A Free iPhone From AT&T? Yes, but There Are a Few Strings Attached

Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

The news that AT&T is going to start offering a “free” smartphone has been bouncing around the last couple of days, and it’s bringing on some serious nostalgia.

Remember when we were suspicious of smartphones, and cell phone companies actually had to entice us into signing a contract by throwing in the phone for free (or at least cheap)?

Remember when that all changed, and people started lining up at 3 a.m. in 15-degree weather to pay $650 for the newest model?

Gone are the days of cell phone companies having to lure us in with contract deals and free devices — these days, it’s difficult to find a person who makes their calls on anything but an iPhone or Android device.

And while cell phone companies have made it easier for the average person to carry the newest smartphone by employing special financing plans, nothing really compares to the whole free phone deal of yesteryear.

Wait, a Free Phone?

Is it possible we’re headed back to the era of free smartphones?

Well, it’s a start: AT&T is now offering a buy one, get one deal on smartphones with a qualifying service plan.

But wait. Is a free smartphone too good to be true?

Well, Sort Of

In the announcement, AT&T states customers can choose between “three popular smartphones” — including the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

To take advantage of this deal, add a new line (or upgrade an existing one), and purchase both new devices through AT&T’s Next or Next Every Year service plan. Eligibility requires a service plan of at least $70 per month.

And while AT&T will credit your bill up to $695 over the next 24 or 30 months (depending on which plan you choose), you’ll still shell out the first three installments on the “free” phone before the reimbursement kicks in. Plus, you’ll pay all taxes on the phone upfront.

So, while this might be a good idea for anyone nearing the end of a contract or looking to switch providers, it’s definitely not the crazy-exciting “free iPhone” deal it might look like at first glance.

However, if you’re free of a contract and wouldn’t have to pay a lump sum to buy out your device or service, then sure, it might be time to take AT&T up on its offer.

So it’s a good deal, but maybe not a great deal — unless you were already able to tick all the required boxes. In that case, this deal might make sense.

Your Turn: Would you switch to AT&T to score a (mostly) free smartphone?

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.