If you’re going to pay out up to four figures for a smartphone, then you want to make sure your investment is well protected—and that often means buying some insurance at the same time as your phone. Taking time to choose a your insurance can save you more money than you think.
But before you start shopping around, you’ve got a few considerations to weigh up: How much cover do you need? Is your phone covered by another plan you’ve got (or by your employer)? And, most crucially, do you even need smartphone insurance?
Do You Need Insurance?
To figure out whether or not you should even spend hundreds on insurance you first need to figure out what kind of coverage your phone has out of the box. A good place to start is with the warranty included with your phone, whether you bought it straight from the manufacturer or from a refurb reseller on eBay—see how long you’re covered for malfunctions that aren’t your fault. If your phone fails within the warranty period, you’ll be able to get it fixed for free, so that’s the first factor to consider.
The second is how expensive your phone is, or perhaps more pertinently, how expensive a replacement phone is going to be. If you absolutely can’t live without your $700 Samsung Galaxy S8 for a day, maybe insurance is right for you; if you’ve got an old handset in a drawer somewhere that will do for two months until you’re upgrading your main phone anyway, maybe it’s not so important that you get covered.
Insurance is effectively a safety net for getting your main phone up and running again (or putting a replacement in your hands) as quickly as possible—if you’re in a situation where you’ve got alternative safety nets (like a relative who works in a phone repair store), or you’re not so attached to your main phone anyway, perhaps you can do without.
Whenever you’re assessing an insurance package, look at the cost of replacing your phone yourself, and work out how many months it would take you to cover the cost—then compare that with the insurance plans, not just on the bottom line price, but also on turnaround times. Figure out the monthly cost and deductible and see how they match up.
And, to be blunt, you should also consider just how clumsy and forgetful you are: Do you have a history of broken and lost phones or have you never dropped one in 20 years? You can reduce the risk of your phone needing to be repaired or replaced by investing in a protective case or just taking it out of your pocket less often. Maybe add up how much you’ve spent on phone repairs and replacements in the last couple of years to work out whether insurance is likely to be cost-effective.
According to Consumer Reports, around 15 percent of us get new phones because the old ones break, and around 2 percent of us because of a theft or loss. Again you’re really just playing the probability game, but that gives you an idea of how likely the average smartphone owner is to be hit with a problem.
The Big Insurance Plans
Most of the major phone makers, like Apple and Samsung, offer their own-brand insurance these days, as do the big four carriers, and so do a lot of electronics retailers. You’ve got no shortage of options to pick from. To avoid being overwhelmed on purchase day, do your math in advance to work out which deal is best.
Besides the standard monthly rate for the insurance plan be sure to look for the following potential fee and savings to factor which available insurance plan is best for you:
- The deductible fee for making a claim
- Extras for speedier or more comprehensive service
- Potential discounts you might be entitled to (for years of loyal service to one carrier perhaps).
Not all insurance policies are created equal. Check and double-check what each plan actually includes while you’re comparing prices—does the plan cover phone accessories, or international travel, the price of unauthorized calls, water damage, and so on? Are replacement handsets brand new or refurbished? As always with insurance, value for money is about more than the monthly fee, because what’s included can vary significantly.
There are also other ways of insuring your phone without a monthly plan form your carrier, phone maker, or phone seller. Your phone might be included in insurance for your home or from your employer, or it might be possible to add it for less than the price of a separate policy. You might also want to consider just putting the same monthly premium in a bank account for yourself—if you don’t claim, the money’s still yours, though the cost of any repairs might exceed the amount you’ve put away.
As with any purchasing decision these days, you can find a host of relevant information and comparison tools on the web. Unfortunately there’s no real magic shortcut for avoiding having to dig through the details of these policies, but it’s worth it if you want the best coverage at the lowest possible price.
But we still covered some of the primary insurance plans available—just to help you get started.
Let’s start with the insurance plan we get asked about the most. Instead of a monthly fee Apple’s insurance plan asks for a lump sum. AppleCare+ will set you back $199 for the iPhone X, $149 for the bigger iPhones Pluses and $129 for the smaller iPhones. The iPhone SE price $99. That money ups your warranty period for two years, and gives you up to two incidents of accidental damage, each subject to a service fee: $29 for screen damage and $99 for other damage (like dropping it in the ocean). Theft and loss aren’t covered, nor is earthquake or fire damage, and Apple “may” restrict coverage to the country you purchased your phone.
Compare that with one of the leading independent providers, SquareTrade: $129 covers any phone for two years, with deductibles for repairs: $99 for most claims or $25 for some types of screen damage. Again, loss and theft coverage aren’t included (SquareTrade says you’re ten times more likely to break your phone than lose it or have it stolen), and some repairs can be carried out the same day, subject to availability.
SquareTrade will let you take your iPhone into an Apple Store to get it fixed and then reimburse you the cost, if you prefer; there’s no claim limit, but your total claims can’t go over the cost of the phone. With AppleCare+, meanwhile, you also get free telephone technical support whenever you need it for the two years—one of those extras that make it so difficult to compare plans against each other.
SquareTrade and Apple aren’t the only game in town, of course. Best Buy and Geek Squad will protect your phone for a fee of between $7.99 and $10.99 a month, depending on whether you want loss and theft protection, and that includes accidental damage, mechanical failure, and any phone accessories that came bundled with the original handset (like earbuds and a charger).
Samsung has a plan all of its own, bundling tech support with phone insurance, and that’s going to set you back $11.99 a month. You can make three accidental damage claims every year, with a $99 deductible each time, and, as usual, loss and theft aren’t covered. It’s pricey for what you get, but some of the perks on offer include having a technician visit your home in person with a replacement device.
Carrier plans, generally, cost more per month and have higher deductibles, but they do include loss and theft. Unless you’re a true fan of your carrier, or you can get some decent discounts, you can usually find a better deal elsewhere for your phone insurance. To take one example, Verizon’s most comprehensive package will set you back $11 a month, with a $19-$199 deductible for each claim. As well as loss and theft cover, it includes tech support too. You get up to three phone replacements per year, capped at a value of $1,500.
Compared to the plans from Apple, or even SquareTrade, that doesn’t look like much of a bargain.