As always seems to be the case when emotions run high and expensive objects are involved, some butter-fingered iPhone X buyers have discovered to their cost that its glass back is not shatterproof. The size of the bill resulting from these mishaps will depend to a large degree on whether they signed up for AppleCare Plus (or +).

AppleCare is the name Apple gives to its extended warranty services, and if you've bought an iPhone, iPad or Mac then you'll have been offered this (either AppleCare Protection Plan or AppleCare Plus) as an add-on during or just after making the purchase. But is AppleCare good value for money? And what are the differences between the two versions of AppleCare, and the other limited and statutory warranty rights you have already?

You can read more about AppleCare, and buy a package, on Apple's website.

What are the benefits of AppleCare?

When your Apple device goes wrong, that's when AppleCare kicks in.

AppleCare Plus, which is the service we'll be primarily talking about in this article (we explain the differences further down), covers accidental damage. So if you drop your iPhone, or your iPad gets submerged in water, and you need to get the device fixed or replaced, your policy will save you from a hefty bill. But be warned that you'll still face a small bill.

AppleCare Plus doesn't cover the costs entirely. There's an excess, just like you'd get on an insurance policy, designed to discourage customers from claiming on non-critical incidents. And there are limits to how often you can claim.

For the iPhone, for instance, AppleCare coverage entitles you to two claims for accidental damage per year, and for each of these there will be an excess fee of £25 (for screen damage) or £79 (for other sorts of damage).

Is AppleCare Plus worth it: Smashed iPhone

Tech support

Do note, however, that AppleCare isn't limited to fixing smashed screens. Both AppleCare Plus and AppleCare Protection Plan also entitle you to an extended period of telephone tech support, and if this succeeds in helping you sort out a problem with an Apple product you won't have to pay anything.

How long does AppleCare last?

For three years, if it has been taken out on a Mac, Apple Watch Edition or display. For two years if it's iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple Watch (non-Edition model) or Apple TV.

These periods apply to both claims for accidental damage and telephone tech support, and to both versions of AppleCare discussed here.

What are the differences between AppleCare Plus, AppleCare Protection Plan, the standard Apple warranty and statutory buyers' rights?

Note first that AppleCare Plus and AppleCare Protection Plan (and indeed the standard Apple warranty) layer on top of the previous entitlements rather than replacing them. So you start with your statutory rights, which are non-negotiable, then by buying direct from Apple you layer the standard warranty on top of that (at no extra cost), and then by paying extra for AppleCare you layer further rights on top of that.

Statutory rights

Your statutory rights apply quite specifically to situations where products are defective or do not conform with the contract of sale. So smashing your screen, or other accidental damage, would not apply - unless it smashed or broke under normal use in such a way that would indicate it was defective.

If your product is defective or substandard in some way you have six years from the date of delivery (or five years if you live in Scotland) to make a claim under UK consumer law.

If your claim is legitimate you will be entitled to a free repair or replacement. If this is not feasible the seller may offer a reduction in price or a full refund instead, but it is the seller's responsibility to provide a remedy. (Note that this may not be Apple, if you bought your Apple product from a third party.)

Standard Apple warranty

Apple's standard warranty provides similar coverage to statutory consumer law - ie that a device will be repaired, replaced or refunded if it's not doing what it's supposed to - but for a shorter period: just one year (or two years, for the Apple Watch Edition).

However, in our experience it is easier to make a claim under the warranty if you are still covered than to invoke consumer law. The law expects you to demonstrate that a device is defective or does not conform to the contract of sale, but Apple will frequently offer a replacement with relatively few questions asked if their Geniuses cannot fix the problem and the warranty is still running.

We messed up a watchOS update - totally our own fault - and bricked an Apple Watch, but since it was still covered by warranty Apple replaced it. Your mileage may vary. We've also observed that there is sometimes a little room for individual interpretation in the way your claim is dealt with; so if you visit an Apple Store and the employee tells you your warranty won't cover the problem, it may be worth coming back later and trying someone else.

You can choose whether to claim under the warranty or under consumer law if both apply.

The other advantage of the Apple warranty over generic consumer law is that you get a brief period (90 days) of telephone tech support. If you bought an Apple Watch Edition this lasts for two years.

Apple's warranty comes with a fairly complex set of rules and exceptions (although, as stated, we've found the company generally easy-going about claims). You should check these carefully before deciding whether to upgrade to AppleCare.

AppleCare Protection Plan

AppleCare Protection Plan (APP) is simply an extended version of the standard warranty. Instead of one year of coverage you two or three, as outlined above. And instead of 90 days of telephone support you get two or years.

AppleCare Plus

AppleCare Plus lasts as long as APP, but it is far more comprehensive in its coverage. It includes accidental damage.

APP (like your standard warranty) applies if something goes wrong and it's the maker's fault; AppleCare frequently applies if something goes wrong and it's yours.

There is another difference between APP and AppleCare Plus, and that is when you can buy it. Since it's effectively an extension to your warranty, you can buy APP at any time when the original warranty is still active. But AppleCare Plus must be bought within 60 days of the purchase.

Is AppleCare Plus worth it: Smashed iPhone

How much does AppleCare cost?

This varies from product to product. The iPhones are the most expensive to cover.

AppleCare Plus

  • iPhone X: £199
  • iPhone 8 Plus, 7 Plus, 6s Plus: £149
  • iPhone 8, 7, 6s: £129
  • iPhone SE: £89
  • Apple Watch: from £59
  • iPad: £89

AppleCare Protection Plan

  • Apple TV: £26
  • MacBook/MacBook Air: £229
  • MacBook Pro: £229 (13in) or £329 (15in)
  • iMac: £159
  • Mac Pro: £229
  • Mac mini: £79

Conclusion: Is AppleCare worth it?

I am one of those weird people who has never broken the screen on an iPhone, iPad or MacBook (what are the chances I'll do so today, as punishment for my hubris?), and looking at the prices of the iPhone X AppleCare Plus plans in particular I am inclined to suggest saving your money, using a case - which you'd want to do anyway on the iPhone X, because of its large rear camera lump - and just being careful. Or getting some third-party insurance, which is likely to work out cheaper.

There are a few exceptions, however; AppleCare Plus tops out at £109 on the Apple Watch, and if you're considering the most expensive models, which go well over a thousand pounds, you might find that reasonable value - although Apple Watches tend to be pretty robust, particularly the ones with sapphire screens.