when AppleCare+ would really save me some money. In that case, the initial $129 fee plus the two $29 damage incidents would add up to $187, but two out-of-warranty screen fixes would be $258.

So AppleCare+ isn't for the accident-prone who might drop a phone. It's for the Venn diagram of people who are so accident-prone they will probably drop and break the phone twice, and they're self-aware enough of this possibility that they think to buy AppleCare+ within 60 days of the iPhone purchase, BUT they still somehow aren't willing to just buy an Otterbox or another tough case to avoid breaking the phone. (Or even one of those nifty thumb loops for the back to avoid dropping it in the first place.) For that small subset of people, AppleCare+ is probably a great idea.

fixed iPhone with receipt for 29

But AppleCare+ covers other stuff, doesn't it?

Yes, yes it does. For $99, it will cover any accidental damage, plus an extra year of warranty against manufacturing defects that aren't your fault. But what else do you really need covered besides the screen breaking? Water damage isn't as common as it used to be now that the iPhone is more water-resistant. It's still very possible to drown an iPhone, but a quick accidental dunking probably isn't going to ruin it.

The solid Home button on my iPhone 7 is less likely to break. It's got no headphone jack, so that can't break. That leaves the Lightning port and the sleep and volume buttons as the major points of weakness, aside from the screen. It's also possible that an accidental drop could avoid damaging the screen but still somehow mess up the iPhone's insides: maybe a connector comes loose or an internal radio or modem stops working. All of this is possible, but when I think about the iPhones I've broken over the years, 100% of the incidents came down to water damage or a broken screen. Personally, I just don't think the other possibilities are urgent enough to insure against.

It comes down to your philosophy on insurance

I think we can all agree I came out ahead on this one. Paying $129 for AppleCare+ and then another $29 to fix the screen is a ripoff compared to just fixing the screen for $129. That doesn't mean AppleCare+ is a ripoff in every case, but it does mean iPhone buyers should consider their purchase carefully and not just assume that because insurance is offered, it would be smart to buy it.

I've owned eight iPhones in total and never purchased AppleCare+. (Actually, I bought my iPhone 6s with the iPhone Upgrade Program that forces you to pay for AppleCare+, but I now consider that a mistake.) If I had put the AppleCare+ fee in a savings account every time I bought an iPhone, I'd have around $860 in there today, not counting interest. Which means I could throw my iPhone 7 off the Golden Gate Bridge, hail a cab to the Apple store over on Chestnut Street, buy a brand-new one, and still have enough left over for a cupcake at the bakery next door.

Insurance is a way to transfer risk that you can't afford to take yourself to the insurance company. You're paying the insurance company to take that risk for you. If I total my car, or a tree crashes into my roof, that's not something I can just afford to pay for out of pocket without extreme impact on the rest of my finances. Saving one Benjamin Franklin on a new iPhone screen just doesn't make the cut, at least not for me.

So I'm glad I didn't have AppleCare+, and I still don't plan to buy it in the future. But I did put a case on my iPhone.

Susie is a tech-obsessed writer and mom, and former Executive Editor of Macworld and Mac|Life. Follow her on Twitter @sfsooz.

