Is Apple Care Plus worth it?

Apple Care
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Care Plus is a form of insurance you can buy for Apple devices, from AirPods to MacBooks and iPhones. 

This can be a great way of protecting your gadget, whether you've picked from our list of the best iPhones, top Apple Watches or best iPads.

Apple Care Plus is a highly popular service. But is it worth it? If you run the numbers, Apple benefits more than us mere users because it generates profits from Apple Care Plus. In the end, the house wins.  

However, this does not mean it is not thoroughly worthwhile and something every Apple fan should consider, particularly if you take part in activities that put your devices at risk. 

For example, if you use your iPhone as a cycling computer or like to keep your mobile case-free, you could well end up saving a lot of money with Apple Care Plus. The peace of mind you get in the knowledge you aren’t going to have to fork out for Apple’s expensive in-house repair service should not be undervalued either. 

Let’s look a little closer into what Apple Care Plus gets you, and how much it costs. 

What does Apple Care Plus include?

There are two key parts to Apple Care Plus: insurance and technical support.

We don’t think the technical support is that much of a draw here, because most Apple products come with 90 days of telephone support anyway. That's what Apple Care (without the Plus) is.

Apple Care Plus effectively extends this to however long you stay subscribed to the service - but it doesn’t include getting a Genius bar employee to come over to your house to tell you the Apple TV remote doesn’t work because it has run out of battery, or anything like that. 

The Apple TV Plus remote

The Apple TV Plus remote (Image credit: Apple)

You’re most likely to bump into issues in the first few weeks anyway. If you encounter something later down the road, it may well be thanks to a software update that has introduced a bug — the solution to which is typically to wait for another update to come and fix it. This happens all the time. 

It’s the insurance that matters here. You may see the service described as a way to "extend your warranty”, but it’s much more than that.

Apple Care Plus breaks down into two levels. There’s standard Care Plus, which includes accidental damage such as dropping your phone into a swimming pool and breaking it (although current iPhones are remarkably hardy in this respect) or dropping it and smashing the glass. This stuff is not covered under a standard Apple warranty.

Apple Care Plus with Theft and Loss does just what the title implies. It covers you for the trickier situation when you can’t even show how damaged your iPhone is because it has gone bye-bye. 

At this point it might be sensible for us to highlight that trying to fiddle this system is fraud. Apple guards against this by limiting loss and theft coverage to devices that can be, and are, signed up to Apple’s Find My service. There’s no Theft and Loss option for MacBooks or tablets either. It’s only for iPhones, which is perhaps a shame, but the rest are usually easy to cover on your home contents insurance. 

The Theft and Loss plan is a bit more expensive than standard Apple Care Plus, but does mean you can potentially leave mobile gadget cover off your home and travel insurance — and that’s usually an expensive add-on. You are covered when abroad too. 

The iPhone 13 Pro Max in silver facing down on a table

The iPhone 13 Pro Max in silver facing down on a table (Image credit: Future)

Apple Care Plus prices

Ready for the bad news? Apple Care Plus isn’t like Netflix, where you buy one subscription and you’re covered. It’s something you buy for each Apple product you have, and also have to get it within 60 days of purchasing the gadget. This makes sense as it cuts down the likelihood of someone smashing their iPhone to pieces, signing up to Apple Care, and then doing their best to sound innocent when they get in contact with Apple’s customer services team. 

You are covered for two accidental damage incidents, or two theft/loss incidents, each 12 months. And Apple Care Plus also includes battery coverage, which kicks in when its capacity dips below 80% of its original design. Battery degradation typically takes years and years to happen in a MacBook, but it can be more rapid in iPhones thanks to the incessant cycle of draining and recharging. 

