New drop-tests find this is the most breakable iPhone yet – and without AppleCare+ it’s almost $300 to fix your screen
Updated: November 7, 2017
Apple’s most expensive iPhone ever, running $999 to $1,149, is also the “most breakable iPhone” yet, according to a new SquareTrade drop test.
SquareTrade – which, it should be noted, sells mobile device protection plans – put the 10th anniversary iPhone through its paces, including: Dropping the phone from six feet so that it landed on its face, its back and its side; a tumble test bouncing it around in a washer/dryer-style tumble for 60 seconds; dunking it in water for 30 minutes; and simulating it falling from the top of a car as the vehicle drives away.
And the drop tests left the expensive OLED screen inoperable, the TrueDepth sensor array unresponsive and/or shattered the glass back. After the tumble test, the phone wouldn’t swipe to unlock anymore. And after falling off the car simulation, the phone cracked on both sides and the Face ID stopped working. But the iPhone X did hold up well during the dunk test.
Of course, many iPhone X users won’t be dropping their phone from as high as six feet. But when consumer site CNET dropped the phone from just three feet, or pocket-height for most folks, the phone cracked on the first drop. [https://www.cnet.com/news/apple-iphone-x-drop-test/ ]
And the $1,000-plus smartphone will be almost as pricey to repair.
Buyers who don’t pay the extra $199 for the AppleCare+ extended warranty up-front will have to pay $279 each time they need to fix the cracked OLED screen – and a whopping $549 for any “other damage” to the 10th anniversary iPhone. And even if those who do pay for the $200 insurance policy will still pay a $29 premium to fix a cracked display, or $99 for other damage.
Michael Bonebright, Senior Editor with DealNews, told Moneyish that all iPhones come with a year of hardware repair at no extra charge under the limited warranty. So he generally doesn’t recommend buying AppleCare+ as long as you’re pretty careful with your device, and you’re part of a program that will upgrade your phone at the end of the year.
“However, if you’re planning to keep your iPhone X for two years or you’re clumsy, your choice is a little harder,” he said.
For one thing, that free limited warranty doesn’t cover “accidental damage,” which includes spiderwebbing your screen by dropping your phone. That limited plan just covers cracks due to a “manufacturing defect,” which could be hard to prove. AppleCare+ does include accidental damage, like your toddler chucking it against a wall.
But considering AppleCare+ costs $199, and you still have to pay $29 to fix your screen on top of that, then a single repair is still costing you $228 – only $51 less than the $279 you would pay without the insurance. And if you don’t need to repair your phone, then that’s $200 down the drain. Plus, AppleCare+ caps at two repairs over two years – after that, you’re paying $300 and up to fix your phone like everyone else.
“AppleCare is widely regarded as the gold standard in warranty programs, but I can’t justify paying that sum up-front,” Bonebright concluded.
He’s seen deals on older Apple devices in the past where the AppleCare+ was bundled in, like T-Mobile’s Premium Device Protection for the iPhone 7 last spring that covered theft and loss protection, plus AppleCare, for $12 a month, or $144 a year.
“My advice is to wait for an offer on the iPhone X that includes AppleCare+,” said Bonebright. “We’ve predicted that we’ll start seeing real discounts on iPhone X in February, so that’s when I’d look for those sorts of bundles.”
Consumer Reports has also cautioned against buying into extended mobile phone warranties, because they have high up-front costs, and monthly smartphone premiums are $10 or more ($120 or more a year) with service deductibles above $100.
“In general, I’d say the vast majority of smartphone owners are far better served by buying a durable case than by paying for insurance each month,” Bonebright added. “It may not be aesthetically pleasing, but a bulky case is a one-time purchase that’ll save you hundreds by protecting your phone from daily wear and tear, as well as most small falls.”
OtterBox has also developed a $39.95 Symmetry Series Clear case to protect your device while still letting its elegant design (and color) come through. And Zizo has a $34.99 military-grade Bolt Case and a tempered glass screen protector that was drop-tested at 12 feet, if you really want to cover your bases.
Then again, the iPhone X’s $1,000-plus pricetag puts it in another league if something tragic does happen to it beyond a screen protector’s control.
“In general, the more expensive a phone, the smarter it is to have insurance. That way, you’re not left paying $1,000 for a replacement,” Courtney Jespersen, a consumer savings expert at NerdWallet, told Moneyish.
If you’re looking for peace of mind, Jespersen suggests doing your homework to see what coverage you get from your cellular carrier’s protection plan, or what other smartphone coverage plans are out there, including SquareTrade and AppleCare.
Here are few things she says to watch out for:
- The deductible. Check what you would still be on the hook for through your carrier’s protection plan, as well as with AppleCare+ and SquareTrade. “In the past, we’ve seen insurance deductibles that cost hundreds of dollars,” she said.
- The replacement. You’re not necessarily guaranteed an identical phone to replace yours. It may be a different color – and it may not even be new. “In fact, it could be a refurbished model,” she said.
- The limitations. Most insurance providers will limit you to two claims within a 12-month period. Apple’s is two claims within two years.
- The cost. There is the risk that you’ll pay for the insurance and never use it, so consider just how much money you’re potentially losing up-front to what you’d have to pay to replace the phone. That’s nearly $1,000 for the iPhone X – so while $200 smarts, it’s better than forking over another grand.
This story was originally published on November 1, 2017.
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