Should you get Smartphone Insurance?

April 26, 2015

samsung_phone_cracked-a9eebab88f4542a745a166c51250833bThis is a question I ask myself whenever I upgrade or buy a new smartphone. With the average list price of a smartphone costing upwards to $800-$1000 US these days (similar to a laptop!), do you also need to buy insurance to protect your investment? Unlike a laptop, you’re more likely to drop your smartphone or get it wet because you carry it with you almost the entire day. Although I’ve only dropped my smartphone three times in the last 5 years or so, most people drop their phones on a regular basis. For example, my two teenage nieces have iPhones and they’ve drop their phones numerous times; cracking the screen, breaking the display, and once my niece even ran over her phone in her car! In their situation, they took their iPhones to a nearby fixit shop which changed out the broken class for $150.

In my case, I just purchased a Samsung Galaxy S6 which cost nearly $800, so I wanted to protect my investment with some kind of insurance. Even though I rarely drop my phones, my concern was glass breakage (since there is glass on both the front and back of my S6), and water damage. Also, any possible damage to the LCD touch screen display due to drops or falls. Theft and loss wasn’t a concern, since I usually keep my phone in my front pants pocket and I’ve never lost a smartphone before. So, I surveyed a few common insurance options to see what would be the best for my situation.

AT&T’s Protection Plan (Asurion)

Nearly all cell phone carriers offers a protection plan where they apply a small monthly charge to your bill and you pay a deductible when you make an insurance claim. With AT&T, the cost is $6.95/month and with each claim you pay $199 (their plan covers damages and loss/theft). If you read terms and conditions of this coverage, you’ll see that AT&T uses a company called Asurion which handles the insurance claims. So, AT&T doesn’t provide the insurance coverage directly. Asurion will provide you with a refurbished phone or at their discretion provide you with a similar phone. The word “similar” could mean a phone of a different color or style, or even an entirely different model. They say this clause in their agreement is necessary in case your particular brand of phone doesn’t exist anymore, however, it also gives them freedom to provide you with any similar smartphone under this coverage plan. I’ll have to note, that the deductible for this plan starts out at $199 per claim, but it drops to $150 after 1 year and $100 after 2 years.

Personally, paying $6.95/mo and having a $199 deductible is rather expensive if I’m wanting insurance for glass breakage and/or water damage. And the fact I’m getting a refurbished unit from an insurance company really bothers me, especially after I’ve read numerous complains about Asurion’s service and practices.

If we use the scenario where I keep my phone for two years and I need to file a glass breakage claim within the first year, the cost would be $6.95 x 24 months + $199 = $365.80.

SquareTrade Protection Plan

SquareTrade is a very popular insurance company that provides coverage for Smartphones. If you check out their website, you’ll see that their most affordable plan costs $99 for two years of coverage with a $75 deductible per claim. Unlike AT&T, SquareTrade does not cover loss or theft, just physical damage (including cracked screens and water damage). So, this plan sounds pretty good until you read the terms and conditions. Similar to Asurion, you’ll see the clause, “Replacement parts will be new, rebuilt or non-original manufacturer’s parts that perform to the factory specifications of the product at Our sole option.” Also, at SquareTrade’s discretion will repair your damaged product or provide a cash settlement or a Gift Card reflecting the replacement cost of a new product, or replace your product with a product of like, kind, quality and functionality. So similar to Asurion, they have a lot of leeway on how to fulfill your claim request.

If we again use the scenario of keeping the phone for two years and filing one glass breakage claim within the first year, the cost would be $99 + $75 = $174, which is about half the cost of the Asurion plan.

Now, there’s several other protection plans available by other companies which are similar to Asurion and SquareTrade. Some are cheaper, some are more expensive, but they all seem to operate with similar terms and conditions. If you do a Google search of all of these companies, you’ll come across a lot of complains on service and length of the repair or reimbursement, etc. I personally want to avoid all those hassles and just have my broken smartphone fixed.

Samsung Protection Plus Mobile Elite Plan

A third option, is to sign up for Samsung’s own protection plan. This plan is basically an extended warranty for your Smartphone that also covers breakages from drops and water damage. Under this plan, you pay $99 for two years of coverage and a $75 deductible per claim. Also, if at some point you decide to cancel your coverage Samsung will refund you a pro-rated amount depending on when you cancel (SquareTrade does something similar).

