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Verizon offers free iPhones to entice customers to sign up for 5G

June 1, 2021, 7:07 PM UTC

Verizon, the nation’s largest wireless carrier, is giving new and existing customers free 5G-compatible phones including the iPhone 12 Mini and Samsung’s S21 5G with the trade in of an old phone.

Customers who trade in any recent smartphone, no older than the iPhone 8 or Galaxy S8, get the equivalent of $700 off a new iPhone or $800 off an Android phone. To qualify, customers sign up for one of Verizon’s top three unlimited data plans, which cost from $70 to $80 per month for one line, or be existing subscribers to those plans. New customers switching to Verizon also get a $300 prepaid Mastercard.

The move comes about two months after rival T-Mobile announced a free 5G phone upgrade plan of its own. T-Mobile offered a free Galaxy A32 from Samsung on any trade-in or a free or discounted iPhone 12 for a traded-in iPhone.

Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have been spending tens of billions of dollars to upgrade their networks to 5G, the next generation of wireless technology that will eventually offer download speeds 10 to 100 times faster than average 4G LTE speeds. But the carriers have only started rolling out the network upgrades required to attain the fastest speeds, and most customers have yet to upgrade to 5G-compatible phones. As of April 22, Verizon said its fastest 5G network was available in parts of 71 cities.

It’s unclear how much consumers care about 5G just yet. Although Verizon’s 5G network allows downloads at speeds of up to four gigabits per second or more, fast enough to download an entire movie file in seconds, most consumers stream their music and video on phones, which doesn’t benefit much from such high speeds. And while the wireless industry has touted the potential for 5G to enhance multiplayer video gaming, allow for mobile virtual reality, and open up other sci-fi–like possibilities, nothing new has emerged to take advantage of 5G speeds so far.

Under the latest Verizon offer, the new 5G phone will be free, but customers must sign up for a 24-month payment plan. The carrier then issues a credit for each payment. If customers depart Verizon before the plan is finished, they would owe any outstanding payments.

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