This article was updated on 05-19-2017 by Kyle Wiggers to include new pricing and benefits.
The tired “dropped your smartphone in the toilet” cliche is really only funny until it happens to you, and the same goes for running your phone over in the parking lot or dropping it down the stairs. No matter how you slice it, watching your brand-new phone shatter, drown, or bend beyond the point of recognition is agonizing. The aftermath might be even worse, leaving you with an unusable phone that’ll cost hundreds of dollars to fix or replace.
Luckily, that’s where extended warranties come in. Most companies sell plans with benefits that go well beyond your device’s one-year warranty, such as accidental damage coverage, next-day replacements, and even remote technical support. However, not unlike the smartphones which they cover, not all plans are created equal.
To see whether they’re worth your hard-earned money, we’ve compared the benefits — and the price — of some of the most popular warranty programs currently on the market.
Phone manufacturer warranty plans
In recent years, more and more manufacturers have started to offer their own warranty programs. Some of them are better deals than others, though.
Here are a few of the most popular:
|AppleCare+||Device Protection for Pixels||Moto Care||Samsung Protection Plus|
|Cost||$130 for two years with iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6S, and iPhone 6S Plus||$100 for the Pixel and Pixel XL||$15 for the extended service plan, $40 or 50 for accidental damage coverage||$100 for the Galaxy S4, S5, and S6; $130 for Galaxy Note devices, the Galaxy S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus, S7, S7 Edge, and S8|
|Accidental damage coverage||Two years||Two years||Two years||Two years|
|Mechanical damage coverage||Two years||One year||One year||One year|
|Deductible||$30 for a screen replacement; $100 for any other damage||$80||$40 or $50 for accidental damage, $40 or $50 for mechanical damage in the second year of coverage||$80|
|Claim limit||2 over the duration of the plan||2 over the duration of the plan||3 every two years||2 over a 12-month period|
|Eligibility window||Must sign up within one year||Must sign up within 30 days of purchase||Must sign up within 30 days of purchase||Must sign up within one year of purchase|
|New replacement device?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Other benefits||Free overnight shipping|
AppleCare+ is Apple’s long-running, $130 extended warranty plan for the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 6S, and 6S Plus. It’s notable for having an incredibly generous eligibility window — you have a year after purchase to enroll, if you so choose. But providing proof of purchase is a bit of a hassle. You have to verify the date of your phone, and complete a check for pre-existing damage at either the AppleCare Contact Center or alongside an Apple Store employee.
A few of the benefits include:
- 24/7 priority access to AppleCare’s technical support, via chat or phone.
- Low service fees, such as $29 for iPhone screen damage.
- $0 for battery service.
- Apple-certified repair or replacement at Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers.
- Hardware service with genuine Apple parts.
- Software support for iOS, iCloud, and Apple-branded iOS apps.
- Hardware repairs and service backed by Apple.
AppleCare+ adds two years to your standard warranty, which includes protection against manufacturer-originated defects in both the iPhone and in-the-box accessories such as cables, power adapters, and headphones. More importantly, it covers accidental damage — if you break your iPhone, Apple will repair or replace it for a flat $30 (if you’ve only shattered the screen) or $80 (if you’ve damaged other components). It’s worth noting, however, that you can only make two claims throughout the duration of your plan.
Device Protection for Pixels
Google’s newly-implemented Device Protection for Pixels, which replaces the retired Nexus Protect program, is a lot like Apple’s AppleCare+. Only Google-branded smartphones — i.e., those in the Pixel line — are eligible for coverage, and if you don’t sign up at purchase time, you have an additional 30 days to enroll.
Device Protection for Pixels extends your standard warranty coverage against mechanical and electrical problems by a year and, like AppleCare+, covers accidental damage for up to two years from the original date of purchase. Device replacements, which include next-day shipping, cost $80, and you’re limited to two throughout the course of two years. However, unlike Apple’s offering, Device Protection for Pixels is a bit cheaper. It’s currently $100 for both the Pixel and Pixel XL.
