Free Phones: What to Know When Comparing Options

Want to get a free phone, or do you want a brand new smartphone with no money down? Finding free phones is easy if you know what to look for, and finding no-money-down phones is even easier. Most of the large nationwide cellular providers such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon can hook you up with high-tech smartphones that won't cost you anything upfront, and your hardware costs are paid overtime with your regular cell phone bill. If you want a truly free cell phone, you'll have better luck with smaller companies such as SafeLink Wireless, FreedomPop and Assurance Wireless by Virgin Mobile. Would a free cell phone cover your needs, and are the phones you're looking at really free? Learning about the myths and facts of free cell phones can help you make better decisions when choosing a new mobile device.

7 Active Myths | Suggest a Myth
FACT: Free cell phones are available through government programs.

The federal Lifeline Assistance program exists to help low-income Americans get cell phones that can be so helpful when coordinating medical appointments, dealing with children or finding a job. Several cellular providers are providers of free phones and phone plans through this program; some of these companies include Access Wireless, American Assistance, Budget Mobile, Infiniti Mobile and ClearTalk. People must prove they meet certain income requirements before being eligible to free phones through this program.

MYTH: You can get a new iPhone for no money up front.

Want to get your hands on a new iPhone, but you don't want to pay full retail at the point of purchase? How about paying nothing at all? When you shop for iPhones through any of the large nationwide cellular providers, you can find the latest and greatest iPhones for $0 at the counter. Instead, you'll pay for the costs of your new phone over a period of 24 months. It's not exactly free, but this is what the larger phone companies are doing now with the newest tech.

MYTH: Free DROID phones are available through the major carriers.

Just like with the iPhone, don't expect to get your hands on a free DROID phone through AT&T, Verizon or any other major cellular provider. These companies used to give out older versions of these phones for free, but now what you'll get are bargain prices paid over a period of several months. When shopping for a new phone, always ask for clarification about what you're getting is actually free.

FACT: I can get free minutes and data if I buy a phone.

Maybe you don't want a free phone, but you want to save over the long run with free data? Even if you don't qualify for the Lifeline Assistance program, you can still get free smartphone usage through a company called FreedomPop. Buy a qualifying phone through the company and get free data and talk time. You get 200 minutes, 500 MB of data and you may qualify for free trial features as well.

MYTH: Free cell phones don't have 3G or 4G data capabilities.

Just because a cell phone is free doesn't mean it's archaic. Several providers of free cell phones have a variety of smartphones to choose from, and for good reason. Think about it -- if part of the purpose of free cell phone programs is to help lower income people find jobs, then why would their free phones be without Internet access to help them find jobs and communicate via email?

MYTH: Buying a phone with no money down will lock me into a contract.

If you buy a phone with $0 paid upfront, but then pay for your phone over time, does that mean you're locked into a long-term contract? The short answer is "no." Yes, you'll be on the hook to pay off the cost of your phone, but you can get a no-contract plan that is separate from your hardware costs. In other words, if you get the right phone plan, then you can still cancel at any time without penalties -- you'll just still be billed for your phone.

MYTH: Free phones don't have access to games and apps.

Free phones can do anything their paid counterparts can do! Even when acquired through the Lifeline Assistance Program, these phones can fully take advantage of all the infotainment features that make today's cellular technology so desirable. Don't worry about getting less of a phone just because you've found a way  to get hardware or service for free.