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Mobile Phone Insurance: Comparing the best deals

Losing a smartphone is a nightmare. Granted, it’s a pretty first-world nightmare – not much sleep is being lost in Mogadishu over water-damaged iPhones – but for gadgeteers it means phone calls to the insurance people (on the house phone, which is unplugged at the back of the cupboard), maybe the police, and then waiting two weeks for a council of insurance elders to declare your phone beyond repair, and worthy of replacement. It will also usually cost you about fifty quid on top of your monthly insurance bill. Like we said: nightmare.

And yet it’s a pretty common occurrence. According to the British Crime Survey 2010, a quarter of mobile phone owners have had lost their handsets or had them pinched, and of these only 47% were insured. Which is why having the right insurance makes such a big difference when your phone does get pinched (or when you drop it in the bath/sink/loo), as does knowing exactly what you’re paying for.

We’ve put together a guide to what we reckon are the best mobile insurers in the UK; those which offer the most coverage for the least amount of money with the fastest turn-around times, so you’re not disconnected long. For brevity’s sake we’ve focussed on the top end of the smartphone market, pestering insurance folks for quotes on the Apple iPhone 4 and the Samsung Galaxy S2 like digital Columbos complete with fake names and, sometimes, accents. Here’s what we unearthed during our undercover jaunt through the world of smartphone insurance.

 

Protect your bubble   – £5.99 per month  

Protect Your Bubble offers one flat rate per handset that’s all inclusive, as opposed to differently-priced tiers of mobile phone insurance like the other online-only insurance company we checked out.

£5.99 will protect your iPhone from just about everything that might befall it, including theft, accidental damage (including water damage), hardware failures outside of the manufacturer’s warranty and unauthorised calls for £5.99 per month – and that’s worldwide cover for 30 days per year. For an extra pound per month, you also get insurance against loss.

If you’re phone is broken, Protect Your Bubble will take it off your hands for a poke about under the hood. If it’s beyond repair, they’ll aim to get you a new one within 48 hours. If it’s only partly knackered, they’ll fix it up and send it back to you usually within five days. You’ll have to pay a £50 excess fee for a broken or stolen phone, while a phone lost to carelessness will bump that up to £75. That’ll teach you not to look after your possessions.

As a free extra, signing up to Protect Your Bubble gets you free membership to TagBak for up to three gadgets. TagBak uses an adhesive tag on the back (see what they did there?) of your phone to let anyone who finds your phone help return it to you. On finding a TagBak phone, the finder can go online and contact TagBak, who then pick up the phone and return it to its rightful owner, and give the finder a small reward fee. So provided your phone is lost – and not pinched – there’s an even better chance that you’ll get your original handset back in one piece, without a five day absence or a £50 excess fee.

 

Insurance 2Go3.99 p.m. for basic cover, 5.99 for lite cover, 6.99 for full cover

Basic cover: accidental damage, overseas cover, family cover
Lite cover: as above, plus theft, liquid damage, unauthorised calls
Full cover: as above, plus loan phone while they’re fixing yours back up.

Insurance2go offers a choice of three different tiers of insurance, depending on how much you want to spend. Obviously, plumping for the cheaper options is a bit of a gamble – saving two quid a month isn’t going to make you feel much better if your non-water-damage-insured phone ends up at the bottom of the local pool – but if you’re on a super-tight budget the choice might appeal. However, we’d at least try to stretch to the middle option, which covers not only against theft but against unauthorised calls.

Losing a phone is bad enough, but it’s easy to forget that unless your insurance specifically covers you for phone calls made after the phone has been taken, you’re probably responsible for the cost of any and all calls and data usage the crims make before the phone is barred. Get this.

The unique selling point of the insurance package offered by Insurance2go is the mobile wallet protection. Mobile wallet protection is a pretty forward-thinking inclusion for a mobile insurer, and covers you against ruffians who treat themselves to shopping spree using your NFC-enabled mobile. It’s not a massive deal for many people yet, but as NFC takes off (it’s already available in some 50,000 shops nationwide, according to the BBC), protection against mobile wallet theft will be huge.

