The catch with those ‘free’ Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy offers – WCPO

The catch with those ‘free’ Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy offers – WCPO

CINICNNATI — You know spring is almost here when cell carriers start announcing free phone offers.

The ads are everywhere right now for Apple’s iPhone 13, and the new Samsung Galaxy s22 – some claiming you can get the hottest new phone for “free” or for “$0.”

But how can a carrier give away an $800 phone for nothing? Of course, there’s a catch.

The tech site ZDNet investigated and said these offers often come with extra-long contracts and hidden fees.

What to expect if you sign up

In many cases, they say:

  • You need to trade in a phone in good shape that still has value, meaning not an old iPhone 5, or any 3G phone (AT&T is ending 3G now, and Verizon plans to drop it later this summer).
  • You must agree to an unlimited data package, which may be more than what you need.
  • You must sign up for a 36-month installment plan, which is a 3-year locked-in contract – longer than the old 2-year contracts.
  • Expect to pay an activation fee of $30 to $50 to set up that new phone, plus taxes, and possibly some other fees.

But from the “doesn’t that stink” file: Why – in many cases – do you get a bill for a supposedly free phone?

ZDNet said most carriers will charge around $25 a month for that phone, then issue you a $25 credit as long as you remain on the plan.

The catch is if you make any changes

If you want to change your plan or get a new phone before the 3 years are up, those credits stop and you have to pay the remaining price on the phone.

Remember that you are agreeing to a 3-year contract — not 2 years like in the old days. So you need to make sure you are comfortable with using the same phone, with no changes, over the next 3 years.

If so, these deals can be worthwhile.

As always, don’t waste your money.


Don’t Waste Your Money” is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”).

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