Bought a New iPhone? Don’t Lose It

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If you’re participating in the hoopla surrounding the much-awaited new release of the iPhone 4, here’s something to contemplate while waiting in line – If your new iPhone gets lost or stolen, it’s going to cost you up to $700 to replace it: more than the price of new home or many laptop computers.

While Apple is exceedingly accomplished at using media and advertising to create a cult following for its products, its not so great at revealing how much it costs to replace one. The cost for iPhones, for instance, is buried in barely legible print at the very bottom of this page of Apple’s website. Here’s the bad news:

  • $499 – 8GB iPhone 3GS
  • $599 – 16GB iPhone 4
  • $699 – 32GB iPhone 4

Insurance? Better than nothing – but not all that much.

Asurion is one company offering an insurance plan for the iPhone. It covers your phone if you lose it, it’s stolen, gets water damaged, etc. Cost? $12/month. Sounds good, until you get to the part about the deductible: $149 – $199 depending on the model.

You can already replace a damaged iPhone without insurance by going to the Apple Store and paying $199 (more on that below), so in the case of a damaged phone, the insurance isn’t helping much.

But if you lose your iPhone, or it gets stolen the first day you have it, the insurance is a good deal – you just saved up to $500 ($699 less $199). As with any insurance, however, the deal gets worse the longer you pay the premium. Lose your phone two years into your contract and you’re out $288 (24 months x $12) + $199: $487. That’s only saving you $212.

If that sounds like a good deal, you can sign up through their MobileProtect app in the app store within 30 days of purchasing.

Get a back-up phone

Last week I dropped my iPhone 3G in a swimming pool. Since that’s my only phone, not a happy scene. After waiting a few days to see if it would dry out and come back to life (no luck), I went to the Apple store for a replacement.

The good news? After fighting through the crowd, I found 3G replacements could be had for $199, as I explained above. The bad news? I couldn’t buy one because you had to have an appointment and the nearest appointment was three days away. I used a store computer and found they were also available on the Apple website – too bad the website was unable to process my transaction, presumably due to the heavy volume of Apple junkies clamoring for their next fix.

So I left the Apple store and went to the nearest AT&T store. I should have gone there first. While they didn’t have any replacement iPhones, they did have a perfectly functional, brand-new dumb cell phone (remember those?) that was only $50. I slid in my SIM card and was on my way in five minutes.

The best part? I just walked right in off the street – no crowd, no appointment necessary.

Now I’m not desperate. While the phone I’m using isn’t a status symbol, it will serve its primary purpose – making and receiving phone calls – while I decide whether to upgrade to iPhone 4, replace my water-logged 3G, try to buy a used 3G on eBay, or try something else entirely, like a non-cult product.

The lessons I learned from this experience I won’t soon forget, and neither should you.

  • That little computer you’re carrying around in your pocket is expensive to replace.
  • If you’re dealing with something from Apple, you’ll have extra issues resolving problems, especially if something goes wrong at the exact time another cult product is on the immediate horizon.
  • You should always have a replacement phone as a back-up: then if something goes wrong, you’ll be able to relax and carefully consider all your options rather than jumping at the first expensive fix you find.
  • Additional benefit of a back-up: If you’re going someplace where the odds increase of your smart-but-expensive phone getting lost, stolen or damaged (the pool, for instance) take your dumb-but-cheap phone.

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