The Fine Print of Today's Penny Smart Phone Deals

Stores are attracting cheapskates jealous of the iPhone 4S

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Apple fans with at least $200 dollars to burn are lining up to get the newest iPhone fresh off the production lines, but what about the peons who would rather not shell out all those bucks. For the less tech obsessed, the stores have something just for the penny pinchers: Free phones! As long as it has customers attention with the iPhone, both Best Buy and Amazon Wireless have deals on new phones for those looking for a thriftier option, advertising penny and free offering. Sadly, taking advantage of deal jealous misers while they've got the iPhone attention, carriers will suck new customers in to expensive data plans and new contracts while the going is hot. Misers beware: There's no such thing as free anything.

The cheapest possible iPhone costs $199; Amazon has similar caliber fancy phones for a single penny. All Verizon phones are selling on Amazon Wireless for $.01, pointed out Business Insider's Ellis Hambuger. "Expensive devices like the HTC Thunderbolt 4G and Samsung Droid Charge 4G are part of the deal. It appears that if you're a "new customer," even the $299.99 Droid Bionic is just a cent," he writes. "The Bionic is the only one of the smartphones that's $0.01 only if you're a new customer. The rest are available for $0.01 as an upgrade for current customers, or for new customers." Amazon is also giving away dumbphones, if you're into that.

Best Buy has a similar deal. As part of its October Free Phone Friday promotion, where it gives away a different smart phone every Friday this month for no dollars, its offering the iPhone 4 for zero money or one cent depending on the carrier. Considering it has the exact same outsides, and pretty good insides, that sounds like a deal.

Sadly, these "deals" come with some expensive fine print. To get any of these phones requires re-upping plans or signing on as a new customer. Best Buy requires a three year commitment--longer than most wireless carriers. And like all smart phones, they require you to buy minutes to talk and big fat data plans to use all the fancy features. These promotions also have some other minor caveats. They're both limited time: Best Buy's ends today; Amazon's lasts through Monday October 17, midnight PST. And Best Buy's sweet deal only works with Canadian cell phone providers.

Remember: Even if you get a nearly free spartphone, they're still expensive.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.