AT&T’s “Free” iPhone 12 Offer

AT&T will be offering the iPhone 12 for pre-order starting on October 16. The phone will be available for regular ordering online and in stores on October 23. AT&T is running a big promotion that can make the phone kinda-sorta free for both existing customers and new customers.

Customers that buy the iPhone 12 on a 30-month installment plan and trade-in a phone AT&T values at $95 or more are eligible for 30 monthly bill credits that effectively cancel out the cost of installments. Customers that cancel service before the 30 installments are complete will be responsible for paying off the remaining cost of the iPhone 12.

Customers wanting to take advantage of the promotion must meet two more conditions:

  • Customers must be “well-qualified” according to AT&T’s criteria.
  • Customers must subscribe to one of AT&T’s postpaid, unlimited plans.

Is it really free?

While the promotion is a great deal, there are two senses in which the iPhone 12 won’t truly be free. Customers that take advantage of the promotion will still need to pay a $30 activation fee. Further, the eligible trade-in devices are limited.

While $95 doesn’t sound like a lot relative to the iPhone 12’s purchase price of $800, only fairly recent phones make the cut. AT&T values the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S8 at less than $95, so those devices won’t work for the promotion. The iPhone 8 and Galaxy S9 are among the oldest phones that are eligible. You can see how AT&T values different trade-in phones here.

Visible’s Plans For 5G

Visible, a flanker brand of Verizon, just shared details about its plans for 5G service (hat tip to Dennis Bournique who tweeted about the news).

Visible will soon offer 5G service for phones in the iPhone 12 line. 5G service for some Android phones will be available a bit later.

5G won’t cost extra, but Visible suggested it may impose a speed cap (emphasis mine):

We believe that people deserve a better phone service experience, which is why we’re including 5G, with speeds up to 200 Mbps, as part of our core plan at no additional cost. No hidden fees, no forcing you to upgrade into a different, secretly-more-expensive plan.

I’m not confident the 200Mbps cap will be enforced, at least initially. In the past, Visible mentioned a 5Mbps limit on hotspot speeds, but the company didn’t strictly enforce the limit.

It looks like Visible’s 5G service will include both Verizon’s sub-6 5G and Verizon’s millimeter wave 5G:

At launch, 5G will be available for Visible members where Verizon 5G coverage is available.