AppleCare+ and the iPhone 4S: What You Need to Know

Apple has changed the AppleCare protection plans it offers for the launch of the iPhone 4S. In a nutshell, if you’re buying an iPhone 4S, you’re offered a plan called AppleCare+. It’s more expensive than AppleCare, but it covers accidental damage (for extra money). Also, you have to get it when you buy the phone; there’s no option to add it later. There are some more subtle changes, too, which we spell out in detail below.

Confusion over the changes in AppleCare has been compounded by customers being offered different options depending on whether you buy your iPhone from Apple or one of the carriers. There are even different experiences depending on which carrier you go with, and what you can do afterward.

Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about AppleCare+ before you buy a shiny new iPhone 4S:

How much does it cost?

AppleCare+ for iPhone costs a one-time fee of $99. That’s a $30 increase over the $69 AppleCare plan that used to be what Apple offered for iPhone buyers, and still offers for older models. If you’re an iPhone 4S buyer, however, you only have two choices: AppleCare+, or the default protection Apple gives free of charge.

What does AppleCare+ cover?

AppleCare+ will insure your iPhone 4S for two years after your date of purchase—basically the same length of time as your carrier contract (though most consumers upgrade before that time’s up). That means you get repair coverage and technical support for both the hardware (including all phone components and the accessories that came in the box) and the software (iOS 5 and any Apple-made apps, including iCloud). In addition, the new plan will cover two separate incidents of accidental damage “due to handling” for $49 a pop, something that isn’t offered with basic AppleCare (which, again, isn’t available for the iPhone 4S). Basically that means Apple will replace your iPhone up to twice if it gets wrecked, but you’ll have to pay extra to do it.

A friend of mine brought her broken iPhone to an Apple Store and they replaced it, even without AppleCare. Why should I get it if I can just do that?

Because AppleCare+ essentially replaces that practice, at least according to reports. MacRumors says the old replacement policy was informal, with Apple Store staffers allowed to waive out-of-warranty replacement fees as a “one-time exception” at their discretion. It appears that, going forward, the only way to get a replacement phone legitimately outside of the warranty will be through AppleCare+.

Do I get anything if I don’t buy any protection plan?

Yes. Apple gives every new iPhone a year of repair coverage under a limited warranty as well as 90 days of technical support. But after that, you’re on your own.

Will I get offered AppleCare+ if I buy the phone through my service provider?

If you order online, Sprint will give you the option of adding AppleCare+, but neither Verizon or ATT appear to do so. Verizon says it offers only its own protection plans, which can range from $2 to $11 a month. Similarly, ATT shows just its carrier protection plans, which cost either $7 or $10 a month, when you buy an iPhone 4S online.

I didn’t add AppleCare+ when I bought my phone, but I want to get it now. Can I?

It depends when you got it, but generally the answer is no. Apple officially says “Apple Care+ must be purchased together with your new iPhone.” This is a departure from AppleCare for iPhone, which users can buy anytime within the first year after buying the phone, when it’s still under warranty (again, regular AppleCare isn’t offered for the iPhone 4S). According to an Apple customer service representative, customers who ordered their phone through providers should be able to contact Apple and buy AppleCare+ for their new phone, though the rep cautioned that customers should do so before activating the phone.

Is AppleCare+ available for all models of iPhone?

Yes, AppleCare+ is available for the iPhone 4S, 4, and 3GS. If you have an old iPhone 3G, you can still get AppleCare (not +), as long your phone is less than a year old and still under warranty.

Can I get AppleCare+ for my other Apple products?

For now, Apple appears to only offer AppleCare+ for iPhones.

Aren’t these protection plans just a scam? Should I really get AppleCare+?

That’s entirely up to you, but you should weigh the cost of the plan ($99) with replacing the phone outright. That obviously depends on which model you’ve selected (16GB, 32GB, or 64GB)—those high-capacity models are pricey. You should also think about whether or not you’ll actually use the technical support, and when you’ll probably end up upgrading again. After all, if you’re getting a new phone in a year anyway, the default one-year warranty gives a decent level of protection. Also keep in mind that the longer you have the phone, the greater the chance it’ll have problems in its lifetime.

Additional reporting by Mark Hachman

For more from Peter, follow him on Twitter @petepachal.

For the top stories in tech, follow us on Twitter at @PCMag.

Article source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2394604,00.asp

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