On Wednesday, it unveiled three new phone options for its Straight Talk Wireless brand, which is only offered in Walmart stores.
Shoppers can get a free Moto G Stylus 5G at Walmart, a savings of $199, with in-store activation of a $45 service plan for three months. It’s valid while supplies last through August 31.
In addition, it’s offering a free Motorola G 64 GB Power phone with a new one-month $45 or higher activation plan, or a free 5G Motorola G Power 128 GB phone with a new three-month $45 or higher activation plan. That offer is only in Walmart while supplies last.
A Verizon spokesperson told Fierce that Straight Talk has offered free phones in the past, although not in the past year. Given the current economic environment, the brand is looking to create “more compelling offers for value-conscious consumers,” the spokesperson said.
The big “catch” with the free Stylus is that it requires a three-month commitment, said Jeff Moore, principal of Wave7 Research, which closely follows prepaid promotions.
Wave7 earlier this year identified free phones at Walmart as a trend. As of mid-March, Metro by T-Mobile had been offering free phones at Walmart for nearly four months. Verizon Prepaid had a Walmart offer of a free Samsung Galaxy A03s, and Cricket, an AT&T brand, was pitching a free Moto G Pure, according to Wave7.
“The important distinction here is free phones at Metro, Boost and Cricket stores – that’s gone on for years and years,” Moore said. However, it's not that common at Walmart stores. One of the fears has been that dealers would come into a Walmart, get a lot of free phones and resell them for a profit over what they would get through a master dealer.
Now more prepaid brands are requiring ID validation. "The big picture point is three years ago, it was the Wild West," he said. Not so anymore. "It's much more sober."
The Google Pixel, which has been offered with postpaid plans, is also becoming a thing for prepaid, he said.
Total by Verizon is offering $100 off a Google Pixel 6a for those who switch from another carrier. Regularly $299, the phone is $199 when consumers switch to Total by Verizon now through June 30 or while supplies last. The offer is available in Total by Verizon stores and at Walmart and requires external port-in on a Total by Verizon unlimited plan, according to Verizon.
For many years, Verizon barely paid attention to the prepaid category, but in November 2021, it closed on the acquisition of TracFone, the largest MVNO at the time, and with that came an array of brands.
Klein told Fierce in an interview earlier this year that Total by Verizon is Verizon’s push to go after its nearest rivals’ prepaid brands. “When we think of Total and its role, it’s really to be that sub brand for Verizon and to go head-to-head with Metro and Cricket,” she said.