AppleCare Vs Carrier Insurance: The Heavyweight Showdown

by Tim Chesonis | Last Updated: November 19, 2019

Apple’s iPhones are admittedly expensive. They are built out of high quality parts and the craftsmanship is second to none. What if your new iPhone screen cracks after a fall? What if a component within the phone itself fails? All 4 major phone carriers within the United States offer a “Protection Plan”. But so does Apple. So, which protection plan is the best and why?

AppleCare+ offered by Apple is hands-down better than all of the protection plans offered by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint for three primary reasons.

1) Your carrier uses third party parts
2) Your carrier will tie up your credit
3) Your carrier must determine IF they will cover your device

I have personally visited both the AT&T store and the Verizon store and asked for any brochures that each store had to confirm my findings on their respective websites. Additionally, I scoured each of the four major carrier websites and compared and contrasted their protection plans to AppleCare+ so that you can determine which protection plan is a good fit for you.

Why You May Want to Reconsider Your Carrier’s “Protection Plan”

All four of the major carriers in the United States, (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint), offer “protection plans”. To be fair, I compared Apple’s flagship phone, the iPhone 11 Pro Max 512gb unit across all carriers, and the chart below shows my findings.

AT&TVerizonT-MobileSprintAppleCare+
Accidental DamageNot OfferedNot OfferedNot Offered$12 /mo$12.99
Theft & Loss$15 /mo$15 /mo$15 /mo$19 /mo$15 /mo
Approval RequiredYesYesYesYesNo
Devices11111
Claims Per Year33322
Screen Repair$49 $29 $29 $29 $29 
Device Repair??$99 $140 $99 
Unit Replacement$250 $249 $250 $275 $269 
Activate Within30 Days30 Days30 Days30 Days60 Days
Warranty After Fix90 DaysNot DivulgedNot DivulgedNot DivulgedLife of AppleCare+
Replacement Warranty1 YearNot DivulgedNot DivulgedNot Divulged1 Year
Max Claim$2,500/Per$2,000 $1,200 Not DivulgedNo Limit

Below are some things of exceptional note per carrier. You can click on the link from each of the 4 major carriers listed below to see these findings for yourself. I have read the “fine print” for each of the four major carriers within the United States, and have brought out some major points that I think you will find of value. Each bulleted point in bold, is a direct quote from their website. My comments follow each bulleted point.

The AT&T Protection Plan Fine Print

  • Newly launched device models may not be eligible for repair. Visit phoneclaim.com/att or call 888-562-8662 to check current eligibility.

    So, if you buy a brand new iPhone when the iPhone in question launches, you “may not be eligible for repair“. Are you kidding!?
  • Claims may be fulfilled with new, AT&T Certified Restored or other models of like kind and quality.

    This means that they may replace the phone with a new device, but only if they don’t have a refurbished unit available. If they don’t have your phone, they will replace it with another model of like kind and quality. You don’t have a say in what phone you’ll get and they will ship you what they determine is “models of like kind and quality”.
  • Repairs may use new or refurbished parts, may contain original or non-original manufacturer parts, and may void the manufacturer warranty. Equipment may be refurbished or remanufactured and may contain original or non-original replacement parts.

    AT&T reserves the right NOT to use original parts, and if they do use refurbished parts, the 1 year warranty with Apple becomes void. Additionally, if your device is replaced, it will probably be used, or the parts may come from other used phones.
  • Colors, features and accessory compatibility are not guaranteed.
    Your replacement is not guaranteed to be the right color, or even the right phone. If it were the same phone, the accessory compatibility would be guaranteed. In other words, they could send you a different phone in a different color than the one they “insured”.
  • Any claim must be approved first to determine if device is eligible for coverage.

The Verizon Protection Plan Fine Print

  • There are literally 11 pages of fine print regarding the protection plan offered by Verizon. They link to this document from their website, where it reads, “See our device protection brochure for details. In summary, they promise “total protection”, but then condition “total protection” with 11 pages of fine print.

    They have one section within the 11 pages of fine print that reads: “WHAT THIS SERVICE CONTRACT DOES NOT COVER“, and the second item under that section states: “Defects or damage from misuse, abuse, accident or neglect“. Accident? Again, are you kidding? Isn’t that the point of a protection plan? You can check for yourself by clicking here and hit CTRL-F and search for the word “accident” (because “Accidental Coverage” is nowhere to be found in this document, which should be a BIG red flag.

    Basically, you have to call them and see if you are covered. How you answer their questions will determine if you are covered. If you choose to use the Verizon protection plan, be sure to read all 11 pages of the fine print before you call them for a repair. Again, if you answer one of their questions wrong, you may not be covered, and given how the contract reads, my guess is that they will try not to cover you.
  • To place a claim, you must submit one of the following in order for you claim to be processed: A valid Driver’s License, a US or Foreign Passport, a State or Federally Issued ID Card, or a Matricula Consular ID.

