The days of being able to walk into your carrier’s store and get a new phone for $50 to $100 are gone, along with phone contracts, but that doesn’t mean that phone deals disappeared with it. Over the past few years, carriers including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have become far more aggressive with deals for both new and existing customers as each of them continue to push their 5G networks. These days it’s not out of the ordinary to find deals that can score you a new high-end phone for free, but you often need to be on one of the carriers’ higher-end 5G plans and agree to monthly bill credits over a 24- to-36 month period, which locks you into service and if you cancel before then you’re on the hook for the difference.
Below you’ll find deals on phones for new and existing customers who are adding lines, trading in phones and more. There’s also a selection of deals available for those who would rather pay outright for an unlocked phone. That’s why CNET is working with Navi to help cut through the confusion. Navi is an independent marketplace that aggregates information on service plans and phone deals to help consumers find the best choices and prices on the market.
Carrier Phone Deals
Carrier contracts as we know them may not be around anymore, but these newer offers from Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are similar in many ways. Through monthly bill credits, you can get a phone for next to nothing in many cases, but the stipulation is that you have to remain a customer for a set length of time while you’re receiving the credits, otherwise you’re responsible for the remaining costs and potentially more based upon the carrier. In addition, some carriers will only allow you to take advantage of these deals on specific plans, which are usually some of its more expensive 5G plans, so be sure to understand the monthly costs associated with switching before taking advantage of that “free phone” deal you see advertised.
Verizon has a few different 5G plans which are eligible for most of these promotions and are outlined below. We generally recommend the 5G Play More plan for most people as it offers the best mix of basic needs and extras — it includes a free Disney Bundle subscription. The carrier has brought back its “free 5G phone” promotion where you can get “any 5G phone” for free with any 5G plan, but it doesn’t apply to every model or storage capacity.
Eligible Plans: 5G Do More, 5G Play More, 5G Get More, 5G Start
If you’re in the market for a new iPhone and are on Verizon, you’ll want to consider these offers. The carrier is offering between $400 and $800 off the cost of a new iPhone 13 with an eligible trade in. You can trade in a device as old as the iPhone 6 series towards the new model to get the $400 credit.
In addition to the trade-in, you’ll need to be on one of Verizon’s 5G plans, like the 5G Do More, 5G Play More, 5G Get More or 5G Start. The trade in credit is distributed over a 36-month period, so you’ll need to keep an active Verizon line for that duration or you’re responsible for the rest of the charges associated with the device.
New and existing customers can save between $400 and $800 on Samsung’s latest round of flagship devices at Verizon with an eligible trade in. Your current device will determine how much Verizon will give you towards the new phone. This offer makes the standard Galaxy S22 free with eligible trade in.
Verizon’s Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro promotions are far more generous than the others as the carrier is offering up to $800 off via monthly bill credits. These deals are good for new and existing customers, but you’ll need to have a recent phone to trade-in for the full credit.
You’ll need to be on one of Verizon’s 5G plans, like the 5G Do More, 5G Play More, 5G Get More or 5G Start in order to get the monthly bill credits, which are spread across a 36-month period for this. You can trade in a device as old as the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S7 for $400 and newer models like the iPhone X and Galaxy S9 will earn you the full $800 credit.
Samsung’s foldable phones have come a long way in the few short years they’ve been around, but they still skew to the pricier side of the market right now. Verizon is offering between $400 and $800 off either foldable for both new and existing customers, but you’ll need to have a phone that you can trade in for the discounts.
In addition to the trade in, you will need to be on either the 5G Do More, 5G Play More, 5G Get More or 5G Start Plan. The trade-in credit is applied as 36 monthly bill credits. You’ll need to be a customer for at least that long to get the full discount, and if you happen to leave before then you will be responsible for the remaining fees.
Not everyone needs a $1,000 phone. If you’re looking for something more affordable that’s still reliable, Samsung’s Galaxy A42 may be just the phone for you. Right now, new customers can save up to $220 on the device, which means you’ll end up paying just $180 for it. This promotion is only for new customers who enroll in Verizon’s 5G Do More, 5G Play More, 5G Get More or 5G Start plan. The bill credits are split across 36 months.
New Verizon customers can get the iPhone 11 for free right now with 36 months of bill credits. This promotion does not require you to trade in any device to get the credit, though you will need to enroll in Verizon’s 5G Do More, 5G Play More, 5G Get More or 5G Start plan in order to be eligible, despite the iPhone 11 not supporting Verizon’s 5G network.
We’d advise that in most cases people look towards the iPhone 12 or even the iPhone 13, but if you don’t have a current phone to trade in, and cost is something you’re worried about, this iPhone 11 deal may be your best option.
Phone deals at AT&T
In an effort to keep up with the competition, AT&T has been stepping up its offers for both new and existing customers.
AT&T is offering new and existing customers the option to save up to $700 on any of the iPhone 13 models with an eligible trade in. The carrier is accepting phones starting at the iPhone 7 or any of Samsung’s Galaxy devices, and for the first time AT&T is even allowing customers to trade in phones that have cracked screens — following a move Verizon started.
You’ll need to purchase the phone on one of AT&T’s installment billing plans and you’ll receive the monthly credits over 36 months.
