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Insuring against the ‘curse’ of the SMS Text News contributor [updated]

It’s struck twice three times recently… (Is there a vehicle in North America not sloshing about with Ewan’s consumer electronics?) the ‘curse’ of the SMS Text News contributor has seperated bloggers from their beloved devices by loss and destruction. And it’s got me thinking – none of my handsets are insured other than any unintended coverage I have via home-contents or employer’s travel insurance and none of those policies are designed to facilitate a very rapid replacement. Both James and Ewan are Vodafone customers, opting to take the insurance offered as an add-on to their airtime agreement, but who should I use? My network operator(s’) or an independent, and how can I be sure that I get cover that suits me?

[This is where I would have normally put a picture, but you try and illustrate something that’s gone missing!]

Ignoring my ‘pub phone’, a 3 Skypephone, which I specifically selected in part for its low cost, my two everyday handsets have retail replacement costs of £239 for a Nokia E61 and and £269 for an 8GB iPhone respectively (although it seems I would need to re-start my O2 contract to get another ‘official’ UK iPhone – higher figures are quoted elsewhere for handset replacement only, but I can’t find O2 or Apple’s confirmation of this). Not a patch on the £330 for an N95 or a whopping £624 for an E90 (apologies to international readers – these costs are likely to vary substantially internationally, but I’ll just use my local pricing to demonstrate the point), but enough to put an upsetting-sized dent in my Visa card if I lost them and there would also be costs for replacement SIM cards and potentially unauthorised call costs before I could cancel the account.

So that’s the cost of the cost of the phones, what about the cost of insurance? Looking across the market it seems to range from about £4 per month to £8 per month for a single handset in my price range, which is considered ‘mid’ or ‘standard’ by most insurers and notably all the network operators contract out their insurance to 3rd parties, so independently-available policies can often match their terms (their prices generally fall in the middle to upper end of the price band). Annoyingly, some people are obviously cashing-in on the iPhone name though charging £8 per month for ‘specialist’ iPhone insurance when identically-priced handsets on the same policy terms cost less than £6 per month…

What about the policy detail? [I’ve omitted some ‘common sense’ or universal elements]

[UPDATED: with thanks to commentators who noted my error]

NatWest, Ulster Bank, LloydsTSB and Barclays all sell policies from Lifestyle Services Group.  These are all associated with ‘extras’ packages complimenting banking packages and cover repair or replacement of a phone (2 phones for joint accounts) to a value of £300 (Ulster Bank) /  £500 (Natwest, Standard LloydsTSB) / £2000 (premium LloydsTSB accounts and Barclays) per phone, the SIM card, loss / theft / damage from attended or secure places, unauthorised calls up to £1500 (all except Barclays) / £2000  (Barclays) accessories to the values of between £200 and £250 (varies between policies).  A £25 / £50 excess for the 1st / subsequent claims (Natwest and Barclays), £30 (LloydsTSB),  £30 / £50 excess for the 1st / subsequent claims (Ulster Bank) is payable and  claims are limited to 2 per  year.   Notably Ulster Bank’s variation of this policy also excludes ‘Devices with a PDA and/or Qwerty functionality’.

Three also offers a similar policy from LSG: £25 excess, up to £500 for phone and SIM, covers loss / theft / damage from attended or secure places and includes some accessories. However, it doesn’t appear to cover unauthorised call costs.

Vodafone‘s insurance is also offered by a 3rd party, but appears to be specific to them. It offers a £25 excess, provides for repair or replacement of a phone (may be re-conditioned) up to a value of £600, covers loss / theft / damage from attended or secure places and includes up to £200 of accessories. Notably it excludes loss or theft not reported to them within 24hrs or to the police in 48hrs. It doesn’t appear to cover unauthorised call costs.

CPP Phonesafe offers its own policy via what appears to be its parent company and T-Mobile also re-sell it. It offers a £50 (£25 via T-Mobile) excess, provides for repair or replacement of a phone (may be re-conditioned) up to a value of £400, covers loss / theft / damage from attended or secure places and also acts as an extended warranty. It excludes accessory cover but provides for unauthorised call costs up to £1000 for the 12 hours prior to reporting it to the network. Notably it excludes phones without a SIM card in.

Orange‘s cover is provided by Allianz. It offers a £15 excess, provides for repair or replacement of a phone (may be re-conditioned) without any maximum value, covers loss / theft / damage from attended or secure places and also acts as an extended warranty. It excludes accessory cover and unauthorised call costs.

O2 offers 2 policies, both from ACE European Group Ltd. They offer a £25 excess, provides for repair or replacement of a phone (may be re-conditioned on standard policy) without any maximum value, covers loss / theft / damage from attended places, covers accessories up to £200 (premium) or £25 (standard) and unauthorised call costs up to £3000 (premium) or £1000 (standard). Notably the premium policy also provides for replacements overseas and guarantees a new handset.

Talkcover, Insurance4mobiles and Cover4phones all re-sell Equity Red Star’s policy. They offer a £25 excess (for theft / damage) or £50 (for loss), provides for repair or replacement of a phone (a handset of similar age or ‘equivalent value’ ) without any maximum value, covers loss / theft / damage from attended places, excludes accessories and covers unauthorised call costs up to £100. Notably it excludes convertible cars, but the various firms offer discounts and benefits as a ‘no claims bonus’.

