In praise of AppleCare

Once again, I’m very grateful for having AppleCare, Apple’s extended warranty. Because for the second time in three years, Apple replaced the top case of my 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro. What’s more, it was about a week past warranty when I alerted Apple to the problem, but they covered it anyway.

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About a month ago I first began to notice problems with the trackpad’s operation. Occasionally the trackpad would fail to register a click or a tap. At first I thought it was me, or some software change I’d made. Perhaps an interaction with some third-party software I’d installed, or a setting I had changed inadvertently. By last week it was clear the problem I was having was, in fact, a hardware problem, so I called Apple.

Replacing a trackpad is not a trivial repair on the Retina MacBook Pro. It’s part of one integrated assembly that includes the entire top case. The trackpad, keyboard, speakers and battery are all part of the same assembly, and Apple replaces them as a single part. It’s a pretty major repair that requires almost the entire disassembly of the computer to do. A trained Apple service technician can do the work without any problem, but this isn’t an easily user-serviceable part with replacements readily available on eBay. It’s kind of a big deal.

This computer already has had the top case replaced once, which I think made it easier for Apple to agree to cover this new repair under warranty, despite the fact that it was about a week out of coverage. They were very nice about it over the phone, and while the initial tech I spoke to didn’t have the authority to bend the rules, the next person up the chain had no trouble creating an exception for me to facilitate the repair.

Buying an extended warranty is always a crapshoot, and often a total ripoff. I’ve gotten bilked on things like extended warranties for appliances.

I think getting AppleCare can be a wise investment on something as expensive to fix as an Apple laptop, however. Because the cost of a single repair is almost guaranteed to be greater than the cost of the extended warranty. AppleCare costs $250 for the 13-inch laptops, $350 for the big one, and its price is sometimes negotiable if you do business with an Apple-authorized reseller. 

There are a few exceptions. If you have a credit card benefit that extends warranty protection or some other insurance that will cover the cost of the repair, that may be more worthwhile. Also, consumer protections vary from country to country, so make sure to be familiar with your rights.

From where I’m sitting, my 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro has been my near-constant work companion for the past three years. I’ve put a lot of miles on it and it continues to work well. I don’t treat my gear with kid gloves, but I’m not the worst person with a laptop either. Regardless, my MBP has been in the shop a few times over the years, including once before for this particular problem. I’ve also had the screen replaced, and had to get the main logic board replaced once too. I don’t think there’s an original part on this thing except maybe for the bottom case.

Obviously there’s a case to be made that at least some of those repairs shouldn’t have had to happen, that perhaps there are some issues with product quality or durability. But every repair has been under warranty – manufacturing-related faults, as opposed to regular wear and tear. All of the problems I’ve had have happened after the 1 year mark, so after the point at which Apple’s standard warranty applied. I can’t tell you that you’ll have the same experience with AppleCare as I have, but for me, it’s been worth it – not just on this device, but on my iPhone 6 and on one of my kids’ computers as well. So consider AppleCare the next time you buy a new Mac, and consider carefully what kind of device you’re buying and how you plan to use it. You may find that it can save your bacon the same way it’s saved mine.

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