Why the iPhone will never be free

Chris Burns - May 14, 2014
Why the iPhone will never be free

Back in August of 2011, I wrote an article entitled Why the iPhone 4S will be Free. As it turned out, the iPhone 4S was not “free” until the release of the iPhone 5s. The iPhone 5S is “free” right now here in 2014, if you close your eyes and pretend you’re not paying for it in your monthly bill to your mobile provider. The concept I spoke of back in 2011 is dead, now, and I no longer consider said concept to be a possibility for Apple.

This week there’s a rumor that the iPhone 6 might be “free” upon release. Don’t trust anyone who suggests they’ve got some inside word on how Apple will deliver the iPhone 6 in an entirely non-traditional way with wireless carriers.

Tradition will hold. If the iPhone 6 is offered for “free,” it will be done in a way that’s very, very similar to the company’s lowest-tier iPhone in any given set of three. At the moment the three iPhone models available to the public through Apple are the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, and iPhone 4S. These three iPhones have pricing tiers which will be basis for the release of the next iPhone or iPhones.


The reason I use quotes around the word “free” for the iPhone 4S is that customers still be pay “full price” for said iPhone with their mobile data carrier. The price is tied in to the monthly bill they pay for services, even if they can’t see it separated from the rest of the cost markers.

T-Mobile USA has tried to clarify this mysterious mode of business – to a certain degree – in the recent past. T-Mobile’s most recent model for smartphone sales show potential users exactly what they’re paying for their phone in the long and short-term.


If T-Mobile USA doesn’t offer a free iPhone off-contract, there’s no such thing as a free iPhone. T-Mobile USA does not and likely will not offer a free iPhone any time soon.

Motorola is making a big effort to kick the cost of a new phone down to the bare minimum with the Moto G and Moto E. Given the iPhone’s speed of evolution away from its origin, a free Apple-made smartphone might never exist.

Instead we’ll have to rely on a startup to create an ecosystem in which a free smartphone could potentially exist. This company would need to provide near-impossibly simple means for brands to push their apps to their operating system. They’d also need to find a way to profit from those apps, and they’d need some big-time funding to create their “free smartphone” in the first place.

Advertising efforts could also be put in effect. Imagine a smartphone that you’ll be able to acquire for free, but will have massive amounts of advertisements inside its system.

Barring hacking, (which would occur), it’s not completely unreasonable to consider such an odd device. Amazon has been using this method of adding advertisements to devices to lower their cost to the end user since 2011.

Do you know of anyone aiming to push a free smartphone to the market? Even if you’re reading article this several years after it’s been published, I’d love to hear from you. Let’s have a chat – on these free phones, if at all possible.

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