AppleCare+ was introduced in conjunction with the iPhone 4S, offering buyers of Apple's latest mobile phone technology the ability to protect their purchase for two years, even if the incident is accidental (a feature not available with previous versions of AppleCare).
The original plan for AppleCare+ was to offer the ability to purchase it at the same time as your iPhone 4S purchase. For $99, users receive phone support and in-store technical support for two years from the purchase date of their phone as well as the ability to get the phone replaced at a discounted rate of $49 should accidental damage be the reason for replacement.
Are you still with me? Good, but it was a little more complicated as I found out when going with my girlfriend to purchase her iPhone 4S about a week ago. According to the Apple Store associate who helped us, customers had to purchase AppleCare+ for their iPhone 4S at the same time as the phone, or you could still purchase AppleCare+ if you had to get your iPhone 4S replaced for accidental damage, but only if it occurred in the first year.
Basically, if the phone was going to be dropped, it had to be within the first year to take advantage of AppleCare+.
Thankfully, Apple has revised its policy for AppleCare+ and made it easier for customers to figure out if they want (or need) it. The new policy states that customers may still purchase AppleCare+ at the same time they purchase their iPhone 4S or they can wait up to 30 days to get it. However, if you wait, you must bring your iPhone 4S into an Apple Store to have it inspected at the Genius Bar before purchase.
The changes made a confusing product much less confusing. The real question is whether AppleCare+ is worth it. For $99 you get a discounted rate for two accidental damage incidents of $49 each. You also get the two-year in-store and by-phone customer support. I purchased AppleCare for my iPhones and MacBook Pro and needed it on multiple occasions for both. If you think you might be the type to drop your phone, you should definitely get it.
Have you purchased AppleCare+ for your iPhone 4S? Let me know in the comments!