Do you pay for a protection plan for your phone?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: September 14, 2011

Smartphones are getting bigger, more powerful and more flashy with each and every generation. They are also becoming arguably more fragile. Instead of phones that were half keyboard, half display from a few years back, the vast majority of smartphones are now all-touchscreen phones with giant 4-inch (or greater) displays. Not to mention, they are now covered by glass as opposed to plastic coatings (for resistive touch input) before. (Plastic covers did, however, lead to a lot of busted LCDs, too.)

Despite some cell phone makers adopting Gorilla Glass, a chemically hardened glass to combat breaks and scratches, phones still break and screens still shatter. The glass cover of the display isn't the only breakable part of a phone. Quite often, in fact, internals can get jarred around and break loose before the display will shatter. Or maybe the LCD will bust while the glass stays intact. There are a hundred different things that can happen when you drop a phone, and it will always happen when you least expect it.

The obvious solution is to either not drop your phone, or to put it in a protective case. Even then, cases aren't always perfect and don't always do their job. For example, I dropped my iPhone on concrete from shoulder-high about a month ago. Despite being in a very tight-fitting case, the phone landed on one of its corners and the phone went one way (onto the asphalt, as my luck would have it) and the case went the other (into the grass, go figure). As you would expect, my heart stopped. But I was lucky and the phone only suffered minor scuffs. Call me crazy, but I don't think the case was designed to shoot off of the phone in the event that I drop my phone.

The sure shot way to protect your phone is by paying for a protection plan. Depending on where you buy your phone and which carrier you use, your protection plan – or insurance – can differ. But most of them are similar; you pay a monthly fee and if any physical damage (water damage is usually excluded) is done to your phone, you pay a deductible and a refurbished or “re-manufactured” phone will be sent to you in the mail.

This is nothing new. Cell phone insurance has been around for ages, but it's something people have never wanted to pay for. Owning a smartphone is expensive enough as it is. Paying an extra $5 to $15 per month (also per phone) can be a tough call to make on top of expensive data plans. I know several people who have upgraded to a smartphone and made a trade-off – canceling their insurance – to justify paying for the extra data fee.

While working in wireless sales, the hardest part of the entire sale was convincing customers that an insurance plan was worth their money. More often than not, the customers had no idea that by signing a contract, they were paying a reduced price for their phone. Trying to explain that the pocket-sized computer they just bought was actually worth $600 instead of $100 was often more trouble than it was worth. I wouldn't want to pay $14.99 per month for insurance either if I thought the phone was only worth $100. Nonetheless, some insurance plans are better than others and come with added perks, like covering lost or stolen phones, etc. And not all insurance is bad or overpriced.

That said, I don't practice what I preach. (So shoot me.) I do not pay for insurance of any sort for my phones. I run the risk of having to go out and throw down several hundred dollars for another unsubsidized phone if mine breaks. But I switch phones so often that the odds of me breaking one of them and not having a backup are pretty slim. It's happened before, but to me, it's worth not paying yet another fee every month. I have quite a few friends that refuse to pay for insurance, too. Of course, this leads them to contact me when their phone breaks and ask if I have any phones laying around that they can buy off of me – actually, this is about the only interaction I get on Facebook anymore.

I can't tell you how many smartphone users walking around in the Charlotte Metro area with a busted display. This tells me that they do not pay for insurance either. I'm curious, guys and gals. Do you pay for insurance for your phone? Or does the price outweigh the benefits?