If you damage or lose your iPhone, then AppleCare+ will make the repair or replacement cost much less. If you don't, though, then it's a lot of money for no benefit. Here's what you get and how to decide if it's worthwhile for you.
When you're buying a device that's as expensive as an iPhone, it's very tempting to get Apple's extended insurance to protect it. But that AppleCare+ program is a lot of money that you may never get a direct, measurable benefit from.
AppleCare+ ranges from $79 to $269, and what it covers you for comes with exceptions and conditions. So AppleCare+ could be what makes an iPhone unaffordable now, or equally it could be what makes repairing a broken one possible later. Either way, it's not a casual purchase to add on — or to ignore.
Previously you could buy AppleCare+ for iPhone at the time of purchase or up to 60 days later. Now due to coronavirus issues affecting buyers, Apple has extended this, though you have to take the device to an Apple Store to be inspected first.
With this extension, though, AppleCare+ is more attractive since you could buy the iPhone first, then later buy this insurance. It's the same cost, but you don't necessarily have to pay it all out at time of purchase.
Except as with everything to do with AppleCare+, the details matter. Yes, you could spread the cost out a little more by buying AppleCare+ after the iPhone, but that's little use if you break the screen first.
The difference between AppleCare and AppleCare+
If you've been confused by the difference between the regular AppleCare that all buyers get, and the separate AppleCare+, you're not alone. Apple's wording doesn't make it gigantically clear what you get with the regular one, and it's also confusing about how long the coverage lasts.
So here's the thing. AppleCare is great if Apple has got something wrong and you get a hardware problem that is their fault. And if you get it during your first year of ownership.
Apple will often later introduce repair programs to fix major problems it has uncovered, but as far as the regular AppleCare is concerned, that's effectively just about all you get. And you get it for only the first year.
In comparison, AppleCare+ initially runs for two years — and that is two years from the date of purchase. It can often be called extra or extended coverage and leave you thinking that it is two years plus the one year of regular AppleCare. But it isn't.
Just to make sure it's as confusing as it can be, you can actually extend AppleCare+ beyond the two years. It doesn't change whether AppleCare+ is worth it to you for the first two years of purchase, and you can't buy another two years outright.
However, you can extend month by month afterwards, conceivably as long as Apple will service the iPhone.
What you get from AppleCare+ in the regular two years from date of purchase is a much, much reduced bill for repair work. There are conditions, though, such as how you can claim only two repairs per year.
Assuming your repair is covered by AppleCare+, then what it costs you is a much reduced fee, plus what you're paying for the insurance. If you don't have AppleCare+, you lose out because the repair costs are much higher — but you also aren't paying for insurance.
AppleCare+ does potentially — potentially — have one more benefit. There is a version of AppleCare+ that covers theft or loss of your iPhone. There are again conditions, but there's the possibility here that you will get a replacement for considerably less than having to buy a new one all over again.
|Phone model||Out of coverage screen repair cost||AppleCare+ screen repair cost|
|iPhone 12 Pro Max||$329||$29|
|iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 12||$279||$29|
|iPhone 12 mini||$229||$29|
|iPhone SE (2020)||$129||$29|
The cost of AppleCare+
The coverage that AppleCare+ offers doesn't vary between devices, but the costs do. The cost of AppleCare+ varies quite considerably depending on your device and whether you want the theft and loss coverage.
The lowest-cost AppleCare+ for iPhones, without theft and loss, is $79 for the 2020 iPhone SE. That's a one-off fee that gets you two years of coverage, but there's also a monthly $3.99 option.
That's obviously less of an upfront cost but, naturally, it's more expensive in the long run. Over the two years of AppleCare+, that $3.99 adds up to $95.76.
For the version of AppleCare+ that also covers theft and loss, the one-off fee for the iPhone SE is $149. Paid at $7.49 per month, it's a total of $179.76.
