Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T), Sprint (NYSE: S), T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) and U.S. Cellular have unleashed a bevy of deals on smartphones, tablets, wearable devices and accessories this week to drive store traffic and online sales ahead of Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season after Thanksgiving.
The fourth quarter has traditionally been a battleground for carriers, a time when they release new smartphones and compete for subscriber additions with holiday deals. This year is even more intense, as Sprint and T-Mobile US vie to be seen as the sale leader in the U.S. market.
In some cases the carriers are offering deals on the same devices, since so many smartphones and tablets are cross-carrier at this point. In the past few weeks carriers have made several pricing adjustments to try to lure customers, especially families. For instance, AT&T recently started offering its 15 GB shared data plan for $100 a month, which had been the price of its 10 GB plan, and Sprint cut the price of its 12 GB and 16 GB shared data plans by $10. The Black Friday deals are all about devices.
Verizon declined to specify its Black Friday deals for gadgets. However, a spokesman indicated that the carrier would not deny a report that appeared on the blog Droid-Life that spelled out a series of Verizon deals on gadgets.
According to the blog, on Black Friday itself, Nov. 28, Verizon will offer the Samsung Electronics Galaxy S5 free of charge after a $50 mail-in rebate and with a two-year contract (it's normally $200), the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for $199 with a two-year contract (it's normally $300), the Sony Xperia Z3v free with a two-year contract (it's normally $200), $100 off all new Android smartphones and free Verizon Ellipsis 8 or 7 tablets.
Additionally, all this week Verizon is offering discounts and deals, like the LG Electronics G Pad 10.1 for $79 (normally $200 with a two-year contract). Verizon customers can also buy a new Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone and receive an additional $100 off an iPad. The carrier is offering discounts on wearables and accessories, including the LG G Watch for $99 (a $130 discount), Nest's Learning Thermostat for $199 (a $50 discount) and the Garmin VivoFit fitness band for $79 (a $20 discount).
AT&T is similarly unloading a series of device deals, especially on wearables. For $99 each, customers can get a Samsung Galaxy Gear Fit (in black only), Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 Neo (all colors), Martian Notifier, LG G Watch or Pebble Smart Watch. If customers buy an LG G Watch with an LG smartphone they will get an additional 50 percent off.
AT&T is also pushing customers to buy smartphones through its Next handset-upgrade and equipment-installment plan. That has been a key priority for the carrier all year as it has been looking to shift away from subsidizing smartphones. AT&T said if customers buy any smartphone for $0 down on AT&T Next they can get an LG G Pad for 99 cents. AT&T is also teaming up with HTC and said customers can save $50 when they buy the RE camera by HTC along with the HTC Desire Eye or HTC One M8 Android smartphones.
At Sprint, starting Nov. 27 the carrier is offering a $200 savings on the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S5 Sport for well-qualified customers who buy the devices through Sprint's Easy Pay installment plan. Under leasing, qualified customers pay zero out of pocket at lease signing and lease the device for $20 a month for 24 months (excluding taxes), and receive an $8.34-a-month Black Friday service credit, taking the cost down to just $11.66 a month. Sprint claimed that customers taking advantage of the Black Friday offer will save $200.16 over the course of the 24-month lease. Under Easy Pay, customers would make 24 monthly payments of $18.75.
Sprint also unveiled a new leasing program for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, letting customers lease the phones over the course of 30 months.
Sprint is also pushing to provide deals on accessories. From Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, customers can save $300 on the Sprint-exclusive Harman Kardon Onyx Studio speaker (which normally costs $400). Customers can get the savings if they buy any JBL or Harman Kardon product. Customers who buy three accessories also get the discount.
T-Mobile is also offering several device-related deals. The carrier, which does not offer subsidized devices, is taking $150 off the price of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and $100 off the price of the older Galaxy Note 3. Additionally, the company is offering $48 off the LG G3, the Sony Xperia Z3 and the HTC One M8 for Windows Phone.
Additionally, T-Mobile is giving away a practically free Alcatel One Touch Android tablet to its customers as long as they sign up for a qualifying data plan. Starting Nov. 21, existing customers can go to participating T-Mobile retail stores and existing customers can get the Alcatel One Touch Pop 7 tablet free--they just need to pay sales tax and sign up for a data plan.
T-Mobile has also launched a promotion that it is running through the end of the year, under which customers on its Simple Choice plans can receive unlimited calling from the U.S. to landlines in more than 70 countries worldwide for just $5 a month for the entire account, not just per line. The plan had cost $10 per line per month before.
U.S. Cellular is offering a $100 prepaid card for new equipment-installment-plan customers that can be used at U.S. Cellular retail and agent store locations. The carrier is also offering the LG G Pad 7.0 for one cent through Monday with a two-year contract (while supplies last). The carrier is also offering a 30 percent discount on select accessories, including Beats headphones, game controllers, and speakers, as well as other products.
Best Buy is also getting into the act and has a multitude of wireless deals. From Nov. 23 through Nov. 29, the Samsung Galaxy S5 will be available at Best Buy, Best Buy Mobile specialty stores and online for only $1 through AT&T, Verizon and Sprint when customers sign a two-year contract. If customers choose the equipment-installment plans for those carriers, they can get the GS5 for $0 down and receive a $50 Best Buy gift card.
Additionally, starting Nov. 27 Best Buy customers are guaranteed a minimum $100 Best Buy gift card when they trade in any working iPhone at Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile store locations. Through Nov. 29, the 16 GB iPhone 6 will be available for $99.99 with a two-year contract and use of trade-in gift card, and the 16 GB iPhone 5s will be available for $1 with a two-year activation and use of trade-in gift card.
BlackBerry offers iPhone users up to $550 to switch to a Passport smartphone
T-Mobile offers nearly free Alcatel One Touch Pop 7 tablet if subs sign up for data
AT&T cuts price of 15 GB shared data plan by $30
Sprint's Boost, T-Mobile's GoSmart offer new double-data promotions
Verizon will stay conservative in wireless pricing battles, analysts say