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Hardware

AppleCare: The Ultimate Guide

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AppleCare is the support arm of Apple. If things go wrong, they’re the best people to speak to. Apple offers an extended support package called the "AppleCare Protection Plan" for their hardware devices that provides additional support beyond the standard warranty. However, longer support is just the tip of the iceberg and the AppleCare Protection Plan provides a lot of features that most people almost never realize. In this guide, we’ll be breaking down the AppleCare Protection Plan to discover what exactly you get for your money.

The Basics

All new Apple products include a standard one-year limited warranty and 90 days of “complimentary” phone support. This support covers everything in the box so if you purchased an iPhone, your charger and cable are covered as well.

All new Apple products include a standard one-year limited warranty...

We’ll spend a few minutes discussing what the standard warranty provides before discussing what the AppleCare Protection Plan adds to this.

One-Year Limited Warranty

Should your Apple product stop working due to a fault or manufacturing defect within 1 year from the date of purchase, your product will be eligible for servicing free of charge. One feature this warranty includes is that for all intents and purposes, it’s worldwide. If you’ve got a MacBook Air purchased in New York and it decides to stop working whiles you’re on a business trip in London, you can visit an Apple Store and get it repaired under warranty.

Tip: iPhones and iPad 3Gs on Verizon’s CDMA network will only be able to be fully serviced in the US due to the rest of the world using GSM. While some repairs may be facilitated, there’s no guarantee they can fully service it.

90-Day Complimentary Phone Support

For software support over the phone (problems that do not involve a fault with the device), this is a chargeable service from Apple. The “complimentary” phone support provides each customer the ability to call Apple about one issue within 90 days from purchase without charge. After the 90 days, Apple will only provide phone support on a paid-for basis.

Because software is not a physical product, it cannot develop physical problems. If software stops working, reinstalling it will usually resolve its problems. If software is preventing your Mac from working, restoring the Mac completely will resolve the issue - though restoring it is usually a last resort!

Now, don’t assume that because Apple charges for phone support that you can’t call them if you think your Apple product is physically faulty. The AppleCare support agent will still provide some troubleshooting over the phone and if they determine it’s a software problem then they will advise you the rest of the call will be chargeable. If they suspect your Apple product is indeed faulty, they can arrange an appointment at an Apple Store or Apple Service Provider.

So, we’ve covered the basics of what you get as standard when purchasing a new Apple product. Now, why should you pay up to an additional $349 for APP?

AppleCare Protection Plan for Mac

AppleCare Protection Plan for Mac
AppleCare Protection Plan for Mac

The AppleCare Protection Plan increases the standard one-year limited warranty to three years from the date of purchase of your Mac. The 90 days phone support also increases to three years of unlimited phone support.

AppleCare Protection Plan for Mac Coverage
AppleCare Protection Plan for Mac Coverage

The AppleCare Protection Plan gives you access to the following repair avenues if your Mac needs to be serviced:

  • Onsite repair for desktop computers
  • Mail-in repair for portables and displays
  • Carry-in repair

Onsite repair is facilitated through a 3rd party Apple Authorized Service Provider. These are companies that have been officially servicing Macs long before Apple Stores existed and are able to provide the same level of warranty work as an Apple Store. Onsite service will depend on your location, so this may not always be possible.

Tip: Because Apple Stores are so popular, check http://www.apple.com/buy/locator to find your nearest service center. These will undoubtedly be able to repair your Mac a lot faster.

The AppleCare Protection Plan for Mac has different prices for each product line. At time of writing, here’s the pricing in USD:

  • MacBook Air and 13” MacBook Pro - $249
  • 15” and 17” MacBook Pro - $349
  • 15” MacBook Pro with Retina Display - $349
  • iMac - $169
  • Mac mini - $149
  • Mac Pro - $249
  • Apple Display - $99

Additional Hardware Coverage

One of the hidden benefits of the AppleCare Protection Plan is the sheer amount of products Apple will support beyond what was in the box with your Mac. Here’s what Apple will cover with your Mac purchase when you take out APP:

  • Your Mac computer
  • Included accessories such as the power adapter
  • Apple memory (RAM)
  • AirPort Express Base Station, AirPort Extreme Base Station, or Time Capsule*
  • Apple USB SuperDrive (for MacBook Air, MacBook Pro with Retina display, and Mac mini)
  • One Apple display purchased with your Mac

You read that right, if you bought a Mac and decided to purchase a Thunderbolt Display at the same time, AppleCare will cover both products on the same AppleCare Protection Plan, for 3 years.

AppleCare Protection Plan covers your Thunderbolt Display
AppleCare Protection Plan covers your Thunderbolt Display

Now, why the asterisk on the Airport Base Stations? Well, Apple Airport devices are not only covered if you buy them within the 3 years coverage, but if you bought one up to 2 years before you purchased your new Mac and AppleCare Protection Plan, Apple will cover it too. So if you’ve got an 23 month old Airport Express when you buy a new Mac and AppleCare, that’ll be covered for the entirety of APP… that’s up to 5 years!

AppleCare Protection Plan even covers your Airport Express, Airport Extreme or Time Capsule
AppleCare Protection Plan even covers your Airport Express, Airport Extreme or Time Capsule

The only device that must be purchased with the Mac at the same time to be eligible for coverage is a Thunderbolt Display. Everything else can be bought within the AppleCare agreement and Apple Airport devices could have been purchased up to two years before.

