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7 Tips to Get a (Nearly) Free Phone

October 16, 2023 - Ralf Beyeler

Mobile service providers sometimes advertise free phones for new customers. Find out what is behind these offers and learn how to pay less for phones with these tips.

Telecom service providers will not actually give you a free phone. Either you have to pay it off in installments, or the cost of the phone is worked into the high plan fees. But following these seven tips from will help you get a phone for free or at a lower cost.

Tip 1: Get your friends or family to gift you their old phones

Many people upgrade to a new phone on a regular basis, often using each phone for just a short amount of time. In many cases, the used phones are in perfect condition. Whether it’s a relative or neighbor, you probably know someone who has a good phone laying around unused. Why not ask them if you can use it? This is the only way to get a good phone completely for free (unless you choose to thank them with dinner or a drink).

Tip 2: Buy an older model

Remember that phone you wished you could afford just a few years back? Chances are it costs peanuts now compared to its price tag at that time. Phones which came out half-a-year or a year ago may already be much cheaper now and still deliver a great experience. This is because phone makers often launch new models every year, causing the price of the previous models to plummet.

Tip 3: Use a simpler model

Many phone brands offer more basic versions alongside their flagship models. Good Android-powered phones can now be bought new for under 100 francs. The processor is slower, the screen resolution is lower, the Internet connection is slower, and the camera is less powerful. But for less-demanding users, these devices often work just fine. You really do not need a flagship phone just to browse the web, chat on WhatsApp or check your email.

If, on the other hand, you use your phone for gaming, watching videos or even editing, you may be better off paying more for a high-powered phone.

Tip 4: Buy used phones

Second-hand phones are much cheaper than new ones, and are readily available on many classifieds and auction websites. Used devices will normally have at least small amounts of wear. It is very important that the phone is completely reformatted before you buy it. Otherwise, data from the previous owner may still be scattered throughout the phone’s memory. There may also be apps or software installed which you do not know about.

Display models from stores are another option. These will normally have little wear and tear, but often cost more than second-hand phones.

Tip 5: Trade in your old phone

Some phone makers and dealers offer discounts when you trade in your old phone. The size of the discount normally depends on the brand and make of your old phone, and its condition.

If you do not have the option of trading in your old phone, you can always try to sell it yourself. There are special online platforms dedicated to second-hand phones which will quote you an offer for your device. Online marketplaces like Ricardo or eBay are another option for selling used phones.

Important: Before you sell your old phone or turn it in for recycling, make sure to delete all of your personal data. Ideally, use the factory reset option to reformat the phone completely.

Tip 6: Buy your phone and device separately

When all costs are taken into account, it normally works out cheaper to buy your phone and mobile plan separately. This also gives you more flexibility because you can change your phone or your plan without one affecting the other.

When you buy your phone as part of your mobile plan, you normally end up paying more, and are usually bound to a long contract term.

Tip 7: Compare offers from different dealers

There are often huge discrepancies in the prices charged by different dealers for the same phone. The big telecom service providers often charge much more for phones than online electronics dealers, for example. You can end up paying up to twice as much when you get a phone through a mobile service provider than you would at electronics dealers. That is why it always makes sense to compare offers from all dealers.

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Expert Ralf Beyeler
Ralf Beyeler is the telecom expert at and also covers other areas of personal finance.
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