Here’s a run-down of Apple Care Plus costs for the most pertinent products, correct as of June 14. 

iPhone 13 Pro Series

  • $9.99 / £9.49/ AU$11.99 a month or $199 / £189 / AU$239 for two years
  • $13.49 / £11.99 / AU$15.99 a month with theft and loss, $269 / £239 / AU$319 for two years

iPhone 11-13 standard and mini

  • $7.99 / $6.99 / AU$8.49 a month or $149 / £139 / AU$169 for two years
  • $11.49 / £9.49 / AU$12.49 a month with theft and loss, $219 / £189 / AU$249 for two years

MacBook Air M1

  • $69.99 a year, $199 / £189 for three years
  • (Monthly plans not offered in UK, MacBook cover not offered in Australia)

MacBook Air (M2, 2022) in Apple Park, Cupertino

(Image credit: Future)

MacBook Air M2

  • $79.99 a year, $229 / £219 for three years
  • (Monthly plans not offered in UK, MacBook cover not offered in Australia)

MacBook Pro 13

  • $89.99 a year, $249 / £229 for three years
  • (Monthly plans not offered in UK, MacBook cover not offered in Australia)

MacBook Pro 14

  • $99.99 a year, $279 / £249 for three years
  • (Monthly plans not offered in UK, MacBook cover not offered in Australia)

MacBook Pro 16

  • $149.99 a year, $399 / £349 for three years
  • (Monthly plans not offered in UK, MacBook cover not offered in Australia)

iPad Pro 12.9

  • $7.99 / £7.99 a month, $149 / £149 for two years
  • (iPad cover not offered in Australia)

iPad Pro 11

  • $5.99 / £5.99 a month, $129 / £129 for two years
  • (iPad cover not offered in Australia)

iPad Air

  • $3.99 / £3.49 a month, $79 / £69 for two years
  • (iPad cover not offered in Australia)

iPad / iPad mini

  • $3.49 / £3.49 a month, $69 / £69 for two years
  • (iPad cover not offered in Australia)

Apple Watch Series 7

  • $3.99 / £3.99 a month, $79 / £79 for two years
  • (Apple Watch cover not offered in Australia)

Apple Watch SE / Series 3

  • $2.49 / £2.99 a month, $49 / £59 for two years
  • (Apple Watch cover not offered in Australia)

Plans can be continued beyond the 2/3 year packages offered here, and pricing will depend on the policies at that time. However, it’s worth checking how much your device is actually worth at that point. 

There are no big surprises here for those who have already looked into phone or gadget insurance. Expensive devices that are frequently damaged or stolen — iPhones in other words — are quite expensive to cover with Apple Care Plus. Ones that typically stay at home or are cheaper, less so. 

Should something happen, you do still have to pay an excess, also sometimes referred to as a deduction. For a smashed iPhone screen, it is $29/£29/$45AU. Theft or loss incurs a $149/£109/$229AU charge, and “other” damage a $99/£79/$149AU hit. 

iPad Pro 12.9 2021

The iPad Pro 2021 on a table. (Image credit: TechRadar)

This may sound a lot, but bear in mind a screen replacement service for an iPhone 13 Pro Max costs £316.44. Sign up for the 2-year coverage package and you’re still “in profit”, so to speak. And Apple Care Plus would let you make three additional damage claims in that 2-year window. 

What about relying on cheaper third-party repairs as a way to shrug off Apple Care Plus? Authorized Apple repairers do exist, but our searches found that these tend to cost the same amount as Apple’s direct service. And if you use a non-certified repairer there’s a high chance you’ll end up with non-official parts. Replacing the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s fantastic OLED screen with an LCD is a typical example. 

How do you sign up?

You can sign up to Apple Care Plus when you buy your device. It’s an option when you go through checkout on the Apple Store, and no doubt you’ll be offered it at a physical Apple Store location. 

Buy from somewhere else and don’t get offered it, or forgot to do so? You can get Apple Care Plus on the device itself. It’s Settings > General > About on iPads and iPhones, in About > This Mac > Support on Macs

For other devices, the quickest route is to buy it from the Apple Care Plus website.