What About Input Devices?

If you purchased an iMac or Mac Pro, your Apple Aluminium Keyboard and Magic Mouse (or Magic Trackpad) are included under AppleCare. If you purchased a Mac mini with a keyboard and mouse/trackpad, that is covered as well.

Keyboards and mice/trackpads are not covered under AppleCare on portables.

Keyboards and mice/trackpads are not covered under AppleCare on portables. If you use a Magic Trackpad with your MacBook Air, it will only have a one-year limited warranty.

Software Support

In addition to the additional warranty and device support, the AppleCare Protection Plan provides 3 years of unlimited phone support. You don’t have to worry about paying for phone support, it’s all included. If you’ve got a question, just give them a call. The phone support covers the following categories

  • Mac OS X
  • Any 1st party Apple software (such as iLife and iWork)
  • Connecting to printers and wireless networks

AppleCare Protection Plan for iPod and Apple TV

AppleCare Protection Plan for iPod and Apple TV
AppleCare Protection Plan for iPod and Apple TV

Yep, you can buy the AppleCare Protection Plan for your iPod or Apple TV. Unlike the 3 year coverage provided by the AppleCare Protection Plan for Mac, the coverage here is 2 years. It covers the included Apple Remote as well.

AppleCare Protection Plan for iPod and Apple TV Coverage
AppleCare Protection Plan for iPod and Apple TV Coverage

Similar to the AppleCare Protection Plan for Mac, there’s a pricing structure that depends on which device you own:

  • iPod touch / iPod classic - $59
  • iPod nano / iPod shuffle - $39
  • AppleTV - $29

AppleCare+ for iPhone and iPad

AppleCare+ for iPhone and iPad
AppleCare+ for iPhone and iPad

AppleCare+ is a new version of the AppleCare Protection Plan that is only available for the iPhone and iPad. Before then, these were covered under the same criteria as an iPod. It’s still a 2 year coverage plan, but in addition to the coverage above, Apple now allows two incidents of accidental damage which chargeable at $49 each. So with AppleCare+, if you smash your iPhone or iPad, you can go to an Apple Store and pay $49 to get it serviced.

AppleCare+ for iPhone and iPad costs $99.

Additional Hardware Coverage

The AppleCare Protection Plan for iPod and AppleCare+ for iPhone and iPad covers the device, battery (if fitted) and any included headphones or USB cable. The battery will be covered if it has less than 50% of the advertised battery life anytime within the coverage.

The AppleCare Protection Plan for Apple TV and AppleCare+ for iPad will also cover any Airport Base Station or Time Capsule purchased up to two years before the Apple TV or iPad.

How your iOS Device is Serviced

The iPhone 4 and 4S have a small number of parts that can be serviced by Apple. If your camera was to stop working, Apple will be able to open the iPhone and replace the camera.

The iPad and Apple TV are not directly serviceable. To facilitate a speedy response to the customer, Apple will actually replace the device with one that is remanufactured. This is not the same as refurbished. A remanufactured device may contain internal parts that be been reworked and previously serviced. The outer casing will be brand new and the device will have a new serial number. For all intents and purposes, it’s new.

Finding Service When Things Go Wrong

If your Apple product is developing a fault, don’t panic! First, give AppleCare a call. They’ll talk you through some basic steps before considering if your Apple product needs servicing.

Tip: Before your product even thinks about developing a fault, make sure you’re backing it up!

Alternatively, if you’re local to an Apple Store, make an appointment at the Genius Bar. If it needs servicing, they’ll process that for you. One of the disadvantages of phone support is relying on the user to provide information. A user saying the screen is blank can mean many things. If it eventually needs servicing, they’re probably going to send you to a store anyway, so skip a step and just go straight there. The Genius will be able to do all the testing themselves and save you the hassle of a phone call.

If your Apple product is developing a fault, don’t panic! First, give AppleCare a call. They’ll talk you through some basic steps before considering if your Apple product needs servicing.

Purchasing The AppleCare Protection Plan

You can purchase the AppleCare Protection Plan at any time within the standard one-year warranty. If purchasing separately, you have to manually register the protection plan. Included in the box is an “Agreement Number” that will activate against your Apple product’s serial number.

If you’re spending a few thousand on a Mac Pro and LED Display, the AppleCare Protection Plan is a no-brainer.

The best method of purchasing the AppleCare Protection Plan is to get it at the same time as your Mac, especially if you’re planning to purchase a Thunderbolt Display. If you’re spending a few thousand on a Mac Pro and LED Display, the AppleCare Protection Plan is a no-brainer. Another benefit of purchasing it with your Apple product, if you can afford it, is that you’ll not risk the scenario of getting to 11 months, then finding that due to an unforeseen cash-flow problem, you can’t afford it. I’ve seen this happen all too often!

Conclusion

The AppleCare Protection Plan is a great service, but most Mac owners only understand about half of what it offers. Apple’s Support site has come a long way to streamline and simplify this information, but there’s still a great deal to read through and it can be very confusing.

Now that you know what the AppleCare Protection Plan provides, you’ll be in a much better position when purchasing it. If you’ve got the AppleCare Protection Plan already, make a list of all your Apple products and see if any of them are actually covered.

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