22 Comments
  • Did you buy your iPhone new or used? Every new iPhone comes with a year of AppleCare+ which should have applied to your phone if it was bought new.
  • New iPhones come w a one year warranty, not AppleCare +. His warranty doesn't cover cracked screens.
  • Hmm, that's odd. The exact same scenario happened to me a couple weeks ago and it was only $29 to fix my iPhone 7 at the Apple Store, I never purchased AppleCare+ either.
  • The author is a woman, not a man.
  • I can say that I have never once bought any of these protection plans for any product I own. And never once have I regretted it. Paying for the rare fix has been substantially cheaper than paying for all of the protection plans I have been offered over the years.
  • And how much more would you have saved if you would have replaced it yourself? There are infinite videos on YouTube showing how ridiculously easy the process is. It's absolutely nerve-wracking the first time you replace a screen. But once you've completed it, you realize how easy it was and will likely never again even consider paying to have it done.
  • One other factor is the battery. I do not know the statistics, but I suspect a decent percentage of batteries would fail Apple's tests near the two year mark. This is covered under the warranty extension. That being said, I believe the last time I replaced an iPhone battery, it was slightly cheaper than AppleCare+. Additionally, the credit card I use to purchase the iPhone extends the warranty anyway. No AppleCare+ for me.
  • After I purchase my first iphone in 2007 two things changed. I never again bought a subsidized phone or insurance. The first iphone on ATT didn't give you the option of insurance and I purchased the phone outright and ATT took 20 dollars off my bill. Every since I have never done either. I can cover the damage to a phone or a new one so ill just take the interest instead of the insurance company. I have purchased my phones since then.
  • "(Actually, I bought my iPhone 6s with the iPhone Upgrade Program that forces you to pay for AppleCare+, but I now consider that a mistake.)"
    I'd like more background and info on this statement. I've been tossing around the idea of the Upgrade program, but haven't decided yet.
  • I purchased AppleCare with both of the iPhones that I have owned. During the ownership of these iPhones, I have had a screen replaced, two batteries replaced, a complete iPhone replaced (distorted sound from the earpiece during phone calls), a set of EarPods replaced, and many support appointments at the store. And I never paid anything additional for these services and repairs. When you drop and damage an iPhone, you should expect to pay something. But for problems that occur with the iPhone, whether hardware or software related, having the extended warranty really comes in handy. When I purchase my next iPhone iPhone 8?) I will definitely get AppleCare again. -rb
  • i have my plan through sprint and it covers everything with my iphone period
  • Don’t forget the device is still covered by a manufacturer warranty for the first year. Unless it is physical damage such as an accidental drop or water damage and it happens in the first year, then it would still be covered under the standard warranty
  • This article is ridiculous and lazy link bait. AppleCare + covers many more types of damage than this and multiple times.
  • Since 2010 I've bought an iPhone 4, a 5s and an SE.
    Four times in 7 years I've walked into the store with a defective phone and walked out feeling great about Apples service(quality?) having been handed a new (refurbished) iPhone. I bought Apple care for the 4 and the 5s I skipped it on the SE.
    The first replacement day 2 iPhone 4; bad processor. The next 2 replacements; iPhone 4 home buttons. Both in the second year covered by apple care. The 5s was solid; so I thought I'd skip buying it for the SE. 6 months in the SE's main microphone crapped out so was handed a new one.
    Considering I've had 7 iPhones in 7 years based on 3 iPhone purchases and 2 apple care plans(1 unneeded); you'd think I'd be an apple care promoter. But if you look into Apples out of warranty charges for replacement and repair, it seems a fair gamble to skip apple care. An out of warranty replacement phone is around $300 a new battery $80.
  • Wow, you haven't had the best luck with phones, it seems like you only had luck with the 5s.
  • You paid $129 for a screen repair? Plenty of reputable five-star rated mom and pops that will replace an iPhone screen for $89 and that comes with a 90 day warranty. You got ripped off.
  • The case you picked wouldn’t save your phone screen from a break. Good luck with that.
  • My iPhone 7 plus is my first iPhone without AppleCare+ in years. However I did use it for phone support in the past for some pretty obscure issues. Once I had an very strange issue with Aperture syncing photos via iTunes that Apple support was able to fix, which would not have happened without AppleCare. That being said I didn't find it worth the cost, and (touch wood) I have never broken an iPhone yet.
  • This is soooooo miss leading! 1) Had the damage actually cracked the LCD and not just the glass it would have been more expensive.
    2) The 2 years of "manufacture" warrantee is normally a pay back all by it's self! Regardless of what manufactures tell you, virtually no battery will retain 80% or better performance after 2 years of actual use. This means that 23 months into ownership of your phone if you take it to Apple and have the battery checked they will replace it for free 90% of the time for free! This is normally a $80 expense.
    3) Apple care covers everything in the box. Your charging cable frays? Bring it in and get it replaced. Your headphones die? Bring them back and get them replaced. I even got an apple phone case replaced under AppleCare. I'm not saying that AppleCare is for everyone but it works out for many!
  • 1) They like doing 1 price for all, so I don't think they change the price depending on what's wrong. 3rd parties do that, but I don't think Apple does. 2) 1 year manufacturer warranty I think. 3) I used to work for Apple doing AppleCare. Since the cables/headphones don't have a serial, and there's no way to prove who they're warrantied under, they usually give you the repair free anyways. They call it a "non-serialized product". I'd know, I've done this on the shipping side. We basically say "keep the old ones, we'll just ship new ones".
  • It also covers "express shipping" if you're not near an Apple Store. Not the $800 hold charge, but the $30 or whatever second day air new phone.
  • $129 for a screen replacement is a lot. I paid $80 or 90 in NYC's Chinatown, and there are places in the City that would do it for $50.
    The AppleCare problem is that there are things it's needed for. The fact that it's a ripoff for screen repair doesn't negate the benefits. And the thing with any and every insurance is that if you're lucky, it'll cost money that, with 20/20 hindsight, was foolish to spend. (Signed by someone whose auto insurer paid a lot more totaling three cars than they'd ever get in premiums, or close to it.)