Could a cell phone case remove the need for expensive protection plans?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: February 2, 2012

Good cell phones don't come cheap. But a steep price tag says little about the durability of the device or the materials used to construct its chassis. And there's always a chance that we'll slip up at some point and lose our grip while walking through a parking lot. Accidents never fail to happen at the worst time possible, and replacing or repairing a phone can be a painful and expensive process.

That's why we like to recommend at least buying a protective case for your phone to help protect it against relentless concrete and asphalt. If nothing else, a case will absorb the worst of the shock. Your phone may take some damage, but it's usually nothing like it would have been had it not been in a case. They come in all sizes and in varying degrees of protectiveness, ranging from feather and ultralight cases (which do little other than add a little color to your device) to cases like the Defender Series from Otterbox.

Still, cases aren't perfect and they don't always do their job. I can recall at least two times (and I don't drop phones often) that cases have completely failed me, shooting off in different directions, leaving my bare iPhone unprotected off a nice big bounce.

The only other means of making sure your phone is safe is signing up for an expensive protection plan. Most of these protection plans are offered as an additional charge on your monthly wireless bill. In essence, when you make a claim, you pay a deductible, send your phone off and will receive a replacement (usually a refurbished) phone in the mail days later.

In other words, to feel protected from untimely accidents and to avoid paying full retail prices to replace a phone, we have to shell out more money. No matter how you look at it, protection plans are a necessity for most of us – they're still cheaper than buying a replacement phone sans contract.

What if we could have the best of both worlds – protection from a sturdy case and insurance without monthly fees – in one fell swoop?

That's what Michael Kane, CEO and Co-Founder of cellpig.com, and his team aim to offer with the cellhelmet (pictured above). On the outside, the cellhelmet looks like your average TPU iPhone case. However, when you purchase the cellhelmet, you have 30 days to register for an included offer:

"... one full year of guaranteed accidental insurance for your device (water damage excluded).  Drop it.  Throw it.  Step on it.  If your iPhone 4/4S breaks inside of a cellhelmet - you're covered."

Currently, the Pittsburgh-based company is looking for funding through Kickstarter. Once the $10,000 goal is pledged, production will begin. The cellhelmet will retail for $44.99, a low price compared to protection plans, which run as high as $14.99 per month.

I had the opportunity to chat with Kane earlier this evening and have a few of my questions about cellhelmet answered:

  • All claims will be made through a dedicated cellhelmet 1-800 number at Global Warranty Group, cellhelmet's insurance administrator
  • The customer will be responsible for shipping to cellhelmet and a $50 handling fee
  • After the device is received by cellhelmet, repair or replacement will take a maximum of three business days
  • Return shipping is overnight via UPS, free of charge to customers
  • Repair claims are unlimited, replacement claims are limited to one
  • No minimum wait after registering the product for claims
  • Renewing is as simple as purchasing another case for $44.99

If you ask me, this sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Sure, there is a $50 handling fee, and the customer is responsible for one-way shipping to cellhelmet. But even when you consider the price of the case, one claim and shipping, you're looking at roughly $110. If you pay $9 per month for insurance, that's what you're going to pay over the course of a single year without making a single claim. Not only that, but after your return period ends with a new device through your wireless provider, you can no longer add insurance to your device. With cellhelmet, you can add it at any time.

The problem is, cellhelmet is currently only focusing on the iPhone 4 and 4S. This means non-iPhone users are out of luck. However, Kane did say that they are willing to expand the project to other Apple products if the Kickstarter project pans out. Sorry, Android and Windows Phone users!

I really like the sounds of this deal, though. It seems like a fair trade-off for both the cellpig.com guys and customers. My only concern is how practical it is when it comes to shady customers. While Kane says there are safeguards in place, I'm not sure what is being done to stop people from buying a cellhelmet and registering it with an already-broken iPhone, just to get it replaced on the cheap. We'll leave that to them to figure out, and hope that's not the Achille's heel of the project.

Here's to hoping cellhelmet's Kickstarter project is a success and other case manufacturers (not to be named) can take a few notes. Tell me, ladies and gents. Would you buy a case that also came with insurance against accidental damage? Does $50 seem steep for a handling charge? Could you see yourself buying a cellhelmet over a carrier-provided protection plan?

Products mentioned