Every time you buy an iPhone (or an iPad, or a Mac, or even a new HomePod), Apple will ask you if you want to add AppleCare+ to your purchase. But is it worth it?
How AppleCare+ Works
In general, we’re not big fans of extended warranties. You probably already have an extended warranty period through your credit card, and gadgets don’t fail often enough that it’s worth buying an extended warranty for each one—you’ll probably pay less in the long run by just repairing the few that break out of pocket.
But AppleCare+ is different than an extended warranty. It’s more like insurance designed for clumsy people who drop their phone a lot. You pay a certain amount up front—$129 for an iPhone 8, $149 for an iPhone 8 Plus, and $199 for an iPhone X—and Apple will repair your device at heavily discounted rates if it breaks—even if the damage is accidental, like a shattered screen or water damage.
That doesn’t mean you get free repairs, though. Apple breaks down its prices on its repair and screen repair pages, but for the sake of example, let’s look at the iPhone. Here’s what various repairs will cost you, with and without AppleCare+:
- A broken screen costs $29 to repair if you have AppleCare+. If you don’t, it can cost anywhere from $129 for an iPhone 6 to $279 for an iPhone X.
- Other accidental damage, like a broken home button or water damage, will cost $99 if you have AppleCare+. If you don’t, it can cost anywhere from $269 for the iPhone SE all the way up to $549 for the iPhone X.
- Non-accidental damage (that is, other random hardware failure through no fault of your own) is free to repair as long as you’re covered by the initial warranty or by AppleCare+. If you aren’t, it’s subject to the same repair fees as above.
You’ll notice that, if you have AppleCare+, repair prices are the same no matter what model you have. If you don’t have AppleCare+, however, repairs are more expensive for more expensive phones. That means if you have, say, an iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X, you pay more money for AppleCare+, but you save more too. And, of course, the more often you break your phone, the more money you’ll save with AppleCare+. (Though AppleCare+ only offers discounts for up to two incidents of accidental damage—any more than that, and you’ll pay full price.)
How Much Will AppleCare+ Cost You? Do the Math
Whether AppleCare+ is worth it depends on two things: what phone you have, and how often you tend to break your phone (or other device).
Let’s say you buy the latest iPhone every year, keep it for two years, and you’re a little clumsy—you tend break the screen once on every iPhone you own during its life. If you paid $129 for AppleCare+ on each phone, and $29 for the screen repair, you’d be paying around $160 in total every two years for phone repairs. Without AppleCare+, you’d pay somewhere between $150 (if you broke a regular-sized iPhone) and $170 (if you broke a Plus model) for breaking the screen once. In this case, the long-term cost of AppleCare+ is about the same as paying out of pocket for one repair every two years, so it’s pretty much a wash.
If you break your phone more often than that—like, once a year—or experience worse damage than a broken screen (like dunking it in water, or maple syrup, or whatever other horrible things you can imagine), you’ll probably save money in the long run by purchasing AppleCare+.
If, however, you tend to break your phone less often than every two years, AppleCare+ is almost definitely not worth it. If you take good care of your phone and only break it once in a blue moon, you’re basically paying for something that may not even happen, which is crazy. Paying out of pocket will cost you less in the long run than paying $129 for AppleCare+ on every phone you buy just in case something happens.
So do the math. Look at your last 10 years of smartphone ownership, and ask yourself how many times you’ve had to take your phone in for honest-to-goodness hardware repairs that you caused. If it’s fewer than 5 times, you probably aren’t a candidate for AppleCare+, unless maybe you plan on doing more base jumping this year.
The Alternatives: Just Get a Good Case
AppleCare+ isn’t the only insurance game in town, either. You have a few other options for protecting your purchase.
- A Case: Seriously, if you’re the kind of person who accidentally breaks your phone every single year, you should probably suck it up and put a case on it. A decent case will cost you a tiny fraction of what you’ll pay for AppleCare+ and repairs. You can even get a couple cases, swap them out for different situations (like a waterproof case for going to the beach) and still come out ahead.
- SquareTrade: If you absolutely refuse to get a case for your phone, or somehow manage to break it anyway (might I suggest an Otterbox Defender?), you do have another insurance option: SquareTrade. It’s similar to AppleCare in price, but you can take your policy to another phone (if you switch phones often), get your phone repaired elsewhere (if you have a third-party shop you really like), and even have technicians come to you at home or work for certain repairs.
- Repair It Yourself: If you aren’t into the idea of insurance, or a case, but you still like the idea of paying less for repairs, you can always save a few bucks by attempting to repair the phone yourself. This definitely comes with some risk, since you likely have less experience than trained professionals, and you could mess it up worse. But with companies like iFixit offering affordable parts and guides for just about every device out there, it’s an option nonetheless.
- Insurance from Your Carrier: Don’t. Just don’t. The insurance plans offered by Verizon, AT&T, and other carriers are almost always a horrible deal compared to your other options.
We won’t judge you for breaking your phone—some people just lead active lives, and phones have gotten terribly delicate. But if you know you’re going to break it often, a good case is probably your most cost effective option.