Why you should buy AppleCare+ for your Apple Watch

Extended warranties on electronics are often a waste of money, but in the case of the Apple Watch, the extended service plan is well worth the extra cash.

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In April 2015, shortly after Apple made its first smartwatch available for preorder, I wrote a post that posed the question, "Is AppleCare+ for your Apple Watch worth the price?"

Fast-forward to August 2016, when my stainless steel Watch (which I've worn since late April 2015) broke. Obviously, I was glad I had purchased AppleCare+ for my Apple Watch, even though I don't normally buy extended warranties. Apple will reportedly announce a new version of the Watch at its big September product unveil, and if you're in the market for a smartwatch you may also want to consider Apple's extended warranty. Here are a few good reasons why.

During the course of 16 months of use, three things happened to my Watch.

1. Tiny scratches accumulated on the Apple Watch casing

I'm as careful as possible with my gadgets, but it's nearly impossible to go 16 months without accidentally bumping your wrist up against, say, a doorframe. Consequently, my Watch — which I've worn almost every day since I got it — had developed quite a few small scratches. (Wired.com said last year that stainless-steel Apple Watch models would be likely to develop hairline scratches, and it was right.)

It's worth noting, however, that professional jewelers or watch repair shops can buff out most minor scratches on stainless steel.

2. Apple Watch heart-rate sensor became less accurate

Initially, my Apple Watch's heart-rate readings were quite accurate. But during the past few months, the readings during intensive aerobic workouts often jumped way too high, up to 186 bpm, for example. My normal upper level is about 145 bpm. I hadn't changed how or where I wore my Watch during workouts, nor had I increased the intensity of my workouts. So the higher readings appeared to be inaccurate.  

I also wasn't the only one having similar issues. Long threads about heart-rate accuracy issues can be found on Apple's support forum and on Reddit. And as AppleInsider.com reported in October 2015:

"Some Watch owners quantified their (inaccurate heart rate) claims by comparing Apple Watch readings against dedicated devices that use electrode technology, like Polar's Heart Rate Monitor chest strap, with resulting data found to be grossly out of alignment. These tests stand in contrast to an early comparison of heart rate data collected by the Apple Watch and the Mio Alpha that found Apple's incredibly accurate."

3. Apple Watch rear panel came loose

Earlier this month, the back of my Apple Watch, the circular piece that contains the optical heart-rate readers, slid out of place after a workout on an elliptical machine. The component came loose, it didn't fall off, but it would not stay firmly in place. So I made an Apple Genius Bar appointment. The "Genius" said he'd never seen the back piece slide off before. And he told me to expect a replacement Watch, which I received five days later. (In this case, replacement meant refurbished, but I've generally had good luck with Apple-refurbished products in the past.)

The two problems with my Watch were clearly manufacturer defects, Apple didn't charge me for the replacement device because I'd bought AppleCare+.

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Apple Watch extended warranty is worth price

So should you buy AppleCare+ for an Apple Watch? Absolutely.

Extended warranties are often a waste of money, so I normally skip them. But a Watch is a delicate instrument, and Apple is still relatively new to the watch-making game. You also wear it on the wrist, as opposed to keeping it in a pocket or bag, so it's more vulnerable to damage. 

If I'd purchased my Apple Watch with my American Express card, I'd have received two years of hardware repair coverage automatically, because AmEx doubles manufacturers' warranties. However, I've found AmEx's reimbursement process to be a hassle in the past — it certainly isn't as easy as handing over a Watch to a Genius and getting a replacement in the mail five days later.

Paying for AppleCare+ makes a lot of sense, especially for a stainless-steel Apple Watch or aluminum Apple Watch Sport, which both come with one-year manufacturer warranties. The pricier Apple Watch Edition and Apple Watch Hermès models include two years of hardware repair coverage, and AppleCare+ gets you a third year.

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