Broken iPhone? Here's how Apple decides if you're getting a replacement or not

We've all felt it, that slo-mo shock-horror as your precious smartphone takes a tumble out of your hand. The relief when the screen returns to your hand unscathed is palpable, but it's enough to bring you to tears if you've ended up with shattered glass everywhere.

It's a feeling that's been keenly felt by butter-fingered iPhone owners, even though Apple offers its own Apple Care insurance policy. 

So what damage exactly is Apple prepared to cover you for, should damage (whether accidentally inflicted or factory born) appear? 

Damage details

According to a leaked technician document given to Business Insider, it seems there's a very detailed process involved in deciding which kinds of damage are covered by a potential replacement or repair session.

Credit: Business Insider

Credit: Business Insider

The “Visual/Mechanical Inspection Guide” (VMI) document covers outlines the assessment process for iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, 7, and 7 Plus.

For the most part, the warranty service handles damage that would have occurred mostly out of the owner's control unconditionally. Damage such as a user finding dirt or grit under the display glass, a dead pixel, a misalignment of the FaceTime camera's foam, or hairline cracked glass without evidence of an impact point are covered. And that's even if there's evidence of water damage. It's these issues where you're most likely to be offered a whole replacement unit.

Should you be out of warranty, Apple will also offer paid-for services to fix up repairable liquid damage, LCD fractures, damage to the camera caused by a laser, damage to the home button, a bent or split enclosure, damage to the audio or lightning connectors, and damage to the speaker or microphone grille.

However, there are some situations where Apple will outright refuse to service the phone. This includes any evidence of there having been third-party tampering with the device (such as a mismatch of internal components or the presence of non-Apple batteries), signs of intentional damage, or so-called "catastrophic damage" where a handset has obviously been through an extremely traumatic event that's left it in multiple pieces. 

Only Apple Care+ customers may find catastrophic damage covered, and again at an additional fee. Likewise, cosmetic damage is never covered (so you may want to check out our best iPhone cases round-up!).

With the iPhone 8 launch just around the corner, as ever the best course of action is to defend your iPhone like your life depended on it. Or, at the very least, pick up a model within your budget that, in the sad event of "catastrophic damage", won't break your heart if it gets blown up.

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Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.