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Apple offering AppleCare+ for iPhone 4 and 4S preorders until November 14th

TUAW has received numerous emails from readers who are confused (with good reason!) about the status of AppleCare+. Good news for those who pre-ordered the iPhone 4S: If you did not get a chance to order AppleCare+ with your iPhone 4S, Apple is extending your eligibility.

When Apple announced AppleCare+ the company said it would only be available at the time of purchase. That is an important distinction from "AppleCare," which can be purchased anytime in the first year but does not include coverage for accidental damage. The reason for AppleCare+'s more restrictive requirement is clear: Apple wants to make sure your iPhone is not already damaged when you purchase AppleCare+.

Apple.com was flooded with pre-orders, so much so that the system was overwhelmed and many people were unable to place orders at all. Others were able to place orders, but weren't offered AppleCare+. Still others gave up and ordered directly through AT&T or Verizon's websites. Personally, after 90 minutes and at least a dozen failed attempts to buy an iPhone 4S through Apple.com and the Apple Store app, I finally gave up and ordered through Verizon's website. At that point (4:30 a.m. local time) and not having slept at all, I forgot all about AppleCare+.

A second chance for pre-orders

Almost immediately people started to write in to TUAW saying that AppleCare+ had not been offered and asking if we knew of any way that it could be added to an existing order. No definitive answer has been available, and various reports across the web showed that people were getting different answers. The most common were:

  1. Cancel your pre-order and re-order with AppleCare+
  2. Bring your unopened iPhone to your local Apple Store and tell them you want to purchase AppleCare+
  3. Call Apple when you receive your iPhone and order AppleCare+.

The first two "solutions" have serious and significant drawbacks. No one wants to cancel their pre-order, because they'll lose their "place" in the pre-order line. All iPhone 4S models are currently showing a wait time of 1-2 weeks. That's not going to sit well with people who ordered in the middle of the night. Bringing your iPhone 4S to your local Apple Store is problematic for A couple reasons. First, your local Apple Store is going to be overwhelmed with customers wanting to buy iPhones, which is either going to mean that people who ordered online are going to have to wait in line or wait until the lines die down. Worse, there are several states with no Apple Stores at all, and even if there is an Apple Store it doesn't mean there's one close. The nearest Apple Store to me is a 2-hour drive, each way.

A few days ago we started getting reports that people who pre-ordered iPhones through Apple.com had received emails directly from Apple offering them AppleCare+ coverage if it was not offered when they ordered. The email (which is included at the end of this article) reiterated that "every iPhone comes with one year of hardware repair coverage through its limited warranty and up to 90 days of complimentary support." It went on to explain AppleCare+ as an extension of coverage "to two years from the original purchase date of your iPhone and adds up to two incidents of accidental damage coverage, each subject to a $49 service fee." So far so good, but the next part of the email is where things turned odd:

"We noticed you weren't given the opportunity to add AppleCare+ to your iPhone. If you would like to extend your coverage for only $99, please reply to this email."

This is not something that Apple has ever done before (at least, I've never heard of anything like it), and people were understandably worried that this might be an attempt at phishing. However, there were clear signs that these emails were legitimate. First, the subject line of the email message contained the actual order number of the user's iPhone 4S order. Second, the email address for replies was pointed to a legitimate email address with the domain apple.com (and not a phishing address like "app1e.com" or some such). Most phishing attempts want you to send information to a third-party website which has been made to look official, but isn't.

Earlier today I emailed Apple at that address,applestoreinfo@apple.com. I explained that I had ordered through Verizon's website (which never offered AppleCare+), and I'd heard others who hadn't been able to pre-order AppleCare+ had received this email.

Here is the full text of the reply I received:

AppleCare+ will be available for iPhone 4 (8GB) and iPhone 4S pre-order customers until November 14th. After you receive your new iPhone, please contact AppleCare (1-800-275-2273) to complete your purchase.

Sincerely,

Rachel Apple Inc.

There are no guarantees in life, but it seems that Apple recognizes that this did not go as smoothly as planned, so it's making an exception for pre-orders. I assume that Apple will start enforcing the "only available at the time of sale" restriction after the initial pre-orders are fulfilled.

When my iPhone 4S arrives, I plan to call AppleCare immediately and explain my situation again. My hope and expectation is that Apple will be ready to process my AppleCare+ order immediately over the phone, but just in case, I figure it won't hurt to wait to open it until I have someone on the phone to walk me through the process immediately. I will post a followup as soon as my iPhone 4S arrives. (Aside to Verizon: your order confirmation page and email both said that my iPhone would arrive on October 14th, not "ship on" October 14th. I do hope you plan to meet that deadline.)

Here's the full text of the email from Apple that several readers sent in:

Dear Apple Customer,

Thank you for your recent iPhone purchase at the Apple Online Store.

We would like to let you know that every iPhone comes with one year of hardware repair coverage through its limited warranty and up to 90 days of complimentary support. AppleCare+ for iPhone extends your coverage to two years from the original purchase date of your iPhone and adds up to two incidents of accidental damage coverage, each subject to a $49 service fee.

We noticed you weren't given the opportunity to add AppleCare+ to your iPhone. If you would like to extend your coverage for only $99, please reply to this email.

Thank you for shopping with Apple.

Sincerely,

Apple Online Store Team

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