Did the screen of your iPhone smash when it slipped from your hand? Did you drop your iPhone in the toilet? Or perhaps the battery on your iPhone seems to be draining more than you'd expect it to. It's happened to the best of us, of course the big question on your lips will be: "Will Apple replace my iPhone for free?"
Apple now offers AppleCare+ protection in the UK, which means it will replace an iPhone that has suffered accidental damage. You only get two chances for a replacement though, and it costs £79, though, and there's a chance you'll be charged a £55 excess fee.
If you don't have AppleCare+, what are your chances of getting Apple to replace your iPhone? It's actually quite unusual to expect a company to replace a product when you break it, however, when it comes to the iPhone people have high expectations that Apple will switch it for a new one, either because they spent so much on the phone in the first place, or because when you sign up to a contract for a year or two you expect the phone to last the journey.
This article is in three parts:
For more information about whether to take out iPhone insurance read our article: is iPhone insurance worth it. We help you decide which iPhone Insurance policy is best for you here.
(If you happen to have dropped your iPhone in the toilet, here's how to fix that: Emergency fix: How to recover a drowned Apple iPhone)
iPhone lock button broken? Try Apple's iPhone 5 power button replacement programme
In April, Apple confirmed that some iPhone 5 smartphones have defective power buttons and is offering a free replacement.
"Apple has determined that the sleep/wake button mechanism on a small percentage of iPhone 5 models may stop working or work intermittently," Apple said in an online support document.
You can find out whether your iPhone 5 is eligible here.
If you've got a broken lock button on your iPhone 5 or other iPhone model but are not eligible for the replacement program, you can find out how to use the handy lock button workaround here.
iPhone battery faulty? Try Apple's iPhone 5 battery replacement programme
Apple is offering a second replacement program for iPhone 5 users. This time it's the phone's battery that's giving users headaches. Apple says that a "very small percentage of iPhone 5 devices" may be experiencing poor battery life, requiring users to charge the device more frequently. We actually found that three out of six iPhone 5s we checked for eligibility in Apple's battery replacement program were eligible, so it seems like more than a "very small percentage" to us!
Affected devices were sold between September 2012 and January 2013, and are within a specific serial number range, Apple says. You can check your serial number on Apple's website to see if your phone qualifies for a free battery replacement. You'll find your serial number by going to Settings > General > About > Serial Number.
If you have an affected device, you'll have the choice to replace your battery free of charge at the Apple Store, an Apple authorised service provider or you can send it off to Apple Technical Support.
However, the catch is that if your iPhone 5 has a broken screen, cracked back or any other damage that may impair battery replacement is fixed, which Apple is unlikely to do for free (read on to find out more).
For those with battery woes but no option to get a replacement from Apple, check out our iPhone battery saving tips for help.
But can you expect Apple to replace your iPhone for free if it's not part of either of these replacement programs? To answer this question there are a few things that need to be considered.
PART ONE: WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?
First things first: If you have only had your iPhone for a year or two there are actually laws that may mean Apple, or the company that sold it to you, have to replace your iPhone. If you are going to exercise your consumer rights its worth giving Apple's warranty conditions the once-over, along with the legal requirements Apple would have to abide by in the UK.
What does Apple's warranty include?
Every iPhone comes with complimentary telephone technical support for 90 days from your iPhone purchase and a one-year limited warranty detailed here. Specifically, Apple's warranty covers the following: "Apple warrants the Apple-branded iPhone, iPad or iPod hardware product and accessories contained in the original packaging ("Apple Product") against defects in materials and workmanship when used normally in accordance with Apple's published guidelines for a period of ONE (1) YEAR from the date of original retail purchase by the end-user purchaser ("Warranty Period"). Apple’s published guidelines include but are not limited to information contained in technical specifications, user manuals and service communications."
What doesn't the Apple warranty include?
While the Apple warranty means that your iPhone is covered for a year from the day you purchase it, Apple states that its Limited Warranty for iPhone excludes coverage for "damage resulting from accident, disassembly, unauthorized service and unauthorized modifications." The warranty may also be void if the Liquid Contact indicator in your product has been triggered.
Apple states in the legal document that the warranty does not apply in the following cases: "(a) to consumable parts, such as batteries or protective coatings that are designed to diminish over time, unless failure has occurred due to a defect in materials or workmanship; (b) to cosmetic damage, including but not limited to scratches, dents and broken plastic on ports; (c) to damage caused by use with another product; (d) to damage caused by accident, abuse, misuse, liquid contact, fire, earthquake or other external cause; (e) to damage caused by operating the Apple Product outside Apple’s published guidelines; (f) to damage caused by service (including upgrades and expansions) performed by anyone who is not a representative of Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider (“AASP”); (g) to an Apple Product that has been modified to alter functionality or capability without the written permission of Apple; (h) to defects caused by normal wear and tear or otherwise due to the normal aging of the Apple Product, or (i) if any serial number has been removed or defaced from the Apple Product."