If a Moto Z is more your style, Lenovo-owned Motorola offers its own protection plan. It’s called Moto Care, and it comes as in the form of an extended service plan and accident damage protection. Both require you sign up within 30 days of purchase.
The extended service plan starts at $15 and adds an additional year of protection against mechanical damage. The accidental coverage is more akin to Apple Care+ and Device Protection for Pixels, and gives you two years of damage coverage for $40 or $50 (depending on your device).
Coverage is a mixed bag, though. The accidental damage coverage is generous — you can make up to three claims over the course of two years and the deductible is rather cheap at $40 or $50. That said, Motorola charges a fee for mechanical failure. It’s $15 if you’ve got the extended service plan, and $40 or $50 with accident protection.
Samsung Protection Plus
Samsung offers its own barebones protection plan for Galaxy devices: Protection Plus. It’s $100 for the Galaxy S4, S5, and S6, and $130 for the Galaxy Note 3, Note 4, Note 5, Note Edge, Galaxy S6, S6 Edge Plus, S7, S7 Edge, and S8. It extends the device manufacturer warranty by a year, and provides protection against accidental damage for two years. You’re limited to two replacements within a 12-month period for accidental damage claims, and the deductible is a flat $80. Replacements are shipped overnight once approved.
The verdict: Convenient and good, but not for theft
The plans from manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and Google are comprehensive — and comparatively cheap. Though pricier than third-party plans, in some cases, they cover all kinds of damage, offer fairly low deductibles, and deliver replacements expeditiously. You can also count on quality service, since the repairs come directly from the phone maker instead of a third-party service. Unfortunately, however, no manufacturer covers lost or stolen devices.
If you have an iPhone, the convenience of AppleCare+ trumps the affordability of third-party offerings. Same goes for Device Protection for Pixels if you own a Pixel phone, Moto Care if you’ve got a Motorola handset, and Samsung Protection Plus if you purchased a Samsung smartphone. Phone makers generally offer quick shipping and new replacements for a much lower price than third parties, assuming they offer new replacements at all.
But ultimately, premium manufacturer warranties are device-dependent; an iPhone isn’t eligible for Moto Care, just as a Pixel device isn’t covered by Samsung. That said, if your next phone is one made by Motorola, the company’s Moto Care is one of the most generous manufacture warranties. It’s relatively cheap — $40 or 50 for accidental damage protection, with a maximum deductible of $50 — and allows you to file up to three claims over a two-year period. The only downside might be the charge for mechanical damage in the second year of coverage, which ranges between $15 and $50. But all things considered, Moto Care is one of the better deals around.
Best Buy Geek Squad Protection
Geek Squad, Best Buy’s in-house electronics technicians, offers two smartphone protection plans: Geek Squad Protection and Geek Squad Complete Protection. Neither cover the iPhone or off-contract, unlocked phones.
The only real difference between the first ($8 per month over two years or a one-time $160 fee) and second plan ($11 per month or $240) is protection against loss and theft. If you’ve got Geek Squad Complete Protection, Best Buy will replace your phone if it goes missing. Otherwise, the plans share the same benefits — including protection against accidental damage and mechanical failure, protection against defects in included accessories, and a one-time battery replacement for phones with a removable battery.
The coverage is exhaustive, but it comes at a steep price — Geek Squad’s plans are among the most expensive and carry a host of restrictions. On both plans, device replacements are $150 for phones that cost less than $800, or $200 for phones that cost more than $800. You can also make a maximum of three claims within a two-year period.
Deductibles for lost devices are a bit different. You can only make two claims, and phones valued higher than $800 under the Complete Protection plan come with a a hefty $250 replacement fee. Phones that cost less than $800 cost $200 to replace.
The verdict: Avoid at all costs
We don’t recommend Geek Squad’s plan. It’s far more expensive than other offerings, and the service doesn’t justify the price.
