For most people, buying a new computer or a mobile device is a big purchase. And, with big buys, there is often a question of just how you'll be able to insure it.
This is especially true for first-time Apple users. Pop culture has made us all fairly familiar with the Genius Bar and the modern aesthetic of the Apple Store, but there's more to Apple support than the retail experience.
Apple's core hardware products — Mac and Apple Display, iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Apple TV — are all covered by the same standard support plan. From the date of purchase, you'll receive a one year limited warranty and 90 days of tech support over the phone.
While each product will be different, the warranty will usually cover the device itself and the Apple-branded accessories included in the packaging against workmanship or material defects. The standard warranty doesn't cover non-Apple accessories, physical damage, or liquid damage to the device.
However, there are ways of extending your standard support and increasing its coverage through Apple's AppleCare program. The standard AppleCare protection plan extends the warranty plan and phone support for Mac, Apple Displays, ands Apple TV. AppleCare+ offers accidental damage protection on top of the extended warranty and support for iPhone, iPad, and iPod.
Here's what you need to know to make a decision on whether you should purchase AppleCare or AppleCare+.
iPhone, iPad, and iPod - The unholy trinity of cracked screens
When it comes to an Apple mobile device, it seems like everyone has a horror story. Maybe a seemingly short drop cracked your glass screen in a million places, or your phone went for an untimely swim. Whatever it was, it was painful to witness and it killed your device.
This is the main value add for AppleCare+. In addition to extending both your hardware warranty and phone support out to two years, this program gives you coverage for up to two incidents of accidental damage, with each incident subject to a device-specific service fee. As of this writing, the iPhone service fee is $79, the iPad service fee is $49, and the iPod service fee is $29, plus applicable service tax on all.
AppleCare+ is available at the time you make the purchase, and that is typically the easiest way to purchase it since it can be added to the device without issue. However, you can purchase AppleCare+ within 60 days of purchase, but it will require some gymnastics on your part. If you decide to purchase it after you purchase your device, you can do so through an Apple retail store, or by calling 800-275-2273.
If you purchase it through the AppleStore+, you'll need to bring proof or purchase of the device and an employee will need to inspect the device before it the coverage can be added. If you purchase coverage over the phone, you'll also need proof of purchase, and you'll be required to run a remote diagnostic to determine that your device is in good shape. The upfront cost of AppleCare+ for iPhones and iPads, at the time of this writing, is $99, and the upfront cost of the program for iPods is $59.
For the Apple Watch, however, the AppleCare+ service will look slightly different. AppleCare+ for the Apple Watch Sport and the standard Apple Watch will extend both the hardware support and phone support to two years, while adding up to two instances of accidental damage coverage. For the Apple Watch Edition (i.e. the gold version that starts at $10,000) AppleCare+ extends hardware and phone support to three years with the additions of the up to two instances of accidental damage. Pricing isn't yet confirmed for AppleCare+ for the Apple Watch.
To obtain a repair, you can take your device to any local Apple store, provided you have an appointment with the Genius Bar, or you can mail in your device using a prepaid shipping box that will be provided by Apple.
Mac, Apple Display, and Apple TV
Macs, Apple displays, and the Apple TV don't have any incidental damage coverage, but they all have the option of additional coverage through the standard AppleCare protection plan.
This plan also extends your hardware warranty and phone support. For the Macs and Apple Display, your warranty and support will be extended to three years from the date of purchase. For the Apple TV, your support and warranty will only be extended to two years from the date of purchase.
For the Apple TV, the initial cost of the plan is $29, which may not seem worth it being that the retail price of the device is now only $69. The plan is a better value for Mac customers, as it covers many of the expensive repairs associated with a computer for three full years. For non-incidental damage issues like a failing Logic board, which can cost over $1000, it is certainly worth it. The standard AppleCare plan for Macs and Apple Display ranges from $99-$349, based on the cost of the item.
Once again, it's easiest to purchase the plan when you purchase your machine or device, but AppleCare can be added at a later date. For Macs, Apple Display, or Apple TV, AppleCare can only be purchased and added to the device while it is still covered under the standard one-year limited warranty.
If you buy an additional Apple Display with your Mac, or your purchase one with a Mac Pro or Mac Mini, the display will be covered under the additional AppleCare you purchase for the Mac. AppleCare is available as a standalone option for just the Apple Display, but it will only cover the display.
For more information on AppleCare and AppleCare+, visit the AppleCare section on the Apple website.
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Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is News Editor for TechRepublic. He covers startups and enterprise technology and is passionate about the convergence of tech and culture.