Spend any time in front of a TV set during the holiday season, and you're going to see commercials from major phone carriers touting their best cell phone deals. The strategy makes sense — a fair number of people like to end the year by picking up a new phone, and with most of us buying our handsets through carriers, this is the chance for AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon to lure in new customers with big savings on top devices.
But while a 30-second TV spot is great for grabbing your attention on possible smartphone savings, it's a lousy way to comparison shop. If you're left wondering which of the holiday deals being flogged by the big phone carriers is the best one for you, you've got some research ahead of you.
Or you can let us do the work you instead.
We're constantly checking out the best AT&T phone deals and the best Verizon phone deals and keeping tabs on what T-Mobile offers as well, so this is a busy time of year for us. Below, we've plucked out the best holiday offer at each carrier so that you can see how much you'll save and — just as important — what hoops you have to jump through to get the biggest savings.
This is a great time to be in the market for an iPhone, as all three major wireless providers are offering some of the best iPhone 14 deals we've seen since Apple's phone debuted in the fall. Since we recognize that not everyone's an iPhone fan, we're also including offers on some of the best Android phones you'll find at AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.
Here's what you'll currently find if you're looking for a great holiday phone deal.
Verizon holiday phone deals
Verizon's best iPhone deal
What it is: Free iPhone 14, iPad and Apple Watch SE
What you get: Verizon is offering this deal for any 5G phone, but it's especially appealing if you're looking to pick up any iPhone 14 model. Trade in your current device and sign up for an eligible unlimited plan (or upgrade your current Verizon service to an unlimited plan), and you can get up to $1,000 in bill credits. That's enough to get you the iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 14 Plus or iPhone 14 for free; the iPhone 14 Pro Max would cost you just $99 with Verizon's rebate.
But wait — there's more. You also have the option of tacking on both a 9th gen iPad and an Apple Watch SE 2022, also for free. Additionally, Verizon will throw in some Beats Fit Pro wireless earbuds with your purchase.
The fine print: To get the discounted iPad and Apple Watch SE, you'll need to add a line for those devices, so that's an additional cost to your monthly wireless bill. Also know that Verizon spreads out the credits over 36 months, and you're on the hook for any remaining device balances should you want to leave Verizon before your three-year commitment is up.
Who it's for: Verizon's holiday deals include a generous amount of bonus devices, so this is a great offer for anyone who wants to end the year with the entire Apple ecosystem of products at their beck and call. Even if the Apple Watch SE and iPad don't appeal to you, you can still use the trade-in rebate to pick up an iPhone 14 at no cost.
iPhone 14 Pro: up to $1,000 off w/ trade-in @ Verizon
Trade-in a phone and sign up for an eligible unlimited plan, and Verizon will give you up to $1,000 in bill credits toward an iPhone 14 Pro. (The same offer applies to any iPhone 14 model.) In addition, you can get a free 9th Gen iPad and an Apple Watch SE 2022 by adding additional lines for those devices.
Verizon's best Android deal
What you get: Take Verizon's above offer for the iPhone 14, then scratch out the name of Apple's phone and write in the Samsung 5G handset of your choice. You can get up to $1,000 in credits with a trade-in and an unlimited data plan, which you can apply to the Galaxy S22, Galaxy Z Fold 4 or Galaxy Z Flip 4 to name three eligible devices.
The fine print: As with the iPhone deal, Galaxy fans will be getting their credits over 36 months, and that tablet and watch will require additional lines of data.
Who it's for: With up to $1,000 in credits, this is a great opportunity to pick up a Galaxy S22, Galaxy S22 Plus or Galaxy Z Flip 4 for free. You can also knock a significant chunk off the cost of a Galaxy S22 Ultra or Galaxy Z Fold 4. And, if you're so inclined, you can get a Samsung tablet and watch as part of your haul.
Galaxy S22 Plus: Up to $1,000 off w/ trade-in @ Verizon
You can get up to $1,000 in credits with a trade-in when you buy any Samsung 5G phone, but why not use your rebate to knock off the cost of Samsung's 6.6-inch Galaxy S22 Plus? You will have to sign up for an unlimited data plan, but you can also add a Galaxy Tab S7 FE and Galaxy Watch 4 to this deal for free.
AT&T holiday phone deals
AT&T's best iPhone deal
What it is: Up to $1,000 off any iPhone 14
What you get: Like Verizon, AT&T is offering up to $1,000 in credits when you trade in a phone, sign up for an unlimited data plan, and purchase an iPhone 14. That means the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus and iPhone 14 Pro can be yours for free if you get the maximum rebate. With $1,000 in credits, you can lower the cost of an iPhone 14 Pro Max to a mere $2.78/month over 36 months.
The fine print: That 36-month payment plan for the iPhone 14 Pro Max hints at the first limitation of this offer — that's how long AT&T stretches out the credits for your free/discounted iPhone so that's how long you'll be tied to the carrier.
AT&T also offers very specific fine print for which phones qualify for which rebates. For the full $1,000 credit, you'll need an iPhone 11 Pro Max or any iPhone 12 or iPhone 13. Other rebates come in at $800 or $350 depending on the age of your phone.
Who it's for: AT&T may not offer the extra devices found in Verizon's deal, but if you're just looking to score an iPhone 14 at a discount, this is a solid offer, especially if you can trade in a newer device that nabs you a big discount.
iPhone 14 Pro Max: Up to $1,000 off with trade-in @ AT&T
Trading in a phone and signing up for an eligible unlimited plan gets you a big discount on any iPhone model, but using it on the best iPhone avaiable seems like a no-brainer, especially if you can get the maximum $1,000 back from AT&T. That reduces the amount you have to pay for an iPhone 14 Pro Max to just $2.78/month for 36 months.
AT&T's best Android deal
What it is: Free Galaxy S22 with trade-in
What you get: If you prefer Android to iOS, you can get a Galaxy S22 phone for free at AT&T just by trading in your current device and opting for an unlimited plan. Purchasing a Samsung phone also makes you eligible for a $100 discount on Samsung's Galaxy Buds wireless earbuds.
The deal also applies to the Galaxy S22 Plus and Galaxy Z Flip 4, where your trade-in can get you up to $1,000 in credits. You can also use the $1,000 trade-in value to lower the cost of the Galaxy S22 Ultra (normally $1,199) and Galaxy Z Fold 4 (normally $1,799).
The fine print: Rebate credits are spread across 36 months, tying you to AT&T, and you'll need a fairly recent phone to get the full rebate. Also, note that you will be charged for sales tax on your phone purchase, plus a $35 activation fee.
Who it's for: This is a great opportunity to get one of the best Samsung phones for free, or at a significant discount if you're eyeballing the Galaxy S22 Ultra or Galaxy Z Fold 4.
Samsung Galaxy S22: Free w/ trade-in @ AT&T
The Galaxy S22 normally costs $799, but you can wipe out that cost in bill credits by trading in your phone and signing up for an unlimited plan. Existing customers who have an unlimited plan are eligible for the discount, too. Other top Samsung phones are also subject to the same discount, giving Galaxy S fans a lot of choice.
T-Mobile holiday phone deals
T-Mobile's best iPhone deal
What it is: Four free iPhone 14 models with unlimited data
What you get: If a free iPhone 14 constitutes a great deal, four free iPhone 14 models must be an out-of-this-world offer. But that's what you get at T-Mobile — provided you have four eligible phones to trade in for the discount.
It gets better if you're switching to T-Mobile and opening up four new lines of data for all those iPhone 14 models you've bought. T-Mobile will charge you just $25 a line for a monthly bill of $100. Normally, the T-Mobile Essentials plan gives you unlimited data for $120/month for four lines of data.
The fine print: This offer is only available in stores of if you call T-Mobile's 800-number. The credits appear on your bill over 24 months — hey, at least that's less of a commitment than what AT&T and Verizon require — and you're on the hook for taxes and the activation fee.
Who it's for: Families with devices to trade in are the target for this deal, but keep in mind, even if you're just one person, you can save up to $800 on an iPhone 14 with an eligible trade-in and a new line of data. Existing T-Mobile customers can get the iPhone 14 for 50% off with a trade-in.
iPhone 14: 4 free iPhone 14s w/ trade-in @ T-Mobile
Trade in four phones and you can get a discount on four iPhone 14 models at T-Mobile. In addition, customers who switch to the Uncarrier can save $20/month on unlimited data. Even if you just wind up wit the free phones, that's a fair offer.
T-Mobile's best Android deal
What it is: Free Pixel 7
What you get: The Google Pixel 7 has been the subject of a lot of compelling phone deals since its October release, but T-Mobile may have the best offer of all. You can get the phone for free with a trade-in once you sign up for the carrier's Magenta Max unlimited plan.
Signing up for the Magenta Max plan also nets you a free pair of Google Pixel Buds Pro courtesy of a prepaid MasterCard gift card. If you don't want to sign up for a Magenta Max plan, you can knock 50% off the cost of your Pixel 7 with a trade-in alone.
The fine print: Magenta Max is T-Mobile's most expensive unlimited plan at $85/month, though you do get some nice perks, such as an Apple TV Plus subscription. As with other deals, the free phone comes in the form of discounted bill credits spread out over 24 months.
Who it's for: The Pixel 7 is one of the best camera phones, so getting it for free is quite the coup, especially if you like the benefits packed into the Magenta Max unlimited plan
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.