T-Mobile entices with ‘free’ 5G phone trade-in offer

Analyst Avi Greengart of Techsponential says don't underestimate the appeal of "free" in T-Mobile's latest offer. (T-Mobile)

T-Mobile is looking to get more consumers outfitted with 5G phones, on Wednesday unveiling a new promotion that offers a free Samsung 5G device to anyone that trades in any working mobile phone.  

The carrier has been rolling out its high-capacity midband 2.5 GHz spectrum for 5G. T-Mobile’s had a head start on competitors AT&T and Verizon, which are both looking to deploy mid-band C-band frequencies later this year.

During today’s online “Un-carrier” event, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert took the opportunity to point out that T-Mobile’s 5G network is up and running nationwide with faster speeds and capacity for better performance.

He also said that currently 92% of Americans don’t have 5G phones. So despite T-Mobile’s broad coverage, not many consumers can tap increased performance from its mid-band 5G deployments.

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“We’re giving every single person in this country a free trade-up to an awesome Samsung Galaxy 5G smartphone,” Sievert said, and that includes new and existing postpaid customers. “All you have to do is trade in an old phone and no not just the last year’s model, literally any mobile phone.”

Specifically, it’s the brand new Samsung Galaxy A32 5G, which comes at no cost (except for taxes on the full price) over a two-year period of monthly bill credits with trade-in. Samsung’s A32 retails for $282.  A $10 SIM card, and a $20 assisted upgrade charge in-stores or with a customer service call might be needed.

“Still using a Razr, a Sidekick?” Sievert said not jokingly. “Whatever it is it doesn’t matter.”

Don’t underestimate appeal of ‘free’

Avi Greengart, president and lead analyst of Techsponential, pointed to the lack of strings attached as adding to the appeal.

“It’s a strong offer, in large part because there are very few catches,” he told Fierce.

Greengart acknowledged the two-year timeframe and required trade-in, “but that trade in can be pretty much any phone you have in your drawer that still turns on, and you don’t need to be a new subscriber or add a line to get it.”

RELATED: AT&T expands 5G to legacy unlimited plans

The only disclaimer in T-Mobile’s announcement was that the phone can’t have screen or water damage.

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G
                          The Samsung Galaxy A32 5G. (Samsung)

Alongside the 5G phone upgrade, T-Mobile is targeting what is says are 60 million Americans on limited data plans at AT&T and Verizon. Those users, as well as existing T-Mobile postpaid customers and legacy Sprint customers can get bumped up to unlimited data plans with 5G access.

For T-Mobile customers, the move to its basic unlimited Essentials plan is free. The operator said users coming from AT&T and Verizon limited data plans get it “at the same or better price than the Carriers’ offer for limited data plans today.”

PCMag’s lead mobile analyst Sascha Segan posited that T-Mobile’s push is about back-end rationalization.

“It gets a whole bunch of older service plans (especially Sprint plans) out of their system, and it gets to streamline its customer support and billing,” wrote Segan. “And 5G service plans are another push to get users onto that green-field 5G network.”

RELATED: T-Mobile launches commercial 5G Home Internet

As Greengart noted, T-Mobile’s also offering trade-ins for iOS users to bump up to 5G-capable models. They can trade an iPhone 11 for an iPhone 12 or get half off an iPhone 12 with models 7 through 10. For those with even older iPhone models – like a 3GS, consumers can trade in for half off an iPhone 12 mini.

The iPhone offer is only available April 18 through May 1, while T-Mobile plans to run the free 5G trade-in promotion all year.

As for the Samsung A32 5G, which just debuted alongside the rest of the Galaxy A series today, Greengart said “the phone itself looks great,” noting 5G capabilities alongside a 90 Hertz display “from a brand consumers want.”

AT&T and Verizon each came out with their own respective deals for different models in the Samsung A series. Verizon has the Galaxy A42 5G version, which includes support for millimeter wave and sub-6 GH (including C-band), while AT&T will carry the A52 with support for sub-6 GHz 5G.

Without T-Mobile’s freebie trade-in, the A32 still retails for less than the A42 and 52 versions – and is Samsung’s first 5G smartphone under $300.

“While it isn’t a premium Galaxy S phone, it will still be a noticeable upgrade over most older phones,” Greengart said. “And don’t underestimate the appeal of ‘free’.”