There are a number of third-party insurers with plans to help protect your phone. Here are some of the more popular ones.
|Mobile Rhino||ProtectCell||GoCare||Worth Ave. Group||SquareTrade|
|Monthly rate||$130 per year||$100 for one year ($130 for premium devices); $140 for two years ($200 for premium devices)||$8 month-to-month, $70 for one year, $130 for two years, or $150 for three years||$148 for two-year phone coverage||$8 month-to-month, $100 for two years, $130 for three years|
|Accidental damage coverage||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Mechanical damage coverage||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Theft/loss coverage||Yes||Yes, for an additional fee||No||Yes||No|
|Deductible||$100||$50 to $200||$75||$50||$75|
|Claim limit||2 within a 12-month period or $1,000 worth of merchandise (whichever comes first)||2 within a 12-month period or $1,500 worth of merchandise (whichever comes first)||Unlimited||Unlimited||Limited to original phone purchase price over a two-year period|
|Eligibility window||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||Within 30 days of purchase for Apple devices|
|New replacement device?||No; refurbished||No; refurbished||Refurbished and new||Reimbursement for damaged devices||Reimbursement for damaged devices or refurbished replacement|
|Other benefits||Overnight shipping||Data backup service available||Loaner phones||Reimbursements for repairs at local service shop/Apple Genius Bar|
Mobile Rhino’s third-party coverage, which starts at $130 a year with a $100 deductible, protects against loss and theft at no additional charge. And unlike many other insurers, Mobile Rhino covers any smartphone in working condition — regardless of age. You can cancel at any time, too, and replacement devices ship within 24 hours.
The downside: You’re currently limited to two replacements per year or $1,000 worth of merchandise, whichever comes first.
ProtectCell prices insurance differently.
- ProtectCell Complete, which starts at $5 a month, includes protection against accidental damage (including cracks and liquid damage) and mechanical failure; ID theft support powered by LifeLock; and 50 GB of cloud storage.
- ProtectCell Device covers against accidental damage, and starts at $3 a month.
- ProtectCell Data, which starts at $2 a month, doesn’t offer damage protection, but provides 24/7 access to a specialist who’ll help you back up contacts, texts, pictures, music, and other sensitive data. They’ll also show you how to remotely lock, locate, and erase your device in the event that it’s stolen.
- ProtectCell Buyback isn’t a warranty, but an alternative to upgrade plans such as T-Mobile’s Jump and AT&T’s Next. Buyback offers up to 50 percent of your device’s sticker price in the first 12 months, or up to 25 percent within the first 13 to 24 months. It starts at $2 a month.
- ProcectCell’s LifeLock plan offers protection against identity theft. With it, you get identity threat detection and alerts, black market website surveillance, and stolen or lost wallet remediation services. It starts at $8 a month.
ProtectCell’s basic plans, like ProtectCell Data, provide data backup services that let you restore data (with the notable exception of your apps) on a damaged device that you pay to replace. The higher-end packages, such as ProtectCell Complete and ProtectCell Device, offer a more comprehensive service — ProtectCell will pre-load your replacement phone with data you’ve backed up to its servers before shipping it — but, otherwise, have benefits in line with other aftermarket warranties.
For $120 (iPhone coverage) or between $60 and $120 (Android coverage), you get protection for more than two years, device replacement for a one-time fee, and protection against loss and theft. Additionally, LifeLock-powered identity theft protection is available as a $30 upgrade.
But ProtectCell’s plan has some noteworthy drawbacks. The replacement fee of $50 to $200 is pricier than most, and devices can take days to ship. The company also supplies phones from its inventory — a significant number of which are refurbished.
GoCare is backed by Lyndon Southern Insurance and, like Mobile Rhino, lets you enroll a functional, non-damaged smartphone long after the purchase date. Payment options vary from month-to-month ($3 to $8) to one year ($70), but include extended protection against mechanical breakdown, normal wear and tear, and accidental damage. Device replacements are a one-time deal for around $75 (GoCare will overnight you a new device for an added fee), and the company offers unlimited repair claims. GoCare even provides loaner phones in the event of a lengthy repair job.
The downside: GoCare doesn’t offer loss or theft protection.
