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Insure your iPhone, because AT&T won't

David Chartier

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Since I've owned a variety of regular mobile phones and smartphones over the last couple of years, I wasn't surprised to see fine print during the iPhone activation process which warns users that AT&T won't offer their insurance policy on Apple's darling new gadget. I've been on nearly every major mobile phone network in the US - Cingular, T-Mobile (and VoiceStream), Verizon and Sprint - and not one of them covered smartphones with their policies. In fact, if you were upgrading an existing AT&T account and swapping out your old phone that had an AT&T insurance policy on it, you too were warned that the policy would be automatically removed from your account. Gee, you'd think these companies don't trust us with small, easy-to-drop expensive electronics. Who knew?

To help remedy this lack of a contingency plan for the iPhone, I decided to call a few insurance companies in the Colorado area to see if they could cover it. What many people might not know is that these companies typically cover electronics like mobile phones and even notebook computers, often at prices far cheaper than extended warranty plans from manufacturers and retail stores. While I'm not entirely familiar with how fast actin' or comprehensive this kind of coverage is from every provider, I do know that mine - State Farm - will cover both hardware failure and accidental damage (though accidental damage will cause my premiums to increase, while an incident like theft will not).

Back to getting coverage for your shiny new phone, however, the summarized rundown I got from calling three of the big general insurance providers (Allstate, Geico and State Farm) is that attaching a clause to a renter or homeowner insurance policy specifically for covering an iPhone would add only $5-20/year to a policy. Keep in mind these were estimates based on a $600 iPhone, and it appears that you can't simply ask these guys to insure a phone; you need to have some kind of a primary policy with them first, then attach this specific clause. Surprisingly, every representative I spoke with knew exactly what an iPhone was, and a couple of them asked me whether I was happy with mine.

As far as coverage through companies like specialized electronics or computer insurance providers is concerned, I had a much harder time finding anything substantial. Most of the companies I spoke with didn't have policies in place, and only Safeware confirmed that they were "seriously considering" introducing iPhone coverage. They do, however, cover other smartphones, and a quote for a BlackBerry Curve (a $400 smartphone) was $65 for a year, covering accidental damage, loss and theft. A downside, however, is that repairs for damage have a turnaround time of 7-10 days, with no loaner options available. If being without a phone is a primary concern, the loner option included in AppleCare for iPhone might be a good 'plan b' to consider in combination with one of these insurance policies.

Ultimately it's a good thing to at least have insurance options in addition to AppleCare, since Apple doesn't cover any sort of accidental damage. Since insuring an iPhone through one of the larger companies seems to be so cheap, it's basically a no-brainer to pick up at least some kind of a policy. If y'all have other ideas or options for insuring your shiny new iPhone, please enlighten the rest of the class with a comment.

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