In Samsung’s terms and conditions they will send you a refurbished unit within two days of approving your claim, and you return your damaged unit in the mailing box. Although they are providing a refurbished unit, I do feel more comfortable receiving such a unit from the manufacturer rather than a 3rd party insurance company. My belief, is that Samsung is a manufacturer that makes products and they want to keep their customers satisfied and buying more Samsung products since that is what generates revenue for them, while insurance companies like SquareTrade and Asurion generate revenue by customers not filing claims. I would think that Samsung has a big incentive to providing a top-notch refurbished unit versus what SquareTrade or Asurion would provide. But again, I’ve never filed a claim with any insurance company so I’m only speculating based on what I’ve read in online comments by other customers.

Examining our same glass breakage scenario, the cost would be $99 + $75 = $174, which is the same as with SquareTrade.

Local Fix-It Shops

Another viable option is to not get any insurance, and repair your phone when it gets broken. I live in the Seattle area, and there’s a popular shop called Jet City Repair which does iPhone and Samsung phone repairs. From their website they don’t have the Samsung Galaxy S6 listed (probably because it was only released two weeks ago), but cost to replace the glass front for a Galaxy S5 is $149. To replace the glass front, LCD screen and digitizer is $279. They state they can do the repairs usually in the same day, which is convenient. So, this is a viable option in case you opted out from getting insurance but need to have your damaged phone repaired. Of course, if dropping your phone caused more damage than just broken glass or LCD screen, who knows what the repair costs would be.

Conclusion

So in the end, insurance is something you buy for your own peace of mind. You’re paying a small upfront fee to avoid having to pay a huge replacement price later. Some people feel safe having insurance, while others feel paying the insurance fee is just a waste of money.

Personally, I decided to go with the Samsung Protection Plus Plan. My biggest fear is dropping my phone and breaking either the front or back glass. I’m going on a big 3-week road trip later this summer, and I’m concerned with drops and possible water damage during my travels. Paying $99 for Samsung’s extra coverage is worth it to me. I can always cancel and get a pro-rated refund if later I decide to drop coverage or upgrade to a new phone in 18 months or so. I also feel better getting a refurbished unit from Samsung rather than Asurion or SquareTrade.

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Great AT&T Cell Service Coverage

April 25, 2015

imagesAlmost exactly two years ago, I upload a posting about switching from Sprint to AT&T Service. I’ve been using AT&T for my cell phone and iPad data service since then, and I’m still very happy with the LTE coverage. I live in the Seattle area, and get great fast data service. I’ve also driven on I-90 East towards Idaho, and for most of the way I get excellent LTE coverage. I’ve also been on two West Coast road trips where my family has driven down I-405 from Seattle all the way to San Diego and for the majority of the way we’ve had excellent cell service.

My son has an iPad with AT&T cellular service, and he used it for most of the road trip to San Diego watching YouTube videos and playing online games, and he rarely complained about losing service. That alone, is a huge testament to the excellent coverage that AT&T has for the West Coast.

Strangely, the only place where my AT&T coverage was poor or weak, was at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. From my last visit a few years ago, my cell phone connectivity was very sporadic. Maybe that was done by design by Disney to keep their visitors focused on spending money rather than checking email or text messages on their cell phones.

So in summary, I’m extremely satisfied with my AT&T service. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on where you live and work, but I’m definitely glad my family switched off of Sprint!


Aging iPads and Tablets

November 3, 2013

imgresMy son has been using my wife’s original first generation iPad for running games and watching Youtube videos, but this 1st gen iPad is showing its age since it cannot install certain games that require a gyro or front facing camera. As such, my wife suggested that she upgrade her iPad to the newest one and hand her current iPad 2 down to my son.

In a previous blog posting I talked about  AT&T excellent smartphone trade-in program which netted me $500 US by trading in some old used smartphones. I recently discovered this also works for tablets and iPads as well. When I checked how much a used 1st gen iPad would fetch, AT&T’s trade-in site gave a value of almost $200 US. That’s actually pretty good for an iPad that’s been around for a while. I also checked a pristine Blackberry Playbook tablet that I got free as a developer and it was only worth $10. My 1st gen Kindle Fire tablet also had a similar value of $12. Such a big contrast in value between the iPad and lower cost Android powered tablets.

AT&T also is offering $100 US if you sign up for a 2-year agreement for cellular data for Tablets, so I probably will do that to help defray the cost of a new iPad for my wife. Gotta love those trade-in programs, since it’s much less hassle trading your old devices than try to sell the on ebay or other used devices site.


Trade in your old phones to AT&T for $100 each!