Worth Ave. Group
Worth Ave. Group certainly doesn’t have the cheapest coverage on the block — two-year premium phone plans start at $140 with a $50 deductible — but it does offer more than some insurers. You can also insure a device regardless of age, even if it’s refurbished, and the company’s plans protect against theft and loss, accidental damage, and mechanical failure. You can submit an unlimited number of claims, too, and there’s no cap on device repairs and replacements.
SquareTrade, perhaps the best-known electronics insurer, offers all manner of device coverage plans: A pay-as-you-go smartphone plan for $8 a month, or a two- and three-year option for $100 and $130, respectively. Eligibility is a bit sketchy, however. Apple devices are covered, but only if purchased within the last 30 days or currently insured through AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile. Other drawbacks include the $75 deductible, claims limited to the original purchase price of your phone, and no protection against loss or theft. SquareTrade’s plan does offer a few features that others don’t, however, including reimbursements for repairs performed at a local service shop or, in the case of an iPhone, Apple Genius Bar repairs.
The verdict: Best options, but choose wisely
If your manufacturer doesn’t have a warranty program, your next best bet is one of the third-party insurers. You’ll usually have to settle for refurbished replacement phones and long repair times, but they offer great coverage at incredibly reasonable prices, especially if you’re looking for barebones protection. And if you’re willing to shell out a tiny bit more, you can get even better plans for less than others offer. Mobile Rhino, for example, provides protection against theft for $130, as does Worth Ave. Group.
The options are many when it comes to third-party phone insurers, but Worth Ave. Group stands above the rest with great benefits. The coverage may not be the cheapest — $140 for iPhones, $144 for other phones — but the deductible is competitive ($50) and the company is one of the few that offers unlimited claims and protection against theft and loss at no additional charge. It’s also one of the few that provides reimbursements for damaged devices rather than refurbished or reconditioned replacements.
Of course, carriers get in on the warranty and insurance game, too. We’ve listed all the plans from the four major U.S. carriers.
|Monthly rate||$9 per month; $11 per month||$3 per month for Extended Warranty, $7.15 to $9 per month for Total Equipment Protection, $11 per month for Total Mobile Protection||$10 per month for Premium Handset Protection, $12 per month for Lookout Premium bundle||$9 to 11 per month for Total Equipment Protection, $13 per month for Total Equipment Protection Plus|
|Accidental damage coverage||Yes||Yes, for Total Equipment Protection and Total Mobile Protection||Yes||Yes|
|Mechanical damage coverage||Yes||Yes, for Total Equipment Protection and Total Mobile Protection||Yes||Yes|
|Theft/loss coverage||Yes||Yes, for Total Equipment Protection and Total Mobile Protection||Yes||Yes|
|Deductible||$50 to $200||$50 to $200||$20 to $175||$50 to $200|
|Claim limit||2 within a 12-month period||3 within a 12-month period||2 within a 12-month period||3 within a 12-month period|
|Eligibility window||Within 30 days of purchase||Within 30 days of purchase||Within 14 days of purchase||Within 30 days of purchase|
|New replacement device?||New or “Certified Like-New”||New or “Certified Like-New”||New or “reconditioned”||New or “Certified Like-New”|
|Other benefits||Rolling discounts on claims||Dedicated technical support and data backup at the Total Mobile Protection level||Apple Care benefits||Tech support line at the Total Equipment Protection Plus level|
AT&T keeps things simple. It offers two plans: A $9-per-month standard insurance option, and a $11-per-month premium tier.
AT&T Mobile Insurance ($9) includes protections against mechanical breakdown, loss and theft, and accidental damage. The $11 alternative has all that, plus next-day replacements, tech support, and 50GB of “secure content storage.”
Deductibles range from $50 to $200, but AT&T offers a substantial discount if you go six months or more without filing a claim, which typically amounts to between 25 and 50 percent. Replacements are often “Certified Like-New” instead of new, however.
Verizon splits coverage into three tiers: Verizon Extended Warranty ($3 a month), Total Equipment Protection ($9 a month), and Total Mobile Protection ($11 a month).
Extended Warranty is a stripped-down plan designed to protect against mechanical breakdowns. In the event your phone prematurely bites the dust, you get a new or refurbished device.