However, Apple does note that even an iPhone that is ineligible for warranty service may be eligible for Out-of-Warranty (OOW) Service (for a price). That is as long as it meets the requirements of the OOW service. Certain damage is ineligible for OOW service notes Apple, including: "Catastrophic damage, such as the device separating into multiple pieces, and inoperability caused by unauthorized modifications."
What does AppleCare include?
Apple sells AppleCare protection to extend that telephone and warranty support that comes with your iPhone from 90 days to two years. You have to purchase this wothin 30 days of your iPhone purchase.
If you've already got AppleCare, you may have the original more limited version, but those who purchase AppleCare for their iPhone will now only have the option to choose AppleCare+, an extended service that provides expert technical support, up to two years of additional hardware coverage and up to two incidents of accidental damage coverage. It costs £79. In addition to being able to take the iPhone into the store, under AppleCare+ it is possible to get an express replacement service.
Under AppleCare+ you are only able to drop or accidentally damage your iPhone and get it replaced twice. Some point out that there are other insurance plans that will replace your iPhone more times should anything happen to it. You may want to consider this while deciding whether to pay your £79.
With AppleCare+ you also get additional hardware coverage that covers the battery (battery depletion of 50 per cent or more from original specification) and the included USB cable and power adapter that came with the iPhone.
Also worth considering: you may not even need the second year's additional coverage. Apple emphasizes that its One-Year Limited Warranty and AppleCare+ Protection Plan benefits are in addition to rights provided under consumer law. (This is because Apple has got in trouble with various courts around Europe for selling two years of coverage without making it clear to customers that there are local laws that may give them sufficient coverage anyway).
What are the consumer laws I should know if my iPhone is broken?
Apple notes the following on its website: "When you purchase Apple products, European Union consumer law provides statutory warranty rights in addition to the coverage you receive from the Apple One-Year Limited Warranty and the optional AppleCare Protection Plan."
This EU Consumer Law ensures that you will receive free repair or replacement coverage for defects present when you take delivery (Apple's warranty includes defects arising after you took delivery). The key message here is that if a defect was present when you took delivery (e.g. a faulty antenna) the device should be repaired or replaced. Replacement of a device that had a fault when you bought is not limited to two years; it could be even longer. You're first point of contact should be the seller, which may or may not be Apple.
Consumers in the UK have the right to ask the retailer to replace or repair any faulty item for up to six years after an item is purchased (five years in Scotland). The only drag is you may have to prove that the fault was present when you bought the item and not something that was the result of normal wear and tear.
UK Specific information about the Sales of Goods Act from 1979 can be found here. The act indicates that consumers can expect that goods will be: as described; of a satisfactory quality; fit for the purpose made known.
This final clause is significant if your fault wasn't there when you bought the iPhone. Chances are you bought your iPhone on a contract, if this is the case you could go back to your mobile network provider and argue that the iPhone failed to meet the terms of the contract due to the fault.
You may even be able to use the Sale of Goods Act to argue that issues arising from wear and tear were due to a manufacturing defect, although to do this you may need an expert's report from an engineer or a mechanic.
The main problem with the Sale of Goods Act is it's much harder to get a refund after the first six months. During the first six months after the purchase, it is up to the retailer to show that any fault is down to the actions or misuse of the buyer, rather than an inherent fault in the product. After the first six months it's up to the buyer to prove that the fault was pre-existing.
However, as well as the Sale of Goods Act there is also an EU directive that gives consumers extra rights. EU directive 1999/44/EC states that: "A two-year guarantee applies for the sale of all consumer goods everywhere in the EU. In some countries, this may be more, and some manufacturers also choose to offer a longer warranty period."
Crucially a key point in this directive is that it doesn’t require the buyer to show the fault is inherent in the product and not down to their actions, unlike the Sale of Goods Act. There is more info here, plus Which? has loads of information about what to do if you want to return faulty goods.
What if my out-of-warranty iPhone has developed a fault?
Apple offers a service for out–of-warranty iPhones so while it is unlikely you can get it fixed for free you may be able to get a replacement for a knocked down price. In its out-of-warranty terms Apple states: "Certain damage is ineligible for out-of-warranty service, including catastrophic damage, such as the device separating into multiple pieces, and inoperability caused by unauthorized modifications. However, an iPhone that has failed due to contact with liquid may be eligible for out-of-warranty service."
In other words if you drop your iPhone and it smashes into a thousand pieces Apple isn't going to help you, nor will it help if you have drowned it in tea, however, if you turn up with a broken, out-of-warranty iPhone Apple may be able to offer you a replacement, at a price.
However, you may still be able to use one of the laws described above. For example, if your iPhone is not "fit for purpose" but you still have a year left on your contract go to your network and quote the Sales of Goods Act at them. If you believe that a fault in manufacturing has caused an issue that you are only experiencing now you may need to get help to prove this is the case, but you don't need to worry if it's been longer than two years since you bought the device.
How can I get Apple to replace my iPhone?
Having said that, it is our experience that returning an iPhone to Apple for a replacement is a stress free experience and you may not need to follow any of the advice above.
For more information about whether to take out iPhone insurance read our article: is iPhone insurance worth it.
We help you decide which iPhone Insurance policy is best for you here.