The battle for wireless phone customers became more heated Monday as Verizon Communications joined the unlimited data plan crowd and looked to sweeten its program with something that might be hard to pass up:
Free iPhones. Or, free Samsung Galaxy phones. Or, even a free Google Pixel phone.
Verizon’s announcement of unlimited data plans comes as the nation’s biggest wireless carriers have ramped up their efforts to lure new customers. The Verizon plan costs $80 a month for a single line with unlimited talk, text and data, and $45 a month for each line up to four different lines.
It’s the first time Verizon has offered unlimited data plans since 2011.
As part of its attempt to attract new customers, Verizon said customers who switch from a rival and trade in newer smartphones can get their choice of an Apple iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, a Samsung Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge, or a Google Pixel phone for free. Verizon is also offering new customers with older phones the option to buy one of the new smartphones for $5 a month. Or, a total of $120, should the customer stay with Verizon for two years.
And on the free phones? If you leave Verizon before two years are up, you will have to pay a pro-rated portion of the phone’s price.
Other carriers have launched unlimited data plans over the last year, with Sprint rolling out a new plan just days before Verizon’s announcement.
Sprint, which also hired as a spokesman the guy who used to be in Verizon’s “Can you hear me, now?” ad campaign, charges $60 for the first line, and up to $150 for four lines under its new unlimited data plan. However, Sprint is also offering a limited promotion of five lines for one year for $90 a month.
T-Mobile, which took aim at Verizon in a series of Super Bowl commercials, starts its unlimited plan at $70 a month, going up to $160 for four lines. T-Mobile also did away with taxes and surcharges as additional fees on its unlimited plans last month.
Communications giant AT&T has an unlimited data plan option, but it starts at $100 a month for the first line and requires a customer to sign up for the company’s DirecTV satellite service.
Photo: A Monday, July 28, 2008 photo from files showing Eric Roden speaking on his cell phone as he walks past a Verizon store in Portland, Ore. On Monday, Verizon announced new, unlimited data plans and said customers could get a a new smartphone for free if they switch carriers and trade in their older phones. (Don Ryan/AP)