Verizon offers free 5G phones to lure premium customers

Verizon wants to get more customers "on" its 5G. (Verizon screenshot)

Verizon followed in its competitors’ footsteps today and announced that its customers can trade in an old phone and get a new 5G phone for free, with select plans.

For existing customers, Verizon will offer up to $700 for a new iPhone or $800 for a new Android. The offer is good for those taking Premium Unlimited plans, and the carrier is sweetening its trade-in offers for lower plans, too.

Verizon is also enticing people to switch from another carrier, offering the same trade-in deal as well as a $300 prepaid check-card.

In addition, Verizon is encouraging customers to buy one of seven premium entertainment options. These include apps such as Apple Arcade, Google Play Pass, Apple Music, Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ and Discovery+.

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Many mobile operators are putting a new twist on the digital content bundle by offering free streaming services and games as a way to encourage stickiness and also get customers to upgrade to higher-priced unlimited data plans that include 5G.

Verizon’s announcement today is chock-full of footnotes, so customers will need to vet the deals carefully.

Cowen analysts led by Colby Synesael said Verizon believes it can enjoy higher volumes without sacrifice to its margins. The analysts wrote today, “In our conversation with Verizon, the company noted the offer comes from a position of strength, rather than one of desperation. With only 23% of its base on Premium Unlimited, and “tier-ups” being integral to the ARPU (and service revenue) growth story, the aggressive promotions make sense.”

The analysts said the aggressive promos could drive second quarter 2021 postpaid phone adds to surpass 200,000 and upgrades to increase 5%.

Verizon promo follows T-Mobile, AT&T

In April, T-Mobile announced a similar promotion that offers a free Samsung 5G device to anyone who trades in a working mobile phone. T-Mobile is motivated to get customers on its nationwide 5G network and, of course, to entice customers to switch from other providers to its service.

The Seattle-based company also needs former Sprint customers to get on the T-Mobile network with an appropriate device. And it needs to migrate customers off its 3G CDMA network, which it wants to decommission at the end of 2021. So, it’s got a lot of reasons for luring customers to upgrade, by offering a free 5G phone.

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

AT&T kicked off the promo wars in October 2020 when it began offering an aggressive 5G iPhone deal.