clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Amy Iverson: How to decide whether phone insurance is worth it

Amy Iverson, iFixit

Mobile phones are more expensive than ever before. PC Mag’s picks for the top three phones of 2018 are the Apple iPhone XS Max ($1,099.99), the Google Pixel 3 ($799) and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 ($999.99). And while these phones are sturdier than ever before, they aren’t indestructible, especially the screens. It seems all it takes is one drop and your phone hitting the ground in just the right way for the screen to crack.

And it happens to a lot of us. A 2016 Consumer Reports survey found 50 percent of people reported at least one major smartphone disaster during the previous two years.

Since many consumers are now spending so much for the latest and greatest phone, how can they make sure their investment is protected? Whether you buy a phone from the manufacturer or a service provider, they will likely ask if you’d like insurance with the phone. And you don’t have a lot of time to think about it. Most insurance is only available for a certain amount of time after the purchase of a new phone. AT&T, for instance, only allows customers to buy insurance for 30 days after buying a phone. So you may want to do your research on insurance options before you head in to the store, because it’s a mind-numbing process . I’m focusing just on screen repair since that has been the majority of my family’s cellphone damage over the years. With five phones on my account, only once have I ever had an issue with anything other than screen repair on our iPhones.

The two largest phone manufacturers sell their own insurance coverage. Depending on the phone, AppleCare+ costs anywhere from $6 per month to $10 per month for two years. It will cover two screen repairs, each for $29, but is it worth the price? Using my iPhone XS as an example, the answer is (as with most insurance) that it depends. I opted to buy the two years of coverage all at once for $200 (instead of the $240 it would have cost to pay $10 monthly). If I need a screen repair, it will cost me $29 for a total cost of $229. If I need another screen repair, it will cost me $29 again. So for a total cost of $258 over two years, I could have my screen replaced twice.

Now imagine if I didn’t have insurance. Apple just released pricing for screen replacement for its new phones. So I now know that if I need my XS screen replaced without insurance, it will cost $279. If I needed it replaced a second time, I would be up to a total cost of $558 over two years. So yes, that is a big savings over not having insurance if two unfortunate cases of screen crack were to happen. But that’s a lot of ifs.

I am known to drop my phone often, so I’m planning for the worst. If I’m lucky enough to never crack my phone screen, I guess that’s $200 down the drain.

Samsung offers insurance for $12 per month, and a screen repair (limited to three per year) will cost $99. The Premium Care plan offered for Galaxy S8, 8+ and Note 8 models even offers a convenient service where a technician comes to you to fix the screen. All four major cell service providers also offer insurance coverage. AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile have plans that range from $7 per month to $17 per month depending on the features you want.

And this week the do-it-yourself gadget repair company iFixit announced a partnership with a major smartphone manufacturer. Motorola is now the first to offer parts to its customers so they can fix their own phones. iFixit touts this partnership as a huge win for Mother Earth, claiming that in “giving consumers easier access to parts, people are better equipped to fix their broken devices — and more fixing means less e-waste.”

Customers can still send the device in to Motorola for a repair, but they now have the option of ordering a kit from iFixit that will have all the parts and tools needed to replace a broken screen, along with a step-by-step guide. These kits range from $75 to $200 depending on which model Moto you have. This is a nice option for those who are handy and don’t want to be away from their phone for the time it takes to mail it in. Remember, if iPhone users ever try to open up a phone to fix it, AppleCare+ is voided.

Consumers have so many options when it comes to insurance, it’s all a bit complicated. Take your time and do the research since costs vary depending on manufacturer, carrier and coverage features. Mobile phone insurance could save you hundreds of dollars, or it could mean hundreds of dollars wasted, unless you consider the value of something that could simply bring you peace of mind.