Cracked, bent, dented, drowned—all kinds of bad stuff can happen to an iPhone.
The expense from that can add up: damaged iPhones have cost Americans $10.7 billion since 2007, according to SquareTrade, a provider of insurance for personal tech. In the last two years alone, consumers have spent $4.8 billion on iPhone repairs and replacements.
Certainly, how you use your phone will affect your repair costs.
But really, anyone can have an accident with a phone. And if recent reports of the iPhone 6’s bendability hold up, owners of the new phone have even more risks to consider—especially considering what Apple will charge for uninsured repairs.
Those costs should make you at least think about how to protect your phone. But do you really need expensive insurance?
Think carefully about how cautious you are with your phone, how long you are likely to keep it and how willing you are to accept the risk of footing the bill for repairs.
For all iPhone 6 customers, Apple itself offers a one-year warranty called AppleCare. It provides 90 days of customer support and limited damage coverage for a year.
When you buy your iPhone, the tech giant will ask if you are also interested in AppleCare+, and you have to sign up within 60 days of buying your phone if you want to enroll.
AppleCare+ will cover accidental damage, extend the warranty, provide new phones—twice—and give you two years of customer support. But that package costs $99, and coverage for each accident is subject to a $79 service fee.
SquareTrade is one of the larger outside companies offering phone insurance. The cost of its plans vary, and can exceed the cost of AppleCare+. But you can be covered for up to four replacements.
Insurance companies and retailers also offer plans, but experts say that between the premiums and the deductible, it rarely makes sense to rely on those. Then there are plans offered by telecoms like Verizon, AT&T and T–Mobile. But some of those come with high deductibles as well, so many repairs would not even be covered.
For iPhone users who decide to go without insurance, it is worth knowing what your repair and replacement options are.
You can always go through Apple, which, depending on the situation, can either repair or replace your phone. But that can get expensive very quickly. You can also turn in your phone for an upgrade if you have one coming on your phone plan. But for iPhone 6 users, that time will not come for a while.
Independent repair services abound, but make sure to shop around because rates and prices will vary.
For example, iCracked, based in Redwood, City, California, has hundreds of technicians called iTechs who will come to you and repair your phone.
A.J. Forsythe, a co–founder of the company, says the average repair costs between $80 and $120—and that anywhere from 8 to 10 percent of the company’s customers have breakage coverage but use iCracked anyway.
ICracked is now gearing up to offer a warranty plan that would cap the cost of repairs. “Any time you break your device or drop it in water or beer or whatever, you literally press a button and an iTech comes and fixes it for $25.”
An arrangement like that may make the most sense, consumer advocates say.
“Insurance should cover big events that really harm your family’s economic situation,” said Bob Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America. “Phones, I think, are not usually worth insuring. Just make sure the contents you have are backed up on the cloud or somewhere.”
The experts at Consumer Reports take a similarly dim view of smartphone protection plans. “We think smartphone insurance is a waste of money,” a spokesman said.
In a smartphone buying guide, Consumer Reports points out that only 15 percent of the buyers they polled got new phones after their old one broke, and only 2 percent said they replaced a lost or stolen phone.
“A better idea: Keep your old phone until the new phone’s contract ends,” the buying guide suggests. “If you lose or break the new phone, reactivate the old one and use it until you qualify for a free or low-cost phone.”