May 19, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-05-19 at 11.49.40 AMAT&T has a new promotion running currently where you can trade in your old smartphones for $100 store credit. Even if your old phone is worth less than $100 in their system, they will round the value up to a minimum of $100!

After buying my HTC One recently, I was planning to send in my previous Sprint HTC 4G EVO LTE phone into HTC for their $100 Trade Up offer, but with that I would have to package up my phone for shipping, get postal insurance, etc. and I would need to wait 4-5 weeks before getting a VISA credit card back from them. It was much easier for me to just take my phone into my local AT&T Store and have them do the paperwork and give me $100 credit (which I had them apply to my AT&T cellular account).

I also rummaged through my desk drawer and found 4 other old smartphones that were eligible for trade in:

  • Sprint Blackberry Curve 8330 (The oldest phone of the bunch, which still powered up after charging)
  • Verizon Palm Pre Plus (which I got from a Palm developer’s conference)
  • Verizon Palm Pre 2 (another phone from a developer’s conference)
  • AT&T HTC Surround (which I bought off eBay a few years ago for testing Windows Phone 7 apps)

All of these phones were rather useless to me now, so it was great being able to trade them in completely hassle free to AT&T and get credit. In the end, I got a total of $500 which helped to offset the $150 ETF fee I paid to cancel my Sprint contract and jump to AT&T.

You can check out the value of your phone from this web link below. I think the $100 round-up offer will expire at the end of this month, so take advantage of it soon if you can.

https://tradein-program.att.com/home.php5?c=en-us


Watch-That-Data!

May 4, 2013

wifiOne thing that I’m very conscious of since switching to AT&T’s 3 GB data plan, is the amount of internet data I download on their cellular network. With the unlimited data for my old Sprint network, I could stream Google Music, Podcasts, Pandora, etc. (albeit very slowly) without a care about how much data I was downloading. Now with a 3 GB per month cap, I’m very aware of how much data I’m downloading.

Although I’ve now got a data cap, I still try to go about my daily business using my Smartphone as I normally do. I’ve so far only made a few changes to my setup and usage:

  1. Instead of streaming music from my Google Music cloud account, I now download all my music files to my smartphone and play them locally.
  2. When possible, I try to download my daily podcasts while on WiFi instead of streaming on the cellular network.
  3. I’ve set the Google Play Store to not download updates for my apps unless I’m on a WiFi connection.
  4. I usually don’t stream videos unless I’m on WiFi.

So far, my plan seems to be working ok. I can still access news feeds, forums, email, via the AT&T Network, and do any high-bandwidth data transfers while on WiFi. And if I go over my 3 GB limit for the month, I’ll only be charged $10 US for another 1 GB of data transfer (which is about the cost of a single average lunch). Can’t complain!


I Just Love AT&T’s 4G LTE!

May 2, 2013

imagesIt’s so great to have switched from using Sprint’s 3G (really, 2.5G) data speeds to AT&T’s 4G LTE. I almost always have the “4G LTE” logo lit up on my phone, and if not it drops down to 4G (which is still pretty fast). With this kind of great speeds I feel like I’m at home on my WiFi network. No more waiting for browser web pages to load, etc. It just works, always!

I also like AT&T’s nice feature where my smartphone will automatically connect to any AT&T WiFi Hotspot I come across. This means for example, whenever I walk into a Starbucks or McDonalds restaurant my phone will automatically connect to their WiFi system (for free) without me having to deal with bring up my web browser, tapping an “I agree” authentication button, etc. I’m just connected!

It’s the little things like this that reinforces my belief that I made the right decision to switch from Sprint to AT&T. Sure, Sprint might have 4G LTE in my area someday, but that probably won’t happen for another year or longer at the rate they are deploying their upgrades.


HTC One Smartphone – Best I’ve Ever Owned!

April 28, 2013

imagesI’ve had a number of smartphones over the years (Palm, Android and Apple), and I have to say my new HTC One is the best one I’ve ever owned. It is a finely crafted device, machined milled from a single block of aluminum (similar to the latest iPhone). The phone is quality constructed, and has a much richer feel than the plasticity Samsung Galaxy Smartphones.

I’ve had mine for about 1 week now, and it has performed fantastically. Very speedy processor, super crisp and bright screen, and the battery will go through my 9 hour work day with 60% power still left. The camera is also great, with cool software features like object removal and multishot editing. It’s just an all around great phone, and I’m glad to have one based on GSM technology running on the AT&T network.

I highly recommend you check out the details on HTC’s web site.