The T-Mobile Protection Plan Fine Print

  • T-Mobile offers what it calls, “Protection <360>”. Of of 4 major carriers, T-Mobile offers the protection plan that nearly matches the protection plan that Apple offers. This is because T-Mobile actually offers Apple’s “AppleCare+ Loss & Theft” protection plan.

    There are three major differences in what the T-Mobile Protection <360> plan offers, compared to what the Apple offers through AppleCare+.

    The first difference is that T-Mobile allows for 3 claims in a 2 year span, while Apple only offers only 2 claims in a 2 year span.

    Additionally, while Apple offers a flat fee of $29 each and every time a device requires a screen replacement due to a cracked screen, T-mobile only allows for 2 cracked screen repairs, and then charges $99 for each subsequent cracked screen repair for as long as they maintain coverage through “Protection <360>”.

    Finally, any claim must be approved first by T-Moble to determine if device is eligible for coverage. More on this later.

The Sprint Protection Plan Fine Print

  • Sprint has the most complicated protection plan, as they offer two types of protection plans. The first is through Asurion, and the other is through what they call “Sprint Complete Care”, which is AppleCare+ with a different name. The difference between “Sprint Complete Care” and what Apple offers through AppleCare+, is that Sprint charges $19 a month for the exact same service that AppleCare+ Loss & Theft offers. Apple only charges $15 per month for the same coverage.
  • If you opt for Sprint’s Equipment Service & Repair Program (ESRP), provided by Asurion, you will pay $29 for a cracked screen repair, $140 for “Device repair”, and $275 for to replace the device. Note, however, for approved claims, a repair or replacement device will be provided at their discretion.

    With AppleCare+ from Apple, a cracked screen will cost you $29, any other damage to the phone, (including device replacement), is $99. If you have “AppleCare+ Loss & Theft” through Apple, ($15 per month), and you either loose your phone or it is stolen, your deductible would be $269 to get a brand new phone, not a refurbished model.
  • Any Apple iPhone is ineligible for cracked screen repair for up to 60 days post release. This means, that under Sprint’s protection plan, if you purchase a brand new iPhone the day it comes out, and you happen to crack your screen within 60 days of the release of that release date, you will not be covered. With AppleCare+ through Apple, you are covered the moment you sign up.

    In fact, if you purchased the phone at the Apple store, and opted for AppleCare+ with your purchase, and you were to walk out of the store and drop your phone breaking the glass on the back of the phone, you would be covered. You could get a brand new phone for $99 by simply walking back into the store and showing them your broken phone.
  • If you want, “Tech Expert” may be available separately for $6/month. With AppleCare+ through Apple, this is available for free 24/7, and if needed, you can make a free appointment to see an Apple Genius at an Apple store. There is no additional cost and you can visit them as often as you like.
  • Any claim must be approved first by Sprint to determine if device is eligible for coverage. Again, more on this in a minute.

The Bottom Line

There are 3 Major Reasons NOT to Purchase a Protection Plan Through Your Carrier.

1) Your Carrier Uses Third Party Parts

The parts used to “fix” your phone may not be Apple components. They may be cheap third-party knock-off parts. The insurance company’s only concern is to save money, and if that means using third-party knock-off parts (that you will never see), they will do that. In fact, they may not even be parts designed for that specific phone. For example, they could use screws designed for an Android phone, but you would never know.

The danger is using third-party parts is that it voids the warranty on the phone. Let’s say you purchased AppleCare+ for your phone when you bought it, but forgot that you were covered by AppleCare+ when you cracked your screen. If you were to then use your phone carrier’s “protection plan” to “fix” your phone, and you then go to an Apple store to have them fix what your phone carrier’s insurance company botched, Apple won’t be able to honor AppleCare+ for that device, if they were to find third party parts in it.

The same would apply if you were to have one of the vendors in your local mall replace your cracked screen. If they were to use third-party parts, (and you know they do), it would void your 1 year limited warranty.

2) Your Carrier Will Tie Up Your Credit

Because your phone carrier does not fix phone issue in the store, you have to ship the device out for repair. They may even ship you a loaner phone until your phone is repaired or replaced, but if they do, they will place a hold on your credit for the amount of that “loaner” phone until your phone is shipped back to you.

To be fair, Apple would do the same thing IF they were to ship you out a “loaner” phone while yours is being repaired. For example, if you lived way to far from an Apple Store, where it would be prohibitive to drive to one. [As a side note, even Alaska has 5 retail Apple Stores].

