How to Get a Smartphone for $0 a Month

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Samsung’s new folding smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, will set buyers back $1,980. The phone was announced earlier this week and will be released in the United States on April 26. And that’s just the starting price.

How does a smartphone for $0 sound now? That’s how much you’d pay for a third-generation Samsung J3 V at Verizon right now. There are a few differences between the two models. For instance, the Galaxy Fold comes with 512 gigabytes (GB) of built-in storage while the J3 comes with 16 GB and slot for a microSD card.

Actually, the Verizon J3 costs $168, which is credited to a customer’s monthly bill that must include one new wireless line. The monthly credit is $7 for 24 months or ends when customers terminate or transfer the wireless line.

The Samsung J3 is a pretty minimal smartphone on any number of levels. Apple’s iPhone XR, however, has only been available for a few months and carries a base price of $750. Sprint is offering a 64 GB iPhone XR for $0, but there are some conditions. It’s a variation on a Buy One, Get One (BOGO) deal in which a customer can lease any of the latest iPhones at full price and get a second iPhone XR free or a credit of $550 toward the price of the first iPhone. Customers must purchase two new wireless packages or one new plus one upgrade on another and sign up for Sprint’s iPhone Forever plan.

While a new Galaxy Fold is not on the program, the Samsung Galaxy S10e, S10 and S10+ are. These phones are scheduled for release on March 8, and AT&T, for example, is taking preorders and offering a BOGO deal to boot. Customers must purchase both phones on AT&T’s Next plan and activate at least one new wireless line in order to get this deal. The cost of the second phone will be credited to the monthly bill. AT&T is also offering a $100 Visa reward card to customers who preorder any of these phones.

The big difference among all these plans is the upfront cost of the new phone that customers pay. The Samsung J3 costs $168 at Verizon, while the iPhone XR costs $750 from Sprint and Samsung S10+ goes for a tidy $999. The carrier pays you back a month at a time (24 months at Sprint and Verizon, 30 months at AT&T) and gets to use your cash without paying interest for the entire time. Free is in the eye of the beholder.

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