With mobile phone theft soaring, should you add yours to your household insurance or go for standalone cover? We scan the market for the best policies
For many years Guardian Money has warned of the pitfalls of buying mobile phone insurance, which can be pricey and often has more get-outs than an escape artist.
Claims can be turned down for any number of reasons ? such as if you fail to report the loss within 24 hours, or if the theft in the street was not accompanied by an actual threat of physical violence. Phones taken from schools or from public spaces, often including public transport, are rarely covered ? and so on.
This led us to conclude in the past that mobile phone insurance wasn't worth the money, especially when handset costs weren't that high.
However, with the latest smartphones ? particularly Apple iPhones ? now costing around ?600 to replace, we have had to reassess. A quick look on internet chatrooms shows there is huge interest in finding a cheap way to insure smartphones, but no one appears to have come up with a stand-out policy.
The simplest way to cover a handset is to buy your phone network's own policy. But these can be very expensive. Buy an iPhone 4S from Vodafone, and its Cover Me insurance costs ?12.99 a month, or almost ?312 over a two-year contract. Orange charges a similar ?12 a month.
A cheaper option is to buy cover from one of the plethora of firms now offering to insure smartphones. Away from the big-name retailers, two of the best-known are Foneguard and TalkCover, and they offer insurance from ?5.33 and ?6.66 a month respectively for iPhones. Again there are plenty of exclusions, and in the case of TalkCover, there's an excess of ?100 for an iPhone claim.
Undoubtedly the cheapest option is to add the phone to your home insurance, usually as a "possessions outside the home" extra. This could cost as little as ?30 a year, and there will be other benefits.
You need to check the excess on the policy ? again, it could be ?100. However, you should weigh up how likely you are to claim. Contents insurance now gives significant no-claims discounts, meaning your premium could shoot up if you make a claim. You may take the view that you would rather not have your iPhone tangled up with your home insurance.
The best option we have found is Barclaycard's Gadget Insurance. You don't need to be a card carrier to insure the latest iPhone for ?5.99 a month, or just under ?72 a year. A BlackBerry costs ?1.49 a month, and an iPad, ?4.88. There's a ?50 excess for iPhones, other smartphones and iPads, and while the policy has several notable caveats, it isn't quite as full of exclusions as some. It includes accidental damage. As with any policy, make sure you go through the small print.
If you have had a good or bad experience with Barclaycard's insurance or think there's a better policy out there, email email@example.com
Lastly, follow these simple precautions to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of theft:
? Watch out for people on bikes and mopeds, and don't use your phone if someone could whizz by and grab it.
? Don't check your phone as soon as you leave a tube or train station ? leave it a while, or walk into a shop.
? Don't text and walk ? you will be less aware of what is happening around you.
? If you're talking outside, stand with your back against a wall so no one can come up behind you.
? Register your phone and other property at immobilise.com ? it can help recover your property and capture thieves. You will need your phone's IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number, which you can find by typing *#06# into your phone.
For tips on preventing personal theft, go to the Met police's factsheet.