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.
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