Insuring Your Smartphone May Be Smart

Editor's Note: Be sure to also read the other two parts of this series, iPhone Peace of Mind Comes at a Price and Protect Your Smartphone Without Insurance.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- You just spent $600 on a shiny new smartphone -- make that $200 if you opted for a two-year contract. Should you also cough up the $8-plus monthly fee for insurance?

More consumers are adding this fee or considering it, but not just because it's expensive to replace a $600 phone. Smartphones have been elevated to a new tool in today's society, becoming a constant companion and a reliable assistant.

As reports come in about lost and missing phones or phones accidentally dropped in the toilet, more owners are adding the coverage to help grow the U.S. mobile insurance market to $8.6 billion by 2016, according to market researcher iGR. The good news is that there are a plethora of options to help you take care of that pricy device, from free to monthly fee.

But really, is mobile insurance worth it today?

I caved last year and bought insurance for the first time when renewing our family plan. This is not like me. As a long-time technology reporter, I've never been a fan of insuring electronics and PCs that are all too quickly outdated or reduced in price.

But with three new smartphones (scored for free during a promotion), my decision was not just peace of mind but to prevent potential whining we experienced under our prior contract when one member's screen cracked just months after signing.

Within six months, one family member lost his phone while traveling overseas. Paying the $130 deductible got the phone shipped overnight. Six months later, another member complained about his phone rebooting frequently. T-Mobile ( DT) replaced it for free because nothing was physically wrong with it.

And then 16 months into the contract, my own phone slipped into the water, never to hold a charge again. I tried drying it out, even sticking it in uncooked rice (does that really work?) No luck. I reluctantly paid the $130 deductible.

I figure I'm ahead financially, though I couldn't help thinking that I'd spent about $260 (insurance fees plus deductible) on my "new" phone, a model that had been out for nearly a year, especially when Google ( GOOG) was selling its new unlocked Galaxy Nexus for $349. Total investment to date for three, er, six phones: $692. Not bad.

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