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Love your new mobile phone? Watch out for these 8 traps in your warranty

A young kid gasps at their smartphone. Orange background, collage.

Congrats on that swanky new mobile phone! Whether you bought it directly from the manufacturer or on a mobile plan, New Phone Feeling is Best Phone Feeling. 

But Worst Phone Feeling? Watching it fall in slow motion to the floor (and not knowing if your warranty will cover that).

So if you’re still in the honeymoon phase, here are some red flags to watch out for in your warranty, so you and your mobile can live happily ever after.

Trap 1: Extended warranties

A man on one smartphone reaches out to a playfully cringing girl on another. Purple and green background.

Simply put: 90% of the time, it’s a total waste of money. Most mobile phones will be covered for at least 12-24 months by the manufacturer’s warranty anyway, so if a third-party seller offers you a similarly timed policy, you could be doubling up on what you already have. 

Your consumer rights are also protected under Australian law, so anything you purchase should have an automatic guarantee of acceptable quality. Assuming your device is reasonably new and you haven’t been negligent or caused a problem through misuse or damage, you have a leg to stand on when it comes to free repairs or replacement. The ACCC can also step in on your behalf if you need help.

Even if you’re worried about accidental damages, keep in mind that the cost of an extended warranty often outweighs the costs of most simple phone repairs, like screen or battery replacements.

RELATED: Common phone problems and how to fix them

For example, most extended mobile warranties, whether bought through manufacturers like AppleCare or through the big three telcos of Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone, can set you back between $4 - $18 per month (not counting any hidden additional fees). 

This can add up to between $48 - $216 to cover the same time span as the guaranteed 12 month manufacturer’s warranty. (Or $96 - $432 for 24 months).

Depending on the repair, most out-of-pocket fixes may only set you back between $30 - $200. Even the most hardcore mobile phone cases, like Lifeproof, usually only cost around $100, which could protect your phone from physical damage for the same amount of time as an extended warranty.

Your phone may also be automatically covered up to a certain amount by your existing insurance policy, so why pay for more than you need?

TLDR: Unless you really want the additional protection, you can probably forgo the extended warranty.

Trap 2: Accidental damage

An iPhone with a cracked screen on a pink background.

This is the big caveat in most manufacturer’s warranties: if you dropped it, kicked it, smashed it, drowned it, or accidentally set it on fire, your mobile warranty probably won’t cover it. This includes normal wear and tear to consumable parts of the phone, like protective coverings or batteries, as well as any gunk clogging up the ports. Even ‘acts of God’ fall under typical exclusions – goodness gracious!

While this is grim news for all the fellow klutzes out there, it’s not all doom and gloom. Damages your warranty may actually cover include:

  • Defects in materials or workmanship. 
  • Doesn’t charge properly.
  • Won’t turn on.
  • Freezes often.
  • Issues with the microphone, speaker, or buttons.
  • Trouble connecting with internet or mobile signal.

Mistakes do happen, so it’s important to always follow up with any issues you’re having with the manufacturer, and if you get stonewalled, the ACCC. The ACCC have gotten into legal disputes with phone manufacturers before over misleading claims about a phone’s performance, so they’re an excellent resource for consumer help.

Oh, and remember when phones were randomly exploding in 2017? While the rare problem seems to be largely fixed, it does highlight an issue of blame. 

Some lithium smartphone batteries overheat, especially when charging, because of damage to their internal components, causing bulging, swelling, or short circuiting. This can lead to “thermal runaway”, which can result in fire or (yes) an explosion. 

Battery damage leading to explosions can have a few different origins. It could be accidental on your part, a side effect of age, or because of a manufacturing defect, so it’s important to always take your phone to an authorised repair retailer (ideally the original manufacturer themselves) so you can properly ascertain what happened. 

In short: Batteries may not be included, so take care of your electronic baby.

Trap 3: Back it up, back it up

A mobile phone on a computer.
Photo by Kenny Leys on Unsplash.

Major heads up! Whenever you take your phone into the repair shop, even if you’re just verifying whether your faulty phone is covered by the warranty, technicians will open up your phone and inspect it for damage. And this usually involves erasing everything. 

