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Insuring Your Smartphone May Be Smart

Odds aren't good that your smartphone will survive its two-year contract. Asurion, the default insurance provider for the four major phone carriers, says that one in four people will lose, damage or have their phone stolen this year. (Other reports put the survival rates much lower).

"Obviously Asurion is seeing a large number of smartphones to be insured," said Bettie Colombo, Asurion's senior director of marketing communications.

But the disconnect is what a customer thinks a phone costs vs. what it does cost, she said.

In a recent survey, she said, "Consumers told us they expected it to cost $200. The reality of it is there's not a $200 smartphone on the market. Most smartphones could be anywhere from $400 to $700."

To help users determine whether insurance is worth it, take a look at statistics.

The Federal Communications Commission, reporting that 40% of all New York City robberies involved phones, teamed with the four major carriers last spring to create a giant database of stolen smartphones. The carriers promise to block stolen phones on their networks.

And if your phone is lost or stolen, chances are high that someone's going to peek at your personal information. Last spring, security software developer Symantec (SYMC) purposely lost 50 smartphones in five cities for Project Honey Stick. Half were returned. All but two were accessed, with snoopers looking at email, files labeled "HR Salaries" and the "remote admin" app.

But, say mobile companies, theft isn't the biggest reason consumers file a claim. It's damage.

In a T-Mobile-commissioned survey of 1,000 smartphone owners, Kelton Research found that 33% had damaged their phones, while 10% had their phones lost or stolen.

SquareTrade, which insures smartphones for an upfront one-time fee, found that just 4% of covered iPhones were lost or stolen in 2010. Comparably, 24% were accidentally damaged.

The bulk of SquareTrade's claims are from accidental damage, said Steve Abernethy, SquareTrade president and founder. Its 2010 study of 50,000 smartphones found that 75% that were replaced were due to accidental damage. Within that, 77% were from drops. The iPhone 4 was at the top.

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