Is AppleCare+ worth it for Apple Watch?

in General Discussion edited January 2021
An Apple Watch is going to get more wear and tear than most Apple devices, so buying AppleCare+ coverage to protect yourself against repair costs seems a good idea. You need to examine the details, though.

Apple Watch Series 6 in red
Apple Watch Series 6 in red and at huge risk of falling off that desk

Your Apple Watch is surely the single most vulnerable Apple device you've got. Sure, you can drop your iPhone, or your MacBook Pro, but the Watch can get slammed in doors, or cracked up against a desk.

Plus, more than anything else, if your Apple Watch breaks, you're really going to need Apple to fix it. There aren't a lot of While-U-Wait watch repair shops that can help out.

So as ever, the decision to buy AppleCare+ or not is a gamble. Just as it is for the iPhone, or the Mac, or the iPad, it's a question of assessing how likely you are to need a repair.

However, just as it is with all of Apple's devices, AppleCare+ for Apple Watch comes with just enough differences that it's a little complicated to figure out.

What AppleCare+ for Apple Watch gets you

AppleCare+ covers you for up to two incidents of accidental damage per year. As well as your AppleCare+ fee, there is a service charge per incident.

Both of those amounts depend on which Apple Watch you have. For instance, if you have an aluminium Apple Watch Series 6 then AppleCare+ costs you $79.

If you've got an Apple Watch SE, it's $49. And if you have the more expensive Apple Watch Edition, or Apple Watch Hermes, then it's $149.

There is also an option to pay for AppleCare+ monthly and, again, that cost depends on your device. For the Apple Watch Edition, it's $4.99 per month. For the Apple Watch SE, it's $2.49 per month.

Except unlike all of the other devices you can get AppleCare+ for, the Apple Watch version offers a different number of years of coverage.

AppleCare+ for the two most expensive Apple Watches, the Edition and Hermes versions, give you three years of coverage. All the rest get two years.

Then while there is a monthly option for AppleCare+ for Apple Watch, if you buy using Apple Card, you can only choose the one-off payment.

Apple Watch Edition and Apple Watch Hermes

As well as the three years coverage that you can get by buying AppleCare+ for these two Watches, there is another difference. Whether or not you buy AppleCare+, Apple includes two years of hardware repair coverage.

Other Apple Watches come with a single year of this.

Only, you have to wonder why. Studying the small print, this hardware repair coverage is limited to failures that have "occurred due to a defect in materials or workmanship."

It specifically does not exist to put right "cosmetic damages [such as] scratches, dents and broken plastic on ports."

In fact, whether you get one or two years' worth of this hardware repair coverage, the hardware repairs it will do are not the ones you're likely to need.

Whereas AppleCare+ will.

Apple Watch Hermes
Apple Watch Hermes

What AppleCare+ for Apple Watch costs and what you save

Once you've paid your AppleCare+ fee, you have these two incidents per year where Apple will fix problems. Unlike with most of the other AppleCare+ devices, this time Apple does not particularly distinguish between different types of damage.

Everything is under the heading "screen replacement and other services." So whatever goes wrong, Apple will fix it and you will be charged only the flat service fee.

For regular aluminium and stainless steel Apple Watches, you'll pay $69 per incident. For Apple Watch Edition, and Apple Watch Hermes, you'll pay $79.

So depending on the Watch you own, you could have up to either four or six repairs, and you'd pay that service charge each time. For an Apple Watch SE on two years' coverage, that means a maximum of $325. (Four service charges of $69, plus your $49 AppleCare+ fee.)

With an Apple Watch Series 6, the maximum repair cost you could pay in the two years of coverage is $355.

Then for an Apple Watch Edition, or an Apple Watch Hermes, your service charge is ten bucks more per incident. With the $149 AppleCare+ fee, that means the most you can end up paying for six repairs over these Watches' three years of coverage, is $623.

Now compare that to the cost of getting repairs when you don't have AppleCare coverage. Again, these vary depending on your particular Apple Watch, though you can of course assume that the more expensive the watch, the more expensive the repair.

Apple Watch Series 6 in red
Apple Watch can get scuffed in pockets

Apple Watch repair costs

Outside of AppleCare+ coverage, it also makes a difference whether your Apple Watch is an LTE or cellular one.

If you have to take your GPS-only Apple Watch SE in for repair -- for screen replacement or any other service -- then it's going to cost you $219 outside coverage. For an LTE Apple Watch SE, it's $249.

With an aluminium GPS-only Apple Watch Series 6, a repair will cost you $299. If the Watch is LTE, that's now $349.

Getting a stainless steel Apple Watch Series 6 with GPS and LTE is $399. Perhaps surprisingly, it's the same $399 for an Apple Watch Hermes Series 6.

Whereas for a titanium Apple Watch Edition Series 6, the repair cost is $499.

Adding up the benefits

If you have even one incident of damage that you get repaired, it's cheaper for you to have AppleCare+. If you have more than one, AppleCare+ is a bargain.

The question is whether you are ever going to have even one. There are Apple Watch users who haven't a single mark on their aluminium models, and there are others who seem to scratch theirs up instantly.

It's actually not clear whether Apple would fix or replace your entire Apple Watch Series 6 because you got a scratch on the side. But if they did, that would cost you one of your two incidents per year.

If you are prone to thumping your wrist against doorways as you walk through, though, there is more than the straight cost factor. There is also the peace of mind one.

That's really what Apple is always selling with AppleCare+. You're still not going to be casual about throwing your Watch around just because you have AppleCare+, but you may well worry about it a lot less.

AppleCare+ for all your devices

The principle is the same -- pay for AppleCare+ and you'll save on repair costs, if you ever need any repairs. Yet for all of the devices that can have AppleCare+, it seems as if every one has significant differences to consider.

Whatever device you're thinking about getting AppleCare+ for, read our guide:
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