March 2, 2023 at 8:10 p.m. PST
- The iPhone launched in 2007 and has taken the world by storm.
- Apple’s smartphone boasts the largest market share in the United States, eclipsing all Android devices combined as of 2023.
- Apple reduced the price of iPhone ownership, with the least expensive brand-new model costing only $429.
- Getting an iPhone for free is possible for those willing to participate in contests, sign up for government programs, trade in smartphones, or sign multi-year cellular contracts.
How to Get a Free iPhone – Overview
The iPhone is an expensive device. Ranging from $429 to well over a thousand dollars, it costs more than many laptop computers.
Apple’s iconic smartphone is well worth the price. Given the iPhone’s premium components and top-notch build quality, rivals must charge similar prices to match Apple’s offering. Yes, you can get an Android phone for a few hundred bucks, but the flagship models cost just about as much as an iPhone.
Given that you’re set on getting an iPhone, let’s look at how to get one for free. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. For example, there’s a rumor that Apple supplies free iPhones for its beta testing program. This isn’t true. Apple’s beta program is voluntary, as more than enough people are anxious to see what’s in the next version of iOS.
Apple doesn’t need to compensate beta testers. You don’t even get a t-shirt or prizes for finding defects. Apple is also well known for short-changing security experts on bug bounties. They look at it like: “We are the mighty Apple, and you should be pleased to test our software.” The notion that they will hand out free iPhones is humorous, but it’s all over the Internet.
It’s true that a government program supplies free, brand-new iPhone 7 models to qualified applicants. Although the iPhone 7 is old, its A10 processor is still powerful enough to provide a decent user experience. It even records 4K video.
Of course, many carriers offer free, brand-new iPhone models when you commit to a cellular plan. Most require a two-year contract, and you probably won’t get a top-of-the-line iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Beware of the major carriers’ clickbait. They may offer a free iPhone 14 Pro in search results, but when you arrive at their website, they require a trade-in. We all know that’s neither “free” nor “on us.” It’s like if we went out to a bar, and I “bought” you a beer, but asked you to pay the bartender. Corporate greed and double-speak have evolved into blatant, bald-faced lies. Sadly, these are pillars of American industry.
Sometimes you can get an iPhone from a contest or giveaway. If there’s a legitimate way to get a free iPhone, it’s listed it in the “Get a Free iPhone From a Contest or Giveaway” section. I also point out the obvious scams. No, you cannot get a brand new iPhone 14 Pro for answering a few survey questions. That’s a notorious scam.
Get a Free iPhone From a Cellular Provider
The easiest and most common way of obtaining a new iPhone is through a cellular provider. Although the deals aren’t as generous as before, you can still find a free iPhone. Here are some of the deals (and steals) in 2023:
Verizon claims to provide an iPhone 14 “on us.” This must mean they place the smartphone on someone’s lap before sending it out because you’re expected to pay for it. Nonetheless, Verizon uses the term “on us” several times. If you have a smartphone to trade in, you may get $1000, which could cover the cost of the iPhone 14 Pro. But, overall, this is an outright lie.
T-Mobile uses a similar click-bait strategy to entice prospective customers. Its Google search results show a message that the iPhone 14 Pro is “on us.” Again, this must mean a T-Mobile employee (or contractor) places the device on their lap before they send it out because “on us” doesn’t mean “free.” T-mobile will give you a free iPhone 13 when you switch to Magenta MAX.
AT&T enacts a similar strategy to its peers. It’s almost like they’re colluding, but that couldn’t be possible in a free-market economy. The company features a $0 iPhone on the home page. When you click on it and read the details, it’s clear that you must trade in an eligible device.
As you can see, most carriers are reluctant to hand over a free iPhone without a trade-in. I don’t consider an iPhone to be “on us” or free when you need to trade in another smartphone of an appropriate value to get the deal. T-mobile offers the best deal if you’re looking for a free iPhone from a carrier. Although they were dishonest about a free iPhone 14 Pro, they will give you a free iPhone 13 when you sign up for Magenta MAX. That’s an excellent deal these days.
Get a Free iPhone 7 or iPhone 8 From the U.S. Government
If you live in the United States, the government offers free smartphones and cellular services to those meeting income requirements under the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). You’ll most likely qualify for a free iPhone and service if you’re eligible for programs like Medicaid, Medi-Cal, SNAP, CalFresh, SSI, Federal Public Housing Assistance, or WIC.
Although the iPhone 7 isn’t a top-of-the-line device, it can run a recent version of Apple’s mobile operating system — iOS 15. The device features an A10 Fusion processor and a Retina HD display. It can even capture 4K video. The iPhone 7 supports Apple Pay, enabled with its Touch ID sensor.
My research found that the government may now supply iPhone 8 units instead of the older models. This is likely, as the iPhone 7 can’t run the latest version of iOS.
You may also find a more powerful Android device offered for free under the ACP. Both operating systems and user experiences are so similar these days, I recommend getting the better of the two.
You can apply for a free iPhone from numerous websites, as multiple cellular providers contract with the U.S. government to provide smartphones to low-income customers. Here are the top providers of free iPhones and services for eligible recipients:
These are the top free cellular providers catering to the ACP program. If they aren’t up to snuff, dozens of cellular providers are in the Affordable Connectivity Program. Search for “free iPhone ACP,” and you’ll find them. Beware of fraud. If any of these sites ask for money or a credit card, it’s a scam. You shouldn’t even pay for shipping.
When you search for free iPhones under the ACP program, Google is full of clickbait. Every online store and carrier seems to promise free government iPhones, yet when you click on the link, there’s no mention of the program — only smartphones sold at full price.
In theory, every carrier must offer ACP plans; however, they’re not always forthright. It’s probably best to call your preferred carrier and discuss the details over the phone. You can always visit their brick-and-mortar store if you don’t have a phone.
