Most cellphone plan deals normally come with all kinds of strings attached. Get a free iPhone! — provided you buy two other iPhones, port three lines from another carrier, add insurance, and accept payment in the form of a Diners Club International gift card.
So when Sprint quietly announced that it’ll give you a year of free unlimited service, I assumed that it would only apply to people who buy a new Essential phone, or perhaps require a pledge of personal fealty to Marcelo Claure. But actually, it’s a lot simpler than that.
With Sprint’s new deal, all you need to do is bring your number and eligible phone (basically any recent iPhone or Android) over from one of the other big mobile networks, and Sprint will give you service for free, for one year. You get unlimited talk, text and data, plus 10GB of hotspot data and even mobile roaming. All you have to pay per line is taxes, which is a couple bucks a month.
Even better is that there’s no limit on the number of lines you can bring over. If you’ve got a family on Verizon or T-Mobile, you could be saving well over $1,000 a year, even if you’re not all on unlimited plans.
Of course, the big catch here is Sprint’s network. Studies consistently put it in last place of the big four networks, with coverage and speed that just doesn’t rival T-Mobile or Verizon. If you’re committing to making the jump for a year, I’d recommend picking up a SIM and testing it in your phone for a week or two first to make sure you can still get coverage at home and at work.
The bigger question here is what Sprint’s really hoping to achieve. You don’t have to be a genius to work out that giving away cell service doesn’t make money, and there’s a good chance that people will switch back to a different provider (or take advantage of one of the other carrier’s switching offers) at the end of the year, and Sprint will have given you a year of service for nothing.
The most cynical answer is that Sprint is trying to artificially fluff subscriber numbers before a potential merger or sale of the company, which Sprint’s Japanese owner is said to be actively looking to do. Suddenly adding a bunch of postpaid customers — even customers that aren’t actually paying any money — looks good for any potential buyer, providing they forget to check the deals section of Sprint’s website first.