If you buy an iPhone 11, iPhone 12 mini, or iPhone 12, then currently the standard AppleCare+ cost is $149. The monthly fee is $7.99, which over 24 months adds up to $191.76.
The standard AppleCare+ for iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max is $199. Monthly, that's $9.99 for a total over the two years of $239.76.
For every eligible iPhone, you can pay $70 extra to have AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss. As it sounds, this gets you a replacement iPhone if yours is stolen or mislaid — and gets it for a lot less than buying a new replacement.
AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss costs $269 for the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Monthly it's $13.49 ($323.76 over the two years). For the 2020 iPhone SE, it's a one-off $149 or a total of $179.76 when paid monthly.
The benefits and savings of AppleCare+ with Theft and Lost
In theory, if you have this and your iPhone gets stolen, Apple will replace it for a fee of $149. That's regardless of which iPhone it is.
So an iPhone 12 Pro Max for $149 is a pretty sweet deal — except of course it's not $149. It's $149 plus the fee you've paid for AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss. So that's really $149 plus the $269 you've already paid.
Still, $418 for an iPhone 12 Pro Max is good. Especially when this is a flat fee, so it doesn't matter whether your iPhone 12 Pro Max was a $1,099 one with 128GB storage, or $1,399 for 512GB storage.
Apple is not going to rapidly hand over an iPhone 12 Pro Max for between $681 and $981 off, though. There are conditions, starting with how Find My must have been enabled on your lost or stolen iPhone.
"Find My iPhone should remain enabled and your iPhone should remain associated with your Apple ID throughout the theft or loss claim process," says Apple's small print. "During the theft or loss claims process, you will be asked to erase your missing device, disable it, and transfer ownership before you can be issued a new device."
So Apple is going to search for that stolen phone, it's not going to shrug. And the process of replacing your missing iPhone is not going to be fast, either.
|Phone model||Other out of coverage repair cost||Other AppleCare+ repair cost|
|iPhone 12 Pro Max||$599||$99|
|iPhone 12 Pro||$549||$99|
|iPhone 12 mini or iPhone 11||$399||$99|
|iPhone SE (2020)||$269||$99|
The benefits and savings of standard AppleCare+
The sole extra benefit you get from the Theft and Loss version of AppleCare+ is that it covers you for, well, theft and loss. Otherwise the benefits are identical — and they can be substantial.
AppleCare+ now applies to up to two incidents of accidental damage every 12 months. Note that word "accidental." If you choose to throw your iPhone under a truck and Apple can prove it, good luck getting any repair discount.
For regular, genuine situations, accidental damage officially comes under one of two categories. There's screen damage, and then there is everything else.
Savings on screen repairs
If your screen — on any eligible iPhone with AppleCare+ — is damaged, Apple will replace it for $29. So that's really $29 plus whatever you're paying for AppleCare+.
For instance, if the screen that's damaged is on an 2020 iPhone SE, then you're paying $29 plus the $79 for AppleCare+. If you break your iPhone SE screen and don't have coverage, you're going to pay Apple $129.
At the other end of the scale, breaking the screen on an iPhone 12 Pro Max means $29 plus your $199 AppleCare+ fee for a total of $128. Whereas replacing the screen without coverage will cost you $329.
The difference between repairing a screen with or without AppleCare+ does also vary depending on whether you're paying monthly or not. Paying for coverage monthly on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, for instance, would mean your screen repair cost is $29 plus $269 for a total of $298.
So in that example, if you're paying monthly for AppleCare+, you're in theory only saving $31 over the cost of an ordinary screen repair. Except AppleCare+ allows you up to four screen repairs over the term — two per each of the two years.
Although if you try claiming for a third or fourth screen repair in a row, Apple will surely start wondering just how accidental this is.
Savings on other repairs
Other than screen damage, AppleCare+ officially describes just about anything else as "any other accidental damage." It's a very wide category, which may be why the costs — and the potential savings — are large.