Get a Free iPhone From a Contest or Giveaway
The website World Giveaways features many contests and giveaways that promise a free iPhone. Researching the site, it doesn’t seem to be a scam, but it may be too good to be true.
iDrop News is offering a giveaway on an iPhone that doesn’t exist yet. The contest to win an iPhone 15 has already begun! It’s not a hoax. They have a well-established track record of rewarding winners.
By starting early, they get more people to share content and more email addresses to harvest. They already have 1709 entries at the time of this writing, so you better hustle if you want to win.
Essentially, these giveaway sites ask you to share webpages, videos, and other online assets that people wish to promote. They also collect your personal information, such as your name and email address. If they send you a prize, they’ll get your address too.
In exchange for sharing content and personal information, you get entries into the giveaway. Sharing the giveaway with friends can earn you more entries. You can accumulate multiple entries, with each additional one increasing your chances of winning the prize.
Keep in mind there’s no regulation of these giveaways. They could make it appear like they gave the iPhone to a winner. The ones listed here seem to be legit. If you have free time and enjoy these sorts of activities, it may be a fun way to possibly earn a free iPhone.
I’m not too fond of sharing articles to participate in a giveaway. People should share content if it’s well-written/produced and relevant to someone else. I imagine contestants using one-off social media accounts to do this. Otherwise, they may upset their real friends.
Few will actually read the article with 300,000 Likes on Facebook because people only liked it to participate in a giveaway. It must benefit the publishers because they keep doing it.
I think it’s a better use of time to create quality content and skip the gimmicks. Most sites engaged in giveaways produce mediocre content, so this is their best way to get eyeballs on videos, web pages, and ads. Creating quality content isn’t as easy as manipulating people’s competitive nature with a contest.
Beware of the “Free iPhone for Completing a Survey” Scam
Taking a survey in exchange for a free iPhone is a scam. If you see this offered, it’s a well-known rip-off. The survey asks for your credit card number and other highly personal and lucrative information.
At this time, I haven’t found any legitimate website offering a free iPhone for completing a survey. Think about it. No one will give you something worth a few hundred dollars for answering a few questions.
The giveaways are legit because they get a lot of value from handing out one iPhone. They can get millions of people to share mediocre content; some may read it and click on ads. The promotion website gets much more out of it than the participants. They’ll probably make over a hundred thousand dollars from giving away one iPhone, because people go hog wild over Apple products.
The winner puts in an abundance of time and does a lot of work for the giveaway website or social media account. Perhaps putting this effort into other endeavors would earn enough money to purchase an iPhone, AirPods, an Apple Watch, and an iPad. But the thrill of competition is alluring for some.
Free iPhones Exist, But Set Your Expectations
Back in the day, virtually every carrier would give you a free iPhone, or one at a reduced cost, for signing on to a two-year contract. Those days are almost over, but you can find a good deal. T-Mobile offers a legitimate, free iPhone 13 if you sign on to Magenta MAX. The other carriers seem to manipulate customers with clickbait.
For low-income customers, getting a free iPhone and cellular service at no cost is easy. It won’t be the newest iPhone, but you can buy a better model and opt for free cellular service.
Competitive people may enjoy the various giveaway websites. You can even start competing for an iPhone 15, which has yet to be released.
Remember that when you participate in these giveaways, you’re helping mediocre creators succeed. It’s a desperate way to transform poor content into ad revenue. But if you can’t write well or produce quality videos, a scheme can help distribute your content. In all likelihood, some obsessive person with no life will win, and you’ll waste hours jumping through hoops to earn more entries.
When I studied business years ago, I learned about TANSTAAFL — “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Usually, the word “ain’t” isn’t uttered much outside of American Lit classes, but the adage is true. If someone is giving you something, there are likely strings attached. In either event, someone has to pay for it, and they’ll usually want something in return.
For the carrier, a free iPhone means you pay for it with cellular fees. Even if the phone is free, they recoup the costs from your cellular bill. Cellular technology has become cheaper for carriers, yet the fees continue to increase. They’re not starving, and the prices seem to indicate some level of collusion.
If anything, everyone should get a “free” iPhone from their carrier because cellular fees continue to rise as network costs decrease due to technological innovations. Everything from servers to cell towers costs less today, but consumers don’t realize the savings because they’re all taken as profit.
It seems competition isn’t at play when people still pay $80 monthly for “unlimited” coverage that slows down to unusable speeds after moderate data usage. Terms like “Unlimited,” “on us,” and “free” have very different meanings to cellular providers.
The government uses tax revenue to pay for the Affordable Communications Program. Device makers and cellular providers profit from government payments provided by the ACP. They’re well compensated for providing these services — usually with higher margins than selling to the general public. That’s what lobbyists do.
Although some may get free iPhones, the “free lunch” cost goes to taxpayers. One could argue that the cost of people cut off from communications is high and that a free smartphone could unlock opportunities for low-income earners. After all, how do you get a job when you don’t have a smartphone?
As you can see, getting an iPhone for free is rare. Low-income earners come as close to a free iPhone as possible, but it’s an obsolete model. They likely pay enough taxes to reimburse the government for an old iPhone 7 with a slow LTE plan and mediocre coverage. It’s 2023, after all.
If you want a “free” iPhone, unless you qualify for the ACP, the best deal is from T-Mobile. If you qualify for the ACP, you can make do with an iPhone 7, but you may want to find a pre-owned iPhone X or XR. Even a new iPhone SE is a massive improvement with manageable monthly payments. It all depends on what you can afford.
As you can see, it’s possible to get a free iPhone. Just remember to manage your expectations. Corporations are tightening their belts in 2023, but some good deals remain. Make sure to take advantage of them before they disappear.