For the uninitiated, AppleCare is an additional insurance option offered by Apple, that provides you with extra protection for your Macs, iPhone and iPad. Many people unfamiliar with Apple products may question why you’d need such a plan; after all, when you buy any other electronic item such as a TV, the likelihood of you taking out extra protection on it is minimal.
Maybe it’s the transparency of AppleCare that makes it such a tempting offer for many buyers. It can be quite comforting for someone buying an Apple product for the first time to be taken through the plan step by step by a genius in a brightly coloured t-shirt, and let’s face it, who can say no to a lovely genius in the Apple store?
That being said, where does this leave experienced users? People who have used Apple products for many years, myself included, still buy AppleCare with their products. As a student, AppleCare is something that I have always bought with my Macs. Not only do I get a lovely discount when buying it, but it virtually pays for itself in one repair.
AppleCare for Mac
Allow me to go off on a slight tangent for a second and tell you about a recent experience I had at the Genius Bar. Just under three years ago, I purchased the first generation aluminium unibody MacBook Pro (try saying that when you’ve had a few…), and it’s served me well ever since. A couple of months ago, I noticed that when I carried the laptop upright with the lid closed, the screen would pop open away from the top case slightly. It didn’t cause any major inconvenience to me, but I was slightly concerned that it could lead to some damage in the future.
As I explained my situation at the Genius Bar in Apple’s Manchester Arndale store, the Genius agreed that my MacBook probably shouldn’t be doing this, and checked it in for a repair for me, as my laptop was under warranty from my AppleCare. Ordinarily, Apple’s repair guarantee would expire after a year and I would have been left picking up a fairly hefty bill of over £150, more than the cost of AppleCare. You see, the problem was caused by a few magnets – two in the screen, and two in the top case – and to repair this, I got a brand new display, and a brand new top case. Essentially I’ve been left with a brand new laptop, externally at least. Round 1 goes to AppleCare.
AppleCare for iPhone
In my case, the additional insurance is always worthwhile when it comes to the world of Macs. With this in mind, when I left my Apple smartphone virginity behind me as I picked up the new iPhone 4S, I brought AppleCare along for the ride. With AppleCare for the iPhone, you get an additional year of insurance, giving you a total of two years for £61.
Like AppleCare for the Mac, accidental damage is not covered. The only problem is that you’re far more likely to end up with accidental damage on a device you’re carrying in your pocket and using all day. Case in point, I dropped my new, shiny 4S after two days of owning it. I know what you’re thinking, but what can I say? I’m clumsy like that. Anyway, the result of my clumsiness was a smashed back case. Ouch.
I took my iPhone down to the Apple store a few days later, and inquired, with no real hope of success, whether my plan would cover the damage. Naturally, it didn’t and I was faced with a rather modest bill of £25 to replace the damage. I’ve now learnt my lesson and rock a thin, transparent cover on the back of my phone to help protect it.
Considering that I am tied in to a contract that lasts only two years, I was left questioning whether AppleCare for the iPhone is really worth it. After all, you have a year of coverage if anything goes wrong with your iPhone that isn’t your fault, and after that year there’s actually a fairly good chance that your carrier would ship you a replacement if one of their units was malfunctioning. My advice? Save your cash and try not to drop your phone. Round 2 most certainly goes against AppleCare.
What are the alternatives?
If you buy an Apple product and don’t want to buy AppleCare, then there are other alternatives available to you. In fact, you don’t even need to go through Apple to get your computer or phone repaired. Third party companies such as iHospital allow you to mail your device to them for a repair, and they will fix it and send it back to you. Other local Apple authorised retailers can do repairs as well, although their costs may vary depending on the retailer.
Another solution would be to do the repair yourself. If you smashed the back case on your iPhone and don’t want to pay £25 to repair it, then you can pick up the spare parts online for around £10, but you’ll need a special screwdriver to open the case up. If you’re familiar with the insides of technology, then I’d suggest this, but be warned: you can make things a lot worse if you don’t know what you’re doing in there!
Ultimately, I can’t tell you whether AppleCare is good or bad; I can only offer you a few personal experiences and help you to make your own mind up. Hopefully I’ve done this to some degree, and given you a better insight of what is and isn’t covered by AppleCare. If you have any stories of your own to offer, feel free to sound off in the comments!