Insurance2go offers 2 policies, both underwritten by a Lloyds syndicate. They offer a £100 excess (for months 1-3 of the policy) and £50 (from month 4) for 3G phones – half that for 2G phones, provides for repair or replacement of a phone (to it’s value at the time) with a maximum value of £750, covers loss (premium policy only) / theft / damage from attended locations, excludes accessories and covers unauthorised call costs up to £1000. Notably claims in the first 3 months require payment of all 3 monthly premiums before the claim can be processed and thefts / losses not reported to the police within 24hrs are also excluded.

JS Insurance offers a policy from AXA Insurance. They offer a £50 excess for 3G phones – half that for 2G phones, provides for repair or replacement of a phone (to it’s value at the time) with no maximum value, covers theft / damage from attended locations, excludes accessories and covers unauthorised call costs up to £1000 for 24hrs after the loss.

Foneshield offers what appears to be their own custom policy via a provider called Albion.  It is a theft-only policy (from attended places and occupied vehicles) with an excess of £50 and provides for repair or replacement (possibly with a refurbished handset). Accessories and SIM cards are exluded, but a loan phone is available (£50 fee).  Foneshield also offer a Sharia-compliant policy, a first in Europe, but this is not described on their site at the time of writing and it is not clear if this describes the current product or a new one to be launched.

Carphone Warehouse (no carphones, not a warehouse) offer 3 policies via Norwich Union, but there are so many bands, exceptions and exclusions (not least the entire ‘3’ network) I got fed-up reading their website and gave up. Sorry.

Other things to note are that the mobile operators only cover phones sold on their contracts and although many advertise replacement handsets within 24 or 48 hrs none of the policies I read made any mention of this so it is firmly in the ‘if it suits us’ camp.

So, a mixed bag, but definitely a few options that look reasonable to me. Cost-wise, taking the life of my phones as 18 months (the normal life of my phones and the duration I’m committed to on both my current air-time agreements… ‘new toy’ purchases don’t really count here) that means it will cost between £72 and £144 over the life of handset to cover it – £108 on average, a round of drinks short of half of the handset replacement cost. The miser in me says that I haven’t lost a phone in more than 3 years, so it’s not worth it, but I have been stung with £100 of unauthorised call-charges on a lost SIM and I’ve had enough near misses (thank you to the man on the train who passed me my phone out of the window as it pulled out of the station – you are an anonymous hero) to know it’ll happen soon enough. So, yes, I think it makes sense… just. Especially if I can get the cost below the average via one of the multiple device policies which pushes price towards the lowest end of the scale. So which one shall I go for?

None as it happens… What I didn’t mention above about the policy terms is that even the most ‘generous’ policy I can find excludes devices older than 6 months and whilst my iPhone is 5 months old, my E61 is too old and apparently un-insurable! I suppose there is a thriving market on eBay for new-ish phones where I could get a replacement for a lot less than the retail price, but I wanted a more rapid replacement and cover for the other bits too… Oh and the last eBay phone purchase I made left me well out of pocket – it really is a scammer’s paradise (thank you West Midlands Police for all your no help… but that is probably a story for another time).

So what do I do?

At present I’m considering taping them to my hands…

By Ben Smith

Ben is an expert on enterprise mobility and wireless data products. He has been a regular contributor to Mobile Industry Review since 2007 and is also editor of Wireless Worker.

16 replies on “Insuring against the ‘curse’ of the SMS Text News contributor [updated]”

Or get a holster. I think holsters are real draws to robbers and vagabonds.

I reckon maybe consider one of the multiple device polices… ? It depends. A while ago I posted a note saying that I never bother with insurance. I’m never that stupid to leave my expensive handsets in cabs and limos. Er… yes. So I’m not sold on the concept. It’s made it nice and simple. One call to Vodafone and the new device and sim card arrive next day with just a 25 pound excess fee = wicked. So something like that, I think?

Where’s the Bluetooth tether app?

Especially if you are carrying more than one device.

Bluetooth is in everything. Pair the two (or more) devices, and if they ever part, both start screeching at an increasing volume. Maybe set the Bluetooth signal strength so that it has several modes: ‘Taxi/Train’, where if it detects even a small drop it goes off, or a ‘home/office’ where you can drop your bag/coat in the hall but take your phone into the kitchen without being bugged.

Maybe pair them with a Bluetooth dongle on your keys or attached to your bag too.

If I could be arsed I’d set up a small firm and build it, but my dayjob is enough for now. Any takers?

/m

@Ric: You’re right – apologies. The Lloyds one isn’t the ‘standard’ LSG policy text. I’ll check the details and amend the post ASAP.

@Ewan: The ‘network operator factor’ is something else to consider I guess – they want to retain your business so have an additional motivation to sort it out promptly and be generous (possibly) in the grey areas in the event claims are escalated to them (like Whatley’s). Otherwise it’s just an insurance company who will be looking to avoid payment if possible.

Hi. With the NatWest, Ulster Bank, LloydsTSB and Barclays added value accout, they all cover unauthorised calls. The mobile phone insurance is also an inclusive benefit of the bank accounts, so for some customers it can be a great deal.If you have a joint account, you can normally cover 2 phones. The LloydsTSB policy also now provides “over the air” backup of contacts, calendar, tasks etc., all inclusive in the price. The 3 policy is the only one that doesn’t cover unauthorised calls.

I thought I had lost my N95 the other day, but found it again after realizing I had left it at home.

Doesn’t it always seem that the day you can’t find it, start panicking, try dialing it to see if it’s actually in the bottom of your handbag, is the day you’ve left it on silent and wouldn’t be able to hear it wherever it was? Always the way!

Krystal’s last blog post..A tale of two grannies

@Ricky: So far so good here, but I do now have specific pockets allocated for each handset and check as I leave meetings / trains etc. Any casual observer would think I’ve got some sort of nervous tick…

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