If you have a 2020 iPhone SE with some accidental damage, under AppleCare+ you will have to pay a fee of $99. Together with the one-off AppleCare+ price, that's a total of $178 (and for monthly it's $278.76).
Compare that to the cost of getting this unspecified other damaged fixed if you don't have AppleCare+. For a 2020 iPhone SE, the repair charge is $269.
So in this case it's actually less to pay for it out of coverage than it is in — except, again, you can have multiple incidents of damage that are covered.
At the other end of the scale, the cost for repairing any damage, other than the screen, for the iPhone 12 Pro Max is $599. With AppleCare, you instead pay a $99 flat rate for anything.
So with one-off AppleCare+, that means your repair costs you a total of $298. For the monthly version, it's a total of $338.76. If you've got the theft and loss version, you're paying a total of either $368 or $422.76.
One more benefit
There is another benefit of AppleCare+, but it's not to do with damage, it's to do with batteries. If your battery should need replacing during your AppleCare+ two years, Apple will do it for free.
For comparison, if you're out of coverage, Apple will charge $69 to replace the battery on an iPhone 11, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max. It'll charge $49 to replace the battery in a 2020 iPhone SE.
Do you feel lucky?
Assuming Apple believes that you really are this unlucky, AppleCare+ could cover you for four screen repairs, or four other damages, or four battery replacements. Or if you have AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss, it could cover you for four incidents of your iPhone being stolen.
It's four incidents in total, whichever they are. So maybe you could smash the screen, break an internal connection, crack the housing, and then have it stolen.
Unquestionably, Apple has calculated the costs, and it's also added up the odds. Apple knows just how many people buy AppleCare+, and it knows too how many of those ever make any claim on it.
You need to make the same calculation, at least as far as you are able. Maybe you've never cracked an iPhone screen in all the years you've had one, or maybe you always break them.
If you're the most prone to breaking screens, and you have a 2020 iPhone SE, then four repairs outside coverage would cost you $516. Four repairs with the standard AppleCare+ would add up to either $195 or $211.76, depending on whether you pay monthly or not.
Four repairs on the iPhone SE screen under AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss would add up to $265 or $295.76.
Taking just the one-off AppleCare+ cost, without theft and loss, gives a similar picture over all the eligible iPhones. Four screen repairs on the iPhone 11 would total $265, instead of an out-of-coverage total of $796.
With the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini, four screen repairs under AppleCare+ would cost you the same $265, but without the coverage would be $916 for the iPhone 12, and $1,116 for the iPhone 12 mini.
Four screen repairs on the iPhone 12 Pro would cost you $315 with cover, and $1,116 without. And for the iPhone 12 Pro, the total would be the same $315 with AppleCare+, but without it you'd be paying $1,316.
More and less than money
If you never claim on AppleCare+ then it would appear to be wasted because you got no benefit from the fee. Equally, if you have one incident then under most circumstances, the total cost of repair is less if you have AppleCare+.
That would mean that if you're likely to have more than two incidents of damage in the first two years after buying an iPhone, AppleCare+ is worth it.
Of course you can't really predict whether you're going to need AppleCare+ or not. But as well as meaning taking out AppleCare+ is a gamble, there is another side to it.
Rather than thinking about the specifics of how many times you can get your screen repaired, for instance, you could think about the peace of mind. Having AppleCare+ does mean the hit you will take if something goes wrong is less.
Then as well as the measurable benefits of repairs, AppleCare+ does include 24/7 technical support. You're perhaps going to have to want quite a lot of that to be worth the cost, but what you're paying for is the fact that it's available.
That's the real benefit of AppleCare+ overall. Knowing this, and knowing how prone you are to accidents, means that AppleCare+ might make you less nervous about this expensive device you've bought.
Mind you, it might also make you think more about buying a case.
Whatever device you're thinking about getting AppleCare+ for, read our guide: