Smartphones have become an essential part of our lives, serving various purposes, from communication to accessing information and more. However, they can be expensive, making it challenging for some individuals to afford them. If you’re in the United States and need a smartphone and a wireless plan but can’t afford it, there are government programs that can help. In this guide, we’ll explore how you can get a free phone and affordable phone service through government programs.
What Government Program Is Giving Out iPhones for Free?
Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and Lifeline Assistance Program
Two main programs in the United States can help you reduce your phone service costs or even provide it entirely for free: the Affordable Connectivity Program and the Lifeline Assistance Program.
How Do These Programs Work?
- Lifeline Assistance Program: This program has a long history dating back to 1985, originally aimed at providing affordable or free phone service to struggling families. It has since expanded to include smartphone service. The program offers a $9.25 per month subsidy for broadband support to Americans with an income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. You can also qualify if at least one person in your household participates in specific government assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, SSI, FPHA, or Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit.
- Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP): A more recent program, the ACP, initially started as a pandemic-specific benefit. It focuses not only on phone service but also on ensuring households have reliable internet access. ACP provides $30 per month to eligible households to help pay for online connectivity, which can be applied to an internet service provider (ISP) or phone service providers. Additionally, it offers a one-time discount of $100 that can be used toward the purchase of a laptop, desktop, or tablet. ACP has broader eligibility requirements, including households with at least one member at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
Combining ACP and Lifeline
One advantage of these programs is that you can combine them for the best possible discounted rates. If you are already a Lifeline Assistance member, you can also apply for the ACP, further reducing your phone and internet costs.
Best Free Phone Service Providers through ACP/Lifeline
Several providers partner with ACP and Lifeline or offer plans that apply to both programs. These include major carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. However, it’s essential to note that most of these programs add discounts to existing plans and generally don’t include free phones.
For truly free plans, you’ll often find Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) dedicated to providing government-assisted service. While these plans are more likely to be free, the phone selection may be limited to lesser-known brands.
- Owned by T-Mobile.
- Benefits include free unlimited data with 25GB of high-speed data, unlimited talk and text, 2.5GB of hotspot use, and a free smartphone.
- The free phone selection typically includes lesser-known brands, but you can bring your own device.
- Offers three plans, with the base plan costing $0 per month.
- Plans include unlimited talk and text, data with options for 5GB, 15GB, or unlimited 4G/5G, and mobile hotspot data.
- Offers tablet plans as well.
- While AT&T Prepaid doesn’t provide a free phone, it offers many affordable options.
- A subsidiary of Tracfone, owned by Verizon.
- Offers unlimited talk and text, unlimited high-speed data (LTE/5G), up to 10GB of hotspot data, and a free phone for those who qualify.
- Plans vary depending on Lifeline and ACP qualifications.
For a comprehensive list of all ACP providers, you can refer to the FCC’s website. These programs offer numerous options, including internet service in addition to wireless service.
Even if you don’t qualify for ACP or Lifeline, you may still have affordable options. Providers like FreedomPop offer free plans for emergency use, while TextNow Free provides free talk and text with a small upfront cost for a SIM card.
If you’re willing to spend a bit, basic plans can cost as little as $15 a month, offering more data and features. To explore these options further, check out our guide on the best cheap phone plans.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a way to get a free iPhone or affordable phone service in the United States, government programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program and the Lifeline Assistance Program can provide significant assistance. Explore the options available to you and choose the one that best fits your needs and budget.