 

Phones 4U £6.99 per month for (almost) full cover (online only, £9.99 in store)

Phones 4U charge separate prices for its insurance depending on whether you buy it online or in store, and the online price falls in line with the online only private insurance companies we’ve looked at here.

Insurance covers accidental damage, theft and breakdown all around the world, as well as loss on every handset except the iPhone. Phones 4U also offer different deals online to what’s available in-store, so if you’re going to buy a new mobile from them, it’s better all round to purchase both the handset and the insurance from their website.

iPhone users take note again, though, that Phones 4U’s policies do not cover Apple smartphones against loss, so scatterbrains beware.

 

Geek Squad £13.99 per month

Geek Squad is the Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy’s own insurance and technical support team, and they can charge you for any tech-based service you can think of. Need someone to walk you through setting up a games console? That’ll be £14.99. Need someone to walk you through the iPhone’s five-minute setup process? That’ll be £14.99.

Mobile phone insurance is also very pricey, but remains popular as it’s the insurance that the Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy will try to flog you when you take out a new contract with them in-store. Insuring a top end Android phone like a Galaxy S2 or and iPhone 4 will cost a whopping £13.99 month and command an excess fee of £60 should your phone break or get pinched. The insurance is tiered, so cheaper phones will cost less to insure, but is reliably more expensive than the private insurers across every phone we looked at.

The Carphone Warehouse say that this extra money covers 24-hour tech support, and also that it pays for quick replacement of your phone should your claim be approved. The representative we spoke to told us that The Carphone Warehouse guarantees a replacement phone the next working day if your claim is lodged by 5pm. We like that feature, but if you’re vaguely tech savvy, you maynot need the tech support; we can’t think of non-fatal flaws we’ve experienced that weren’t solvable with a bit of old-fashioned Googling. If you really can’t stand the idea of being without a phone for more than a day, this might be worth the extra cost, but it’s still an expensive way of protecting your mobile.

Mobile Networks (UPDATED 27/712)

Insuring your phone with your network provider is another pricey option. The little details vary, so if you’re tempted to go down this route (which we wouldn’t recommend), read the small print carefully. Briefly, insuring your top-end handset such as the Apple iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S3 against all outcomes will cost you:

Three
Three still honour existing insurance policies but no longer offer insurance as a standalone service for their mobile products.

O2
The available offerings are Standard, Premiere and Premiere for iPhone insurance packages:

Standard – For £6 a month, their typical insurance policy covers accidental damage, attended theft, loss, up to £25 worth of accessories and worldwide cover with an £25 excess.

Premiere – For £7.50/£10.00 a month (depending on your handset) you receive all of the allowances of the Standard cover plan with the addition of access to a replacement handset whilst abroad. What’s more, accessories are bolstered under £200 worth of cover with the same £25 excess.

Premiere for iPhone – For £12.50 a month you receive all the allowances of the Premiere policy for your iPhone with an excess of £60 except in the instance on a second claim or more with respect to loss, at which stage you will be charged £120 per claim.

Details

Vodafone
Depending on the value of your handset, your insurance will be grouped into one of four bands, numbered from 1 to 4 with the least expensive devices falling under Band 1 and the most expensive such as iPhones and the Samsung Galaxy S3 slotting into Band 4. All of Vodafone’s insurance packages cover theft, loss, accidental damage, £200 worth of accessory cover, 30 days worth of worldwide cover and covers any user of the device at the time of incident.

Band 1 – Customers pay £4.99 per month with a minimum term of three months before cancellation and an excess of £15 when they make a claim.

Band 2 – Customers pay £6.99 per month with a minimum term of three months before cancellation and an excess of £25 when they make a claim.

Band 3 – Customers pay £9.99 per month with a minimum term of three months before cancellation and an excess of £50 when they make a claim.

