It was a beautiful October wedding some years back. The bride wore a princess-inspired ballgown and strolled down the outdoor aisle on the arm of her tuxedoed father, my husband's cousin. I was glad to have my iPhone 5 to snap some photos. We don't get to Arizona often, since it's 1,500 miles away from our Seattle home.
But while standing around outside chit-chatting before the reception, I made the mistake of letting my 7-year-old daughter borrow my fairly new phone to play Plants vs. Zombies. CRASH! It slipped through her fingers and smashed to the hot sidewalk. Now, it was my phone that was the zombie.
Right up until I flipped the damaged phone over, I told myself maybe it wouldn't be that bad -- I've dropped my phone dozens of times, and generally, it lives to see another day.
Hey, we all gotta go sometime. This was my phone's time. The screen was a shattered mess. That Arizona cement does not play. Just touching the screen stabbed my finger with a tiny shard of glass.
Cracked screens are still the most common way phones are damaged, according to a survey this month by Allstate Protection Plans. In the last year alone, people in the US have collectively spent more than $17 billion repairing or replacing their phones.
And while Apple has made huge strides in the technology onboard the iPhone over the years, their durability is still a thing of nightmares: Allstate's 6-foot drop test found that the latest model, the iPhone 15 Pro Max, shattered on impact with a sidewalk.
Since it's such a common occurrence, there are a few ways you can prepare for a broken iPhone, from AppleCare Plus to third-party insurers. Here's what I did, and some other ways to handle a shattered phone.
When my iPhone hit the sidewalk, I figured I was done for. My phone addiction was going to have to get put on hold until we flew back home and I had the time to figure out my next steps.
I was wrong. My husband, the tech geek in our household, scoffed at the idea of waiting several days and 1,500 miles till I could use my phone again. He bet me we could get it fixed before even trekking to the airport.
I had forgotten that we had paid for AppleCare Plus on our phones, meaning we essentially had an insurance plan that covered repairs. I'm usually the kind of person who shies away the hard sell from salespeople trying to push any form of extended warranty. I don't trust them, and if I've already paid big bucks for some device, I fight against any idea that I should give a store MORE of my money. Didn't I just pay you? And kind of a large amount?
But we'd ponied up for AppleCare Plus because our phones, for good or for ill, have taken over so much of our lives. It seemed like a good risk. I don't remember what we paid at the time, but current AppleCare Plus prices are listed here, and range from $4 a month/$80 for two years for an iPhone SE, to $10 a month/$200 for two years for the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. (It costs more if you spring for theft and loss coverage.)
I'm sure I still resented the cost when we paid for it. But boy, was I thankful for it as the wedding danced on.
Even something as ho-hum as getting your phone repaired seems weird outside of your own ZIP code. Where do you go, can you trust them and what if they can't get it done before you have to leave town? There wasn't an Apple store anywhere close to the former mining camp town (population 7,000) where the wedding took place. But we had to drive back to the Phoenix area to catch our flight, and thankfully, there were multiple Apple stores on the way.
And then, we got lucky. Back home in Seattle, I've had to wait as long as a week to get an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar. But somehow, the Scottsdale store had a next-day appointment. That morning, we bade farewell to the bride, groom and family, and drove the rental car 80-some miles to the store that had an opening. While the four of us -- me, my husband, my still-apologetic daughter and my 80-year-old mother-in-law -- strolled the connected shopping mall, those miracle workers at Apple popped out the destroyed screen and popped on a new one. Aside from one other not-so-visible chip, the rest of the phone was fine.
Not all my experiences with Apple have been this smooth. When I've had laptop issues in the past, Apple has had to send out my machine for repairs, and I've been without it for a week or more. Not ideal when you're a writer who depends on your device for work.
But this phone repair took maybe a couple of hours -- just enough time for my husband to pick out a pair of Vans at the mall, and for our daughter to ride the carousel with Mom. I had the phone back in time to use it for our online boarding passes at the airport. I think we paid $29. Without AppleCare Plus, it surely would've been hundreds more.
The what ifs
But what if we hadn't had AppleCare Plus? It certainly isn't the only option to protect your phone. In this article, CNET writer Mike Sorrentino examines whether AppleCare Plus or a cellphone insurance plan offered by some wireless carriers are the better deal. It's going to depend on your situation. You could also go with third-party insurers like SquareTrade, an Allstate company that covers accidents to your phone and offers repairs through a variety of ways, from mail-in to drop-off at a local store, including Apple products at the Genius Bar. Another company, Asurion, offers insurance for smartphones, tablets, consumer electronics and more, with screen repairs starting at $29.
The main benefit with other insurance, it appears, is that AppleCare Plus must be purchased within 60 days of when you buy your phone. SquareTrade, however, notes on its website that it covers "any phone, old or new," with "continuous coverage when you upgrade phones."
I'm no shill for Apple or AppleCare Plus -- I get no kickback from Tim Cook and have no stock in the company (I wish). I'm still super suspicious of extended warranties, protection plans and anything that salespeople try to ladle on to your purchase. But damn if AppleCare Plus hasn't saved my butt on more than one occasion, including this one. This wedding had a happily-ever-after ending after all.
Editors' note: CNET and Asurion have an advertising partnership. This story is editorially independent from that relationship, although CNET readers who click on the Asurion link earlier in the story can get a discount.