Total Equipment Protection amps up that coverage. It provides protection against mechanical breakdown and accidental damage, plus loss and theft.
Verizon offers two warranty options under its Total Equipment Protection tier. The Asurion Wireless Phone Protection plan costs $7.15 a month and protects against everything except device malfunction. Verizon’s Wireless Extended Warranty is a cheaper alternative at $3 a month, but it only protects against device malfunction.
Neither plan’s deductibles are cheap, though. Replacements for lost and damaged devices range from $50 and $100, and from $100 to $200 for accidentally damaged devices. And you’re limited to two claims within a 12-month period.
Verizon offers next-day replacements. Some are “Certified Like-New” — a euphemism for refurbished.
Verizon’s top-tier Total Mobile Protection plan adds two potentially useful features to Total Equipment Protection: Tech Coach and Verizon Support & Protection. Tech Coach is a dedicated support line that provides technical support and, per Verizon, “helps you learn how to optimize your device on your own.” Support and Protection, on the other hand, is an app that offers many of the data management features available with newer smartphones. You can use it to locate your device on a map, lock it and sound an alarm remotely, erase your data, and scan for the presence of malicious apps.
T-Mobile’s Premium Device Protection is $12 a month, and like most carrier plans, protects against mechanical breakdown, accidental damage, loss, and theft. Claims under any and all categories are limited to two per a 12-month period, with the deductible ranging between $150 to $175. Replacement devices may also be “reconditioned.”
If you own an iPhone, AppleCare services are available at no additional charge. You get all the benefits of Apple’s warranty coverage, including 24/7 priority access to AppleCare’s technical support via chat or phone, low service fees, free battery service, Apple-certified repair or replacement at Apple Stores, and more.
You also get Premium Handset Protection coverage, along with remote locking and locating, automatic contact and photo backup, virus and malware scanning, and more.
Premium Device Protection Plus, $12-per-month upgrade from T-Mobile’s base plan, nets you some additional benefits. You get McAffee Security for T-Mobile devices, which includes safe browsing, malware protection, coverage against loss and identity theft, and lost wallet protection. And you get access to T-Mobile’s Personal Help Desk, which supports devices such as routers, game consoles, and smart TVs.
If you’d rather opt for the software features without the plan, however, T-Mobile sells Lookout Premium a la carte for $4 per month.
Sprint offers a base plan, Total Equipment Protection, with mechanical and accidental damage coverage and protection against loss or theft. It also offers a souped-up version of that plan, the aptly-named Total Equipment Protection Plus, which comes with a dedicated tech support line. However, unlike Verizon and the other carrier insurance coverage, Sprint allows you to make three claims within a 12-month period instead of two.
That’s where the advantages of the Sprint plan end, though. The company’s options are the most expensive given the Total Equipment Protection costs $11 and the Total Equipment Protection Plus costs $13, both of which carry deductibles ranging between $50 and $200. Replacement devices are also frequently of the refurbished variety.
The verdict: Too expensive
Carrier plans are much more expensive than third-party offerings and manufacturer plans. Since you pay monthly, it adds up fast. However, coverage is good, if you don’t mind the price. Most carriers offer theft, mechanical, and accidental damage protection, along with quick-shipping for replacements (many of which are refurbished). And the pricing is mostly palatable, considering AT&T’s standard coverage is only $9 a month ($108 a year), Verizon’s is $11 ($132), and T-Mobile’s is $10 ($120). Only Sprint’s high-end plan is too pricey to recommend at $13 a month, or $156 a year.
Which carrier warranty you’re eligible for depends on your provider, but if you’re on T-Mobile, its plan is the most reasonable. The low monthly price (around $10) is roughly in line with coverage from the other four major U.S. carriers, and you get benefits such as Lookout Mobile Protection and AppleCare. Plus, the deductibles are the cheapest given its maximum of $175.
We recommend that you look at manufacturer and third-party offerings first before paying more money to your carrier.
