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AppleCare+ for iPhone covers accidental damage

With all the big Apple news on Tuesday, you'll be forgiven if you missed a change the company made to its AppleCare extended-service offering for the iPhone. But that change is significant and will make the plan more appealing to some users.

Every iPhone includes 90 days of technical support and one year of hardware support and repairs. Prior to Apple's Tuesday event, you could pay $69 for an AppleCare policy that extends both technical support and hardware service to two full years. However, both the standard warranty and the standard AppleCare plan specifically exclude accidental damage.

As of October 4, Apple's iPhone service offering, rebranded AppleCare+, costs $99. But the extra $30 adds a significant benefit: According to Apple, AppleCare+ covers up to two incidents of "accidental damage due to handling," although each is subject to a $49 additional fee. In other words, if you drop your brand new iPhone 4S from your second-floor balcony and watch it shatter on your cement driveway, as long as you have an AppleCare+ policy on the iPhone, Apple will fix the phone--or, more likely, replace it with a refurbished unit--for $49.

For those who normally get AppleCare just for the extended service benefits, the increased price of the plan may be disappointing. (A better option for consumers would be to keep the price at $69 but charge, say, $65 for a hardware replacement.) But if you've ever had to replace your phone at full price, $148--$99 for the plan plus $49 for an accident repair--will likely seem like a bargain.

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