This is especially important to keep in mind if your warranty claim is successful, since you’ll likely receive a replacement or refurbished phone with none of your old data or settings at all.

So back it up! Regular back-ups should be standard practice anyway. Y’know, in case your phone goes for an accidental swim in your toilet.

Trap 4: Swiper, no swiping!

A mobile phone with a locked symbol on its blue screen. Yellow background.
Photo by Franck Do on Unsplash.

Unfortunately, if your smartphone goes for a wander, or worse, gets kidnapped, a replacement won’t be covered by standard manufacturer’s warranties. 

Lost or stolen phones are both surprisingly common and a major expense, so it’s not exactly shocking that providers don’t want to shill out for another one. This is where extended warranties and insurance can come in handy (Trap 1 notwithstanding).

Extended warranties often include lost or stolen phones in their terms and conditions, so this can be a valid reason to purchase one. (Again, you’ll need to consider the rest of your budget and needs to make the right call on whether they’re worth it).

Your other option is to read the product disclosure statement (PDS) of an insurance policy, whether it’s for your home, car, or travel insurance, to see if loss, damage, or theft is included. Claims of this sort will usually come with excesses, sublimits, and exclusions for specific circumstances (i.e. leaving the phone unattended on your restaurant table), but they could still make a difference if your replacement costs are covered.

Trap 5: Be extra careful while travelling

Souvenirs, blue and pink background.

While we’re on the thought of travel insurance, here’s another trap to watch out for. Most phone manufacturers restrict your mobile phone warranty’s coverage to the country you bought the phone in. So, Australian phones are only covered in Australia. If the claimable incident happened while you’re travelling overseas, you might be left out of pocket.

Luckily, many travel insurance providers offer smartphone coverage as an optional extra to their policies. So if your phone costs more than your plane tickets, it may be worth investigating.

Trap 6: Beware third-party apps

An iPhone screen with apps.
Photo by William Hook on Unsplash.

Consider this a digital extension of the “accidental damage” warranty trap: if you download third-party apps or software and it causes problems, your warranty likely won’t cover it.

Computer viruses, malware, and other software issues are fortunately pretty uncommon for mobile phones, but they do happen. If the software wasn’t developed by the phone’s manufacturer, the manufacturer won’t consider themselves liable for any damages incurred. 

That being said, sometimes software that does carry the manufacturer’s label isn’t included under the warranty either, so make sure you read the terms and conditions before purchasing, installing, or if the worst happens, filing a claim. 

RELATED: 10 of the best apps for your smartphone in 2022

Trap 7: Self-made modifications

A broken smartphone surrounded by refurbishment tools.

Any custom changes you make to your phone won’t be covered by a standard warranty, unless you’re given express written permission from the manufacturer to make them. This includes ‘jailbreaking’, ‘overclocking’, or even installing third party software. 

While you may be living your best hacker/tech genius life, the manufacturer can’t guarantee the quality of any modifications they didn’t make. This includes if the device is used in a way they did not intend, as stated in the terms and conditions. Hence, they won’t assume any liability if one of your custom mods goes wrong. 

So if you wanna live your best hacker/tech genius life, keep in mind you may do so at your own risk (and expense).

Trap 8: Keep the receipts of your new iPhone, Galaxy, Pixel, etc.

Hands shake in a mobile phone. Collage. Pink red ombre background.

Proof of purchase is a useful life rule, in general. But if you have an eligible warranty claim for your brand-spanking new mobile, it’s important to have a receipt to go along with it. This not only helps prove your claim’s eligibility, but also your ownership. 

Manufacturers often confiscate or destroy phones sent in for repairs if they have reasonable grounds to believe it was stolen. Avoid this headache by simply keeping your receipts, whether it’s from your mobile provider or the manufacturer.

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Last updated 21 July 2024
Evlin DuBose
Evlin DuBose
RG146
Senior Money Writer

Evlin, RG146 Generic Knowledge certified and a UTS Communications graduate, is a leading voice in finance news. As Mozo's go-to writer for RBA and interest rates, her work regularly features in Google's Top Stories and major publications like News.com.au.