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How To Get a Free Smartphone

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smart phoneSmart phones are becoming increasingly popular — and no wonder. With a smart phone, you can carry everything you need in the palm of your hand.

Your smart phone can act as a camera, GPS device, and do so much more than just allow you to talk to others. You can check email, complete banking transactions, and update your social media statuses.

But smart phones can also be expensive. I know. I finally ditched my prepaid cell phone and got a smart phone on a family plan with my husband. We didn’t want to lock in to a two-year plan, and we found that the contract-less deal offered by T-Mobile would save us money in the long run — even if we did buy the phones up front.

Others, though, are more about the cash flow than the long-term savings. And that can make sense if you aren’t prepared to shell out between $350 and $600 for a smart phone.

Where to Get a Free Smart Phone

Of course, while your smart phone is technically free, the reality is that you are still paying over time. In many cases, you have to sign up for a two-year contract in order to get the free phone. But it still seems like a good deal, especially if you are signing up for a family plan and you and your partner (and maybe a child or two) want smart phones.

Here are some available smart phones:

  • iPhone: Any carrier that offers an iPhone will give you some sort of a free when you sign a contract. Verizon and Sprint, as well as AT&T, offer free iPhones when you sign up for a plan. Pay attention, though. In some cases you will only get a phone with 8 GB, or you might have to settle for a refurbished phone.
  • Samsung: For some people I know, it’s all about the Galaxy. You can find different versions of the Galaxy for free when you sign up for two years with Sprint or T-Mobile. It’s also possible to get a free Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate refurbished for free from AT&T.
  • LG: There are a number of LG smart phones, from the Viper to the Lucid 2 to the Optimus G to the Escape. You can get a free phone with any of the major wireless carriers when you sign the two-year contract.
  • HTC: HTC phones are gaining in popularity, and you can get the EVO or Droid Incredible if you sign up with Sprint or Verizon. AT&T offers the HTC First for $0.99 — which is practically free.
  • Pantech: Get the Marauder or Pocket from a variety of wireless carriers for free when you are willing to sign a contract.
  • Nokia Lumia: Want a Windows phone? You can get it free when you sign up for a Verizon contract. AT&T offers the Lumia 820 for $0.01 when you sign up for a package.

When you sign up for your free phone, make sure that you understand the entire process. You may need to pay a little up front (like $50) and then send away for a mail-in rebate. This is common practice with Sprint.

It’s also worth noting that, with T-Mobile, you don’t have to pay the entire cost of your smart phone at once. You can pay a small amount each month — interest free — over the course of two years. You aren’t locked into a contract, though, so if you decide to jump ship and you are on a payment plan with your smart phone, you’ll have to pay the entire balance. It’s not the same as the cancellation fee that you pay when you switch carriers before a two-year contract is up, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

Image: Carissa Rogers

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13 Responses to “How To Get a Free Smartphone”

  1. Shafi says:

    Smart phones are pretty good especially if you’re a businessman. The irony is that mostly kids under 15 or perhaps 20 own smart phones.

  2. Andrew says:

    It’s not the actual phone that is expensive, but the data plan. I held out for a while but my wife and I got smartphones last year. People thought we were crazy for not having one. That wasn’t the reason we decided to get them though…they are pretty useful, but not necessary.

  3. Lesley says:

    Andrew is right – it is not the phone that is expensive, but the data plan and the marketplace is cluttered with confusing offers. We looked at a number of solutions on the market – Ting, Boost, T-Mo, Straight Talk. Ultimately my wife and I liked Republic Wireless best – they are trying to do things differently – clean offer, no contract, unlimited everything for just $19 a month. They use both Wi-Fi and cellular to offer such a great rate – which frankly since we’ve had intermittent problems with our cellular carrier, its great to use the Wi-Fi network for talking. Today they just us an email that they’ve reduced the costs of their current handset making it a better deal so we’ve agreed to put our kids going off to college on the plan.

  4. admiral58 says:

    i wouldn’t mind getting a free iphone

  5. I’m getting my first smart phone later this month, and I’m SO excited! I’m desperate for a calendar and a list making app to take with me everywhere.

  6. SLS says:

    On the recommendation of a friend, last year my partner and I switched to smart phones – i bought them on amazon.com for less than $40 each and use page plus cellular for a no-contract monthly plan – either the $30/ mo plan or the $12/ mo plan, depending on if i know i have to do a lot of calling in the next several weeks. I don’t need the data or extra features, but its fun to have – and either way, our monthly phone bills are way less than what they used to be w/o smart phones.

  7. admiral58 says:

    Jenny, I don’t have a smartphone at all. Never had one. Everyone at work gives me heck, so hope you enjoy

  8. Sadie says:

    Where is the logic? Currently using Verizon with plan expiring 4/2014 enabling more than my current phone will perform. If Verizon would allow phone exchange (at a cost to me without exorbitant closing fees) prior to expiration, then both Verizon & I could benefit & I would not be shopping other companies. Locked In for Now!
    Note: Current plan obtained in an emergency hospital visit as result of simply running out of minutes.

  9. CC says:

    As a Palm Pilot user I have had calendar, inventory, calculating,list making, etc capability in my pocket for many years. No data plan required. And it easily syncs/backups to my computer and Outlook. Not sure how something so useful is now regarded as outdated technology just because it doesn’t have a monthly bill attached.

  10. Gary says:

    “Free” is not free if you are paying it over time. One should not sign up for a plan just because it has a “free” phone if you don’t plan on using all the plan’s services. If you overpay on the services, you’ll probably end up overpaying for the phone.

    Otherwise, buy an unlocked phone and use one of “prepaid” plan or month to month alternatives that match your needs.

  11. Seth says:

    Please tell me this is a re-post of something written about 5-10 years ago. Is there really anyone out there that is not aware of the “free” or reduced price phones by signing a contract with a carrier service? You would pretty much have to not watch tv, read the newspaper, go to walmart/target/sams/etc., listen to the radio, or basically leave the house at all to not be aware of this.

    I understand the need for stating what may seem to be obvious sometimes with personal finance. Some people just may not have thought about all of the options, or we sometimes need a reminder. But, this to me just seems like a filler post.

    Sorry to write this in such a negative fashion, but constructive criticism seems too sugar coated right now.

    • jennifer says:

      I have to agree with your comment. Free isn’t free if it means a two-year contract with high monthly bills.

  12. Young Limey says:

    My wife and I just became eligible for upgrades with AT&T.

    We each purchased our iPhone 5s for $230 with tax, and sold our iPhone 4ss on nextworth.com for $260 a piece. Apple products have high resale value, so you can usually upgrade for very little cost.


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