What are the alternatives and is Apple Care worth it?

Apple Care Plus relies on you discovering that Apple’s pricey servicing costs make Care Plus a sound deal should anything happen to your phone or Mac. But what about other insurance services?

Let’s look at a few of the options. In the US, AT&T’s Protect Advantage costs $14 or $17 a month depending on the device — $17 for recent iPhones no doubt — and like the top-band Apple Care Plus this offers 2 theft/loss replacements in 12 months and three accidental damage claims, which is better than Care Plus. You’re also covered for unlimited smashed screen repairs, with a $29 surcharge. 

Apple Watch Series 7 images of watch on test

Apple Watch Series 7 images of watch on test (Image credit: TechRadar)

Alternatively, the $45 a month plan covers four devices, including ones that aren’t on AT&T. It’s effectively a family plan, and may prove to be an attractive alternative to Apple Care Plus where you sign up per-device. 

Squaretrade is another big alternative. It doesn’t cover theft or loss, but there are some compelling benefits here. It costs $8.99 a month regardless of the device, and the Family Plan covers up to four phones for $19.99 a month. Bargain?

There’s also a flat deductible of $149 for all claims. That’s OK if the damage is so bad you’ll need a replacement, but not great if you just need a front or back glass replacement, which costs $29 from Apple. 

Squaretrade will also cover MacBooks. A MacBook Pro plan will cost you $399 for 2 years, $549 for 3 years, with no deductible/excess or at a slightly lower cost with a $75 excess. These charges are significantly higher than Apple Care Plus (which varies by model), and while Apple has a $99 deductible for screen damage, a hefty $299 for all other damage, it’s enough to make the “official” insurance more attractive. 

For the UK we looked into Insure2Go, with insurance provided by Axa. It costs £9.99 a month to insure a 256GB iPhone 13 Pro Max, or £99.90 a year. This includes loss and theft, while a cheaper plan without either costs £6.99 a month or £69.90 for a year. They have a £150 and £125 excess respectively, the fee that comes with any claim made. Again, not good news for basic smashed glass repairs.

There are options like these that can work out cheaper, but it’s important to consider what you get here. Apple’s Care Plus reputation is excellent. Our research suggests it really is a pain-free service for users, particularly for repairs rather than losses, and Apple needs to make it such. If Apple Care Plus were bad it would reflect poorly on both the products themselves and Apple, not just the service itself. 

The quality of service you’re going to get from elsewhere will vary. And you should dig into the documentation before signing up. For example, in AT&T’s FAQ section we found this little nugget: “repairs may use new or refurbished parts and may contain original or non-original manufacturer parts and may void the manufacturer warranty.”

With a third-party service you are likely dealing with one company that outsources its repairs to another, which can exacerbate problems and create communication issues and delays. 

Replacement devices are likely to be refurbed in most cases, and this is another big plus for Apple Care Plus. Apple produces the best refurbs in the industry, using new outer casings for iOS devices. Refurbs are typically look and feel just like brand new products, just in slightly different packaging. 

Using other services, the condition of the replacement you’ll receive is less certain. It’s also worth checking exactly how quickly they promise to send out replacements and deal with repairs, and perhaps reading some user reviews online. Just bear in mind people are much more likely to write a review if they’ve had an issue, rather than a positive experience — gadget insurance is not something that elicits passion in many. 

Do we have a conclusion? Apple Care Plus seems the most sensible option if you want to have the best chances of avoiding headaches when your break or damage your phone or MacBook. It has a great reputation, and reports on the other services we looked at were a little more mixed. However, a third-party insurance package may make a lot of sense if you want to cover a whole family’s worth of phones, rather than paying per device. 

Andrew Williams

Andrew is a freelance journalist and has been writing and editing for some of the UK's top tech and lifestyle publications including TrustedReviews, Stuff, T3, TechRadar, Lifehacker and others.