iPhone 4S from Sprint? Depending on how clumsy you tend to be with mobile devices, you might want to consider adding the $99 AppleCare+ option at purchase, since those Total Equipment Protection plans are definitely out. A Sprint employee wrote in to detail us on upcoming service procedures, which include grouping a damaged device within three categories -- green, yellow and red -- after diagnosis. As you might imagine, green repairs are the easiest to deal with, and include 'minor damage' (i.e. cracked screens are out). These repairs will be handled for free within the first year for all customers, and within two years for those who purchased AppleCare+. Next up, the yellow category covers damage that doesn't fall within green, but is still repairable. Non subscribers will pay $199, while those with AppleCare+ will pay $49. Klutzes beware: you're limited to two yellow repairs, regardless of whether or not the device is in warranty. Finally, the red category is reserved for iPhones that provide little function beyond holding down a stack of papers or propping open your door. You'll need to pay the full replacement cost for red-labeled phones. None of these repairs will be handled in store -- iPhones will be shipped to Apple, though you're welcome to start the process at Sprint. Our recommendation: reach out to Apple directly, since your iPhone is probably headed there either way. And if you want AppleCare, don't forget to buy it at launch.
Updated: Sprint wrote in to let us know that device swaps (not repairs) can in fact be handled in store, so you won't always need to go to Apple.