An iPhone case can cost as little as $5, with more expensive protectors going for as much as $80. But broken iPhones have cost Americans $5.9 billion since their launch in 2007, according to a study released Tuesday by San Francisco-based SquareTrade, a consumer electronics protection plan provider.
The study comes about a week after Apple introduced the latest generation of its smart phone, the iPhone 5. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company on Monday said it had received 2 million pre-orders of the iPhone 5 in 24 hours, more than double the October 2011 iPhone 4S record.
The study also found that 30 percent of owners damaged their iPhones within the past year. Accidental damage is 10 times more common than loss or theft.
The most common way to damage an iPhone is by dropping it, followed by iPhones falling into toilets, pools or lakes; sliding off laps; being knocked off tables; and getting drenched in liquid, said Ty Shay, SquareTrade's chief marketing officer.
SquareTrade's fastest-growing plan is for accidental protection, he said.
"These actions can happen anytime, and a case is not necessarily going to protect you every time," Shay said.
Rasel Uddin, who works at a Street Talk phone accessory kiosk in Paramus, N.J., said iPhone cases are the kiosk's most popular product.
But with the release of the new iPhone in stores on Friday and new cases to go with them - it is likely they won't be getting any more shipments of older-generation cases, whose $15 to $20 prices may drop, he said.
"This is our last stock," Uddin said.
SquareTrade does not release sales data; however, the company has seen a big jump in sales this year. Pre-orders of iPhone 5 coverage are higher than for the iPhone 4S release, Shay said.
All iPhones come with a year of hardware repair coverage and 90 days of telephone technical support. Owners can then buy AppleCare+ for iPhone for $99, which extends this to two years after purchase and adds coverage for two incidents of accidental damage from handling, subject to $49 service fees, according to Apple's website.
AT&T offers mobile insurance within 30 days of activation for $6.99 a month, which covers up to two claims of accidental damage, theft or loss a year with up to a $199 deductible. Verizon Wireless's total equipment coverage plan is similar but can start after Apple's warranty ends and costs $9.99 a month.
At SquareTrade, iPhone protection costs $99 for two years with a $50 deductible. Another online insurer is Worth Ave. Group, which has iPhone protection plans against drops, natural disasters, thefts and more for one to three years, depending on phone model, with a $50 deductible.
While many iPhone users go to the Apple store or their mobile retailer to fix their phones, some replace broken glass plates through other vendors.
Scott Casey of Bloomfield, N.J., manages the iColor kiosk, which replaces the glass plates usually with colored ones - of iPhones and other Apple products, that opened in Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, N.J., a few months ago.
It costs $99 to redo both plates and takes 15 to 20 minutes, Casey said.
Since the new iPhone, which will have a longer and thinner body, will still have a glass front, Casey expects replacing the plates will be a similar process.
Shay said the iPhone 5 could be more durable, because it is made out of light aluminum, which is more difficult to break, and has glass on one side instead of both.
But the number and cost of accidents may rise because "accidents are happening more frequently as people use them more often," he said.
SquareTrade surveyed a random sample of 2,000 iPhone users, asking about the cost of repairs, replacements and insurance deductibles for physically damaged iPhones. Survey Sampling International then collected the responses, and the overall cost estimate was projected against ComScore's May 2012 total smart-phone market size.
Explore further: Viewer interface for TV layers Web content for context