AT&T is aggressively pushing trade-in offers for the new Galaxy S22 series by offering customers with any Galaxy phone, from any year, in any condition the option to trade it in and get the new Galaxy S22 for free. If you want the Galaxy S22 Plus or Ultra, AT&T is offering up to $800 off with the trade-in.
These offers are all for the 128GB model, but you can upgrade to the larger capacity 256GB option for a few bucks more each month if you need the additional storage. The monthly bill credits for this promotion are split across 36 months.
With AT&T’s current offers, you can score the Google Pixel 6 for free or save up to $800 on the purchase of a Pixel 6 Pro with an eligible trade in. AT&T is accepting a wide range of phones for the trade in towards Google’s latest devices, so be sure to see how much your current phone is worth and which of these offers is best for you.
AT&T has deals on both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini right now, with the better discount being on the smaller phone. With no trade in being required, you can pick up an iPhone 12 for $15 per month right now, which is a discount of $5.28 per month for 36 months, or $190 total. The iPhone 12 mini is down to $8.75 a month from $17.50, saving you $315 across the 36 months of bill credits.
Phone deals at T-Mobile
T-Mobile is aggressively pushing its Magenta and Magenta Max plans, which means that many of the deals that you’ll find to save you some money on a new phone will require you switch over to one of them. While the plans do offer extra benefits, like extra subscription services at no cost, there is a possibility that these are more expensive than what you’re paying currently, so be sure to weigh the options before committing to it for 24 months of credits and giving up your current plan forever.
T-Mobile is offering new and existing customers a great way to save on the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 mini and the iPhone 13 Pro Max right now with a minimum trade-in credit of $100 towards the new device. You can trade in a phone as old as the original iPhone during this promotion, though newer phones can earn you up to $800 off the purchase of your new iPhone 13 series.
You will need to be on one of T-Mobile’s Essentials, Magenta or Magenta Max plans in order to qualify for this promotion. The trade in credit is split up between 24 bill credits. Canceling or transferring your service prior to that will result in you being responsible for the remaining charges.
Looking for the latest Google smartphone? If so, T-Mobile has some great deals on both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro right now, with discounts ranging from $150 to $501 based on your current trade-in. If you’re a current T-Mobile subscriber, you can save between $150 and $300 on either device with a trade-in as old as the iPhone 6, but those who transfer a number to T-Mobile can save just over $500 on the Pixel 6 Pro.
You will need to be on an Essentials, Magenta or Magenta Max plan in order to qualify for the discounts. The credits come in the form of 24 monthly bill credits. If you cancel or transfer service before the 24 months, you’ll be responsible for the balance.
Released in March 2022, the iPhone SE (3rd Gen) offers a familiar form factor with enhanced internals. For those looking to stick with Touch ID and have a phone that’s not three years old, this is the best bet. T-Mobile is offering new and existing customers up to $400 off the iPhone SE with eligible trade-in, but new customers without a phone to trade can still score up to $215 off the price.
The credits are spread across a 24-month period, but you do need to be on an Essentials, Magenta or Magenta Max plan in order to qualify.
If you don’t need the latest and greatest, buying a slightly older iPhone model is a great way to save even more money without making too much sacrifice. The iPhone 12 offers a lot of great features and is definitely still worth buying in 2022, especially when you can save as much as $730 off the price of one. In order to get the biggest discount, you’ll need to be a new T-Mobile customer who’s porting a line from another carrier, but existing customers can still save between $100 and $400 on the purchase with an eligible trade in.
T-Mobile requires customers be on an Essentials, Magenta or Magenta Max plan in order to qualify and the bill credits are split across a 24 month period.
Unlocked Phone Deals
If you don’t want to deal with monthly bill credits and would prefer to own your phone outright, you can still save some money on your purchase by looking around a bit. There are a few places where you can buy unlocked phones at a discount, though you’ll want to confirm that they are truly unlocked and not tied to any carrier or prepaid carrier before ordering. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite unlocked phone deals below.
If battery life is important to you, the Moto G Power is a great option, especially at this price. It’s advertised to get up to 3 days of battery life per charge, features a 6.5-inch display, has 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage inside. It works on all the major carriers, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Simple Mobile, Mint Mobile, Google Fi and plenty of others. Priced at just $230, it’s a hard option to beat.
Samsung’s Galaxy A series is a popular, affordable line of devices that bring great features without a huge price tag. In our full Galaxy A53 5G review we said “you almost forget this phone costs just $450”, as it offers a solid mix of long-lasting battery life and good overall performance. Amazon’s $100 discount sweetens that even further, making this 6.5-inch 5G phone an even better buy.
OnePlus has been making high-end Android phones for a while, but the company also sells some lower-cost entry level unlocked phones. This one has a 6.49-inch display, 64GB of storage, a large 5,000-mAh battery and a triple camera system on the back. Unfortunately, it only works on Google Fi or T-Mobile’s networks, so you will need to ensure you are using one of those carriers before making the purchase.
Carriers aren’t the only place that you’ll find a deal on the Galaxy S22 series. Amazon has discounts on all of the configurations available right now, with discounts of up to $300 depending on which one you pick. The bigger discounts are on the more expensive ones, but even the base model of the Galaxy S22 with 128GB of storage is $125 off right now.
You can also buy it directly from Samsung with up to $250 off instantly, though there are some longer shipping delays at Samsung compared to Amazon.