Band 4 – Customers pay £12.99 per month with a minimum term of three months before cancellation and an excess of £50 when they make a claim.

Further details

Orange
Orange Care is the name of the carrier’s insurance packages and they’ve grouped their rates into three bands. Depending on the value of your handsets. All their packages include phone replacement within 24 hours if your device is lost, stolen, damaged or develops a fault, provided you’re in the UK at the time.

Group 1 – Customers need to pay £6 a month and fork out a £25 excess when they make a claim.

Group 2 – Customers need to pay £12 a month and fork out a £50 excess when they make a claim.

Group 3 – Customers need to pay £15 a month and fork out a £50 excess when they make a claim.

Further details

T-Mobile
The magenta network offer the widest range of insurance policies for both PAYG and Pay Monthly customers. PAYG devices are grouped simply by value of the phone with the lowest group covering devices up to the value of £30 and the highest covering up to £250, whilst Pay Monthly devices are classed by groups A, B, C, D, G and I. More details can be found for PAYG handsets on their site (linked below).

Each of these five Pay Monthly insurance groups include worldwide cover, loss, theft, malicious or accidental damage, liquid damage, breakdowns or faults outside of warranty household cover and allow for unlimited claims.

Group A – For £2.99 a month alongside all the existing eventualities mentioned, up to £150 worth of accessories are covered with the excess on your first claim costing £10, or double that if you claim within the first month. Your second claim will also cost £10 or double if you claim within 6 months following your first claim. If you make a third claim or any subsequent claims, expect to pay £30 a time excess.

Group B – For £4.99 a month alongside all the existing eventualities mentioned, up to £200 worth of accessories are covered with the excess on your first claim costing £20, or double that if you claim within the first month. Your second claim will also cost £20 or double if you claim within 6 months following your first claim. If you make a third claim or any subsequent claims, expect to pay £60 a time excess.

Group C – For £6.99 a month alongside all the existing eventualities mentioned, up to £250 worth of accessories are covered with the excess on your first claim costing £25, or double that if you claim within the first month. Your second claim will also cost £25 or double if you claim within 6 months following your first claim. If you make a third claim or any subsequent claims, expect to pay £75 a time excess.

Group D – For £8.99 a month alongside all the existing eventualities mentioned, up to £300 worth of accessories are covered with the excess on your first claim costing £30, or double that if you claim within the first month. Your second claim will also cost £30 or double if you claim within 6 months following your first claim. If you make a third claim or any subsequent claims, expect to pay £90 a time excess.

Group G – For £12.99 a month alongside all the existing eventualities mentioned, up to £300 worth of accessories are covered with the excess on your first claim costing £50, or double that if you claim within the first two months. Your second claim will also cost £50 or double if you claim within 6 months following your first claim. If you make a third claim or any subsequent claims, expect to pay £150 a time excess.

Group I – For £14.99 a month alongside all the existing eventualities mentioned, up to £300 worth of accessories are covered with the excess on your first claim costing £50, or double that if you claim within the first two months. Your second claim will also cost £50 or double if you claim within 6 months following your first claim. If you make a third claim or any subsequent claims, expect to pay £150 a time excess.

Further details

Conclusion

Getting mobile insurance from your provider or from the shop where you’ve just picked up your shiny new handset may sound convenient, but despite what the sales rep told you while you were signing all those forms, you’ll end up paying more than you should. Our recommendation: go private.

Of the two private insurance options we looked at, the big differences between Insurance2Go and Protect Your Bubble are the the first offers protection against NFC theft, while the second offers the free TagBak service that could potentially get you your actual phone back and save you the excess charge. Either way, with prices at roughly half what you’d pay with your network provider, over a two year contract going with either will save you upwards of £140, which can go on a nice bottle of wine with which to toast your good sense.

Whichever decision you make, please please please read the details on each company’s site, as details – and prices – are likely to change all the time, and we’d hate for you to take out an insurance policy on our recommendation only to find some key detail has changed and left you out of pocket.

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