However, if you simply bring your iPhone to an Apple Store for them to repair, there is no need to touch your credit. They will fix it right then and there. It might take an hour or two, but then your phone is fixed (or replaced), all without having to tie up your credit.

3) Your Carrier Determines If They Will Cover Your Device

This is something that I have a hard time wrapping my head around. If? Isn’t that the point of paying for a protection plan? Each of the four major carriers in the United States, holds this position. These carriers are AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. The links to each respective carrier that I have provided in each carrier section above, reveal common theme between all of them. If you simply click on each respective link and do a search for the word, “approval”, you will see that what I am stating here is true.

So, if you have been paying $15 a month for your carrier’s protection plan and submit a claim, they have the right to deny coverage. Perhaps they are deciding if, in fact, it was an accident, or if it was the damage was done intentionally. I do not know. What I do know, however, is that AppleCare+ purchased through Apple, (not through your carrier), will cover your device regardless of how the device was accidentally damaged, at any point during the coverage.

In no way am I advocating that you intentionally damage your phone. That is unethical. AppleCare+ covers accidental damage, not intentional damage. If you intentionally through your phone on the ground in front of an Apple employee in order to break it, you would certainly not be covered by AppleCare+, even if you had paid for coverage. AppleCare+ ONLY covers accidental damage.

With AppleCare+, if your device suffered an damage from an accident, you are covered. Apple does not qualify the accidental damage your phone suffered like your phone carrier does. No approval needed or required.

There is one more thing I want to mention regarding the big “IF“. With AppleCare+, the coverage does not depreciate over time. You are as covered 5 minutes after purchasing AppleCare+ as you are 1 year 11 months, 3 weeks and 6 days later. If your device fails to perform the way that it did the day you bought it, it will be fixed for you. If the maximum capacity of your battery life falls below 80%, with AppleCare+, you can make an appointment with an Apple technician and they will replace the battery for you.

A Real World Analogy

If I have not already convinced you that purchasing a “protection plan” through your phone carrier is a bad idea, allow me to offer a real world analogy in the hope of convincing you that purchasing AppleCare+ directly from Apple is your best option when considering protection for your new iPhone.

Let’s say that you bought a brand new car. Now, if you have ever purchased a new car, you know that before you are allowed to drive the car off the lot, the State requires that purchase car insurance for that new car. So, you purchase the best car insurance you can buy so that you are fully covered, believing that your car will be completely covered should you get into an car accident.

Not too long thereafter, you find yourself sitting a traffic light, only to be slammed into from behind. It was not your fault, after all, you were stopped at a traffic light.

Everybody is OK, but you know that your car is completely totaled as you watch the clean-up crew lift your car up onto a flatbed tow-truck to be halled away to the junk yard.

After calling your insurance company, you are surprised to hear that the insurance adjuster will have to visit the junk yard to see IF they would take responsibility for paying for damages.

Mind you, you have faithfully paid your monthly premiums and have never been late on a payment, so when you inquire as to why they need to determine IF they will cover the damage, they reply with the following:

“Well, we’ll see. We’re going to try to fix it first. I know that your car is a Volkswagen, but if we can fix it, we are going to use Ford parts to fix your car, because it will cost us less money.”

“If your car can’t be fixed and we have to replace it, we will . . . . with a used car, and it might be of a different make and model, from a different car company, and it might not be the same color . . . or car . . . in fact, it might be a truck, . . . it all depends on what inventory we have to pull from in our used car lot”.

Who in their right mind would purchase car insurance through this insurance company? There are no guarantees, and they determine IF they will cover it, and WHAT they will replace it with, if a replacement is necessary!

When you purchase a “protection plan” through your phone carrier, they determine IF they will cover the accidental damage, and they reserve the right to replace it with WHAT they deem appropriate. At best, you most certainly will get a refurbished phone with parts from whatever happened to be on the technician’s bench at the time.

Closing Thoughts

Clearly, you can see the value in choosing AppleCare+ over and above the protection plans offered by your phone carrier. With AppleCare+, you can take your device to an Apple Store and get it fixed with genuine Apple parts, or it will be replaced the same day. There is no need to ship the device out for repair, waiting days for a replacement. Though your carrier may ship you a loaner phone until your phone is repaired or replaced, they will place a hold on your credit for the amount of that “loaner” phone until your phone is shipped back to you.

If you place a claim with either AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, they will determine IF they will cover it and reserve the right to replace it (if necessary), with what they deem appropriate. AppleCare+ will cover your device regardless of how the device was accidentally damaged, at any point during your coverage.

Finally, understand that regardless of where you purchased your iPhone, if you have purchased it within the last 60 days, you can purchase AppleCare+ to ensure peace of mind knowing that your device is covered from accidental damage.


Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.