If you pay your phone bill with your credit card, you’re likely eligible for smartphone protection through your bank or credit union. The plans cover damage and theft, and come in the form of a reimbursement. Submit the proper paperwork, and the insurance provider will pay for a replacement purchased from the store of your choice.
|First Citizens Bank||Fifth Third||Fidelity Bank and Trust||Wells Fargo||American Express|
|Accidental damage coverage||Yes, but excludes cosmetic damage||Yes, but excludes cosmetic damage||Yes, but excludes cosmetic damage||Yes||No|
|Mechanical damage coverage||No||No||No||No||No|
|Theft/loss coverage||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes; within 90 days of purchase|
|Claim limit||$1,000 per rolling 12-month period||2 within a 12-month period||2 within a 12-month period||2 within a 12-month period||Up to $10,000|
|New replacement device?||Yes; reimbursement up to $500||Yes; reimbursement up to $200||Yes; reimbursement up to $200||Yes; reimbursement up to $600||Yes; reimbursement for lost/damaged devices|
Not every plan offers the same coverage, though, and many exclude devices that other plans cover. American Express, for example, doesn’t cover phones purchased “for resale, professional, or commercial use” or “additional service contract or extended warranty coverage.” Fifth Third, on the other hand, won’t reimburse phones purchased as part of a pre-paid or “pay as you go” plan.
Here’s a compilation of the most common banks and their claim maximums — limited in all cases to two per year with a deductible of around $25 — from Magnify Money:
- Wells Fargo: $600
- First Citizens Bank: $500
- Hancock Bank: $500
- Credit Union West: $250
- Kinecta: $250
- Purdue Federal Credit Union: $250
- Quorum Credit Union: $250
- Suntrust (Visa Signature only): $250
- Community State Bank: $200
- Energy Capital Credit Union: $200
- Fidelity Bank and Trust: $200
- Fifth Third: $200
- Spirit of Alaska Credit Union: $200
- University and Community Credit Union: $200
- US Alliance Credit Union: $200
- Aggieland Credit Union: $200
- American Partners Credit Union: $200
- Education Credit Union: $200
- Friends and Family Credit Union – With Checking Account: $200
- Greater Texas Federal Credit Union: $200
- Hudson Valley Credit Union: $200
- IBM Southeast Credit Union: $200
- MCT Credit Union: $200
- Scott Credit Union: $200
- Tarrant County Credit Union: $200
- UnitedSA Credit Union: $200
If your smartphone’s value exceeds your plan’s coverage, you’ll have to fork out the difference.
The verdict: Good for accidents and theft
If price is the deciding factor, your credit card company’s coverage is worthy of consideration, especially if all you need is accidental damage coverage and theft coverage. However, the plans are no frills in the strictest sense — they don’t cover mechanical damage, and many only reimburse a small percentage of the total cost for repairs and replacements. But considering they’re free if you pay your phone bill with your credit card, it’s tough to complain.
Wells Fargo’s plan is an easy winner in this category. It offers the highest maximum reimbursement (up to $600) among the competition, and carries a low deductible ($25). Otherwise, the benefits are on par with other credit card company and bank insurance plans. The unusually generous reimbursement is the big draw.
We recommend that you check out your manufacturer’s warranty options and third-party plans if you are willing to pay for coverage. Credit card companies are only a good bet if you don’t want to pay a lot for coverage.
So which plan is objectively the best? Surprisingly, the ones offered by manufacturers and third-party insurers are the best options. Third-party insurers offer the most comprehensive coverage at the lowest prices, and they come with the added benefit of working for almost any device.
Carriers’ warranties are too expensive, as was Best Buy’s Geek Squad plan. Credit card companies offer more limited coverage, but they are free. The major downside to manufacturers’ otherwise good plans is that there’s no protection for loss or theft. That’s why we recommend third-party warranty plans.
Worth Ave Group’s warranty is the best of the bunch with its unlimited claims, low deductible, and promise to reimburse you for the cost of a new phone instead of giving you a refurbished replacement. Its plan also covers lost and stolen devices at no extra cost, which is rare.
Prices will vary based on what phone you have, but it’s worth paying a bit more with Worth Ave. Group to get the additional coverage and unlimited claims. You can check out how much it will cost you on the company’s website.
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