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Win a Square Trade accident-coverage iPhone warranty from TUAW

Two weekends ago, Diet Coke was accidentally spilled onto my MacBook Pro Keyboard. The machine, a Core Duo 15" that was among the first of the Intel Macs rolled out, suddenly didn't work the way it used to. Luckily, damage was restricted only to the keyboard: caps lock, shift, b, h, and num lock didn't function. Not being able to type the word "butt" was a pain in the "utt." While I've since repaired the keyboard -- on my own, thanks to iFixit's instructions -- it made me question, again, the value of an extended warranty. Had the damage been worse, I may have had to get a new machine.

While AppleCare is certainly compelling for many (phone support and timely repairs of manufacturer defects by Apple-authorized technicians, among its values), its defect is that hardware repair coverage is restricted to manufacturer defects. And in my case, even if this had been a new machine still under AppleCare, it wouldn't have been covered. So, if you accidentally drop your iPhone in the toilet (it happens) or if, while looking up your Tiramisu recipe in MacGourmet, you happen to spill Kahlua all over your MacBook, you won't be covered by AppleCare.

While researching third party extended warranties, I stumbled upon Square Trade. In addition to covering manufacturers' defects, Square Trade's warranty covers accidental damage. In effect, it's a warranty with an additional safeguard for dings, drops and drenching.

Although the Square Trade warranty covers accidental damage, consider all your options before proceeding with a purchase -- Is it worth its cost? For example, claims for accidentally damaged items (as opposed to manufacturer defects) require a $50 deductible. In the case of the MacBook and MacBook Pro, this narrows the price gap between AppleCare and the SquareTrade price.

And in the case of the iPhone, the Square Trade price inches near the AT&T subsidized price of the device. In addition, unlike Asurion, which provides similar services, Square Trade doesn't protect against loss or theft. However, Asurion's service doesn't cover the iPhone.

As risk is ultimately an issue left to the owner -- i.e., whether the protection from a cost or service standpoint is worth it when weighed against the cost of the warranty/insurance plan -- the question of whether its cost is justified will vary on a case-by-case basis. If you feel that you're not accident-prone and can fix your device for less than the cost of the warranty plan, then you're better off without one. Conversely, even if you can fix any malady, you may realize that your time is valuable and that it's better spent elsewhere. To this question, we're each left to our own devices.

Square Trade will be giving away five free iPhone one-year warranties to TUAW readers. Here are the rules and a link to the obligatory legal statement:

  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older.
  • Your iPhone must have been purchased within the last 30 days (proof of purchase required), or the warranty it can be applied to a future iPhone purchase if you don't already own one.
  • To enter, leave a comment below describing the worst self-inflicted damage you've ever caused to one of your devices.
  • The comment must be left by Friday, October 30 at 11:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Five winners will be selected in a random drawing.
  • Prize: One Square Trade iPhone warranty (worth up to $144).
  • Free warranty may not be resold and has no cash value.
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.

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