Is AppleCare+ worth buying your iPhone?

With iPhone hardware and repair costs soaring, it’s time to think about protecting your investment

Written by Bree Fowler and Melanie Pinola

With prices starting at $999 and $1,099 respectively, Apple’s new iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max aren’t cheap. So it should come as no surprise that it is also expensive to fix.

Do you have a broken screen on your 13 Pro Max? Apple says your Apple Store will take it back for $329. Any other part of the phone is broken and the repair will cost you $599. The fees are the same as last year’s iPhone 12 Pro Max. (Problems arising from manufacturing issues are covered separately under warranty.)

But if you shell out $199 for an AppleCare+ plan within 60 days of buying your phone, it’s a lot cheaper to deal with self-issue. Replacing the screen will run you only $29. For other incidental damages, the fee is $99.

You also have the option to pay for your coverage on a monthly basis, as well as the option to include loss and theft protection at a higher cost once or monthly.

So is it worth it? Due to the massive increases in iPhone repair prices in recent years, AppleCare+ may allow you to rest easier, especially if you (or other members of your family) are prone to dropping phones.

As part of the deal, you also get technical support for an extended 90 days.

But that doesn’t make AppleCare+ a wise investment for everyone.

Here’s a deeper look at what AppleCare+ plans cost and what they cover.

How AppleCare + works

You can purchase AppleCare+ at any time during the first 60 days of owning a new iPhone. The Basic plan, which covers you for two years from the date of purchase, covers up to two incidents of accidental damage in each 12-month period plus battery service or a replacement phone if your phone retains less than 80 percent of its original capacity. For an additional $70, you can also cover up to two cases of theft or loss in each 12-month period.

Here’s how the fees are divided based on the form.

Note that plans with loss and theft protection include a $149 discount.

iPhone 13 Pro, 13 Pro Max
• AppleCare + Standard: A one-time fee of $199 (for two years) or $10 per month.
• AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss Protection: $269 (for two-year coverage) or $13.49 per month

iPhone 13, 13 Mini, 12, 12 Mini, iPhone 11
• AppleCare + Standard: A one-time fee of $149 (for two years of coverage) or $8 per month.
• AppleCare+ with theft and loss protection: $219 (for two-year coverage) or $11.49 per month

iPhone SE (3rd generation)
• AppleCare + Standard: $79 (for two years) or $4 per month.
• AppleCare+ with theft and loss protection: $149 (for two-year coverage) or $7.49 per month

If you’re at risk of breaking or losing your phone, AppleCare+ can save you money, even if you own an older iPhone model. For example, a damaged iPhone 12 screen will cost you $228 ($29 plus $199 total plan fee) to repair it if you have AppleCare+ instead of $279 paid by everyone else. For other types of damage, the cost will be $318 (including the AppleCare+ fee) instead of $449. And you can have up to two repairs per year.

If you lose your iPhone 13 Pro and have theft and loss coverage, your replacement costs will be $418 ($149 deductible plus $269 plan fee). That’s a huge savings when you’re talking about a $1000 phone.

But if you’re the type who generally doesn’t lose or drop a phone, the $79 to $269 coverage fee may come in handy.

It’s also worth noting that AppleCare+ has limitations. The plans do not cover damage caused by “reckless, abusive, willful or premeditated behaviour.” So if you plan to test the durability of your new phone by running it with the car, don’t do it. You also can’t get a theft or loss claim if Find My iPhone isn’t activated at the time your device goes missing.

And remember: If you have more than two breaks, losses, or thefts every 12 months, you’ll be back to paying up to $599 for a fixed and suspended iPhone 13 Pro Max for the full replacement cost if the phone goes away.

Also, your warranty as well as your AppleCare+ coverage is voided if you open your iPhone for repair yourself or bring it to an unauthorized Apple repair shop.

Why is iPhone repair so expensive?

All iPhones dating back to the 8s are encased in glass on the back and front, which makes them vulnerable to damage in a fall.

The latest models include Ceramic Shield, a material created in partnership with Corning that incorporates ceramic into phones’ windshields. Apple says the new material is four times more resistant to damage when it falls from glass used in previous years’ models. However, glass is still expensive to repair.

Why do today’s phones use so much glass? Because metal interferes with wireless charging, says Richard Visco, head of electronics testing for Consumer Reports. “Apple designers could have used plastic, but its cheap look and feel isn’t appropriate for a premium phone,” he adds.

The ultra-sharp OLED screens used on all iPhone 13 models, along with iPhones going back to the XS contribute to the high repair costs as well. Fisco says the technology — also used in high-end TVs because of their deep blacks, accurate colors and energy efficiency — doesn’t come cheap.

While it might seem reasonable to take the chance of having to pay a $329 fee for a screen replacement on your iPhone 13 Pro Max instead of showing up at AppleCare+, crack the windshield and back in the fall as you look to pay nearly enough for a whole new phone.

So, even if you have been keen on protecting your iPhone in the past, a sturdy case is always a good idea.

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There’s really no right or wrong answer about whether you should pay for AppleCare+ coverage. It’s all about how much risk you are willing to take.

But the higher the price of a device, the more it might make sense to pay more for a bit of peace of mind.

If the thought of having to shell out nearly $600 unexpectedly to get your phone fixed is troubling, the $79 to $269 AppleCare+ could be worth it.

If you’re buying the phone for a teen whose smartphone is being abused, the extra insurance can save you some grief, too.

Unlike auto insurance, Apple’s coverage does not depend on past behavior. A serial phone breaker pays the same amount as a person who has never broken a screen. As a result, AppleCare+ limitations and costs are designed with high-risk individuals in mind.

This means that if you’re a klutz or vulnerable to misfortune, AppleCare+ coverage is likely to be better for you than it might for others.

But if you’re the frugal type who also tends to be extra careful with your smartphone, AppleCare+ may be an unnecessary cost.

When do you buy insurance?

On the TV show Consumer 101, Consumer Reports expert Octavio Blanco gives tips on determining when insurance is needed and how to get the most out of it when it comes to coverage.

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