Although cell phones are becoming more durable every year, the devices still break with alarming regularity. Whether you mistakenly drop, submerge or incinerate your phone, its loss is almost sure to cost you hundreds of dollars unless you've taken out an insurance plan with your wireless provider. Most providers will require you to purchase a new phone at its sticker price. Any discounts for which you might be eligible won't be applied to your replacement phone. In addition, you may even be required to renew your contract as a condition of obtaining a replacement. This could further increase your out-of-pocket costs and may lock you in to a sub-par pricing arrangement for another year or two.
If your phone is insured, you'll be eligible to receive a replacement for a reduced fee. It's highly unlikely that your new device will be "free." In addition to the insurance fees that you've paid on it since its purchase, you may be charged a "deductible" that offsets the cost that your provider assumes by issuing a new phone. For most phones, Sprint charges monthly insurance fees of between $5 and $10. High-end phones may cost slightly more. The provider's deductible is variable as well. If your phone's retail value is relatively low, your deductible may be $50 or less. If it's a high-end or specialty device, you may owe $100 or more.
Sprint rarely replaces damaged or destroyed phones with brand-new devices. It maintains a robust "refurbishment" program that permits its customers to exchange old, gently-used phones for new equipment. The company physically cleans these phones and deletes any personal information contained in them. By issuing these refurbished phones to customers who misplace their insured phones, Sprint saves millions of dollars per year. In most cases, it's difficult to differentiate between a refurbished phone and a brand-new device of the same model.
Your Sprint contract contains several stipulations that reduce your replacement-phone options. In most cases, you'll be required to accept an identical model. If you wish to upgrade when you lose your phone, the value of your deductible will increase. You may also be subject to additional penalties.
If you're unsatisfied with the condition or quality of your refurbished model, you may be able to exchange it for a different device. However, Sprint typically issues replacement phones on an "as-is" basis. To avoid a lengthy dispute with the company's customer-service department, be sure to inspect your new device before leaving the store.