Mobile operators can offer iPhone 14 for free in the US

(CNN Business) – The unveiling of the latest iPhone 14 lineup last week has already sparked a slew of new promotions from mobile giants including AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.

The Big Three US carriers have announced deals that allow eligible customers to get the latest Apple smartphone for free, under certain conditions, often including trading in an older iPhone model.

AT&T and T-Mobile, for example, offer up to $1,000 in credits, after trade-in, for an iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro. Verizon is offering up to $800 in credit after you trade in your iPhone 14. Or iPhone 14 Pro, according to some offers rounded up and promoted by Apple.

While Apple has managed to keep the base price of the latest iPhone as with the previous generation, the iPhone 14 still starts at $799 and $899 for the 14 Plus model. Meanwhile, the high-end 14 Pro model starts at $999 and the 14 Pro Max starts at $1,099. At a time when inflation is hitting consumers everywhere, carrier deals can help make the latest iPhone more affordable.

Check out the new Apple iPhone 14 1:54

Carriers that have built extensive 5G infrastructure can also offer these deep discounts as customers look to upgrade to 5G-enabled devices, according to Tom Forte, senior research analyst at DA Davidson.

“They’ve invested billions of dollars in their 5G networks, and now they’re trying to get a return on their investment,” Forte told CNN Business.

The iPhone has been able to use 5G networks since the iPhone 12 was released in 2020.

“The other reason I think they can do this is because iPhones hold their values ​​so historically,” he added, noting that many deals involve trading in an older iPhone model to qualify for discounts or giveaways from newer gadgets. Many of these companies then sell used and refurbished iPhones.

See how the iPhone has evolved from 2007 to today 1:49

The latest iPhone 14 lineup, at least in the US, has also ditched the SIM tray and gone entirely with the eSIM. By doing so, Apple is “essentially making it easier for consumers to switch services,” Forte said. “This may be another reason for carriers to be more aggressive, or at least as aggressive as they were 12 years ago, in urging consumers to sign up.”

However, it is important to read the finer details, as these deals often come in the form of contracts, a common practice since cell phones have become so ubiquitous. Forte notes that if you take advantage of some of these iPhone 14 deals but then try to cancel service after a month or two, you’ll likely be responsible for “much more than the purchase price” of the new phone.

Apple and carriers may also benefit from the increasing popularity of buy now and pay later plans among consumers in recent years, according to Julie Ask, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. Therefore, more people looking for options to pay for a new iPhone over time may be particularly drawn to carrier deals that end up including discounts on the device and cellular plans, even if they involve a longer commitment.

“There has been a slight increase in consumers’ willingness and interest in paying over time,” he told CNN Business. However, he said, operators often look to “lock people in for at least two years, so that’s the exact print I’ve been looking for.”

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