From the Cheapskate: You actually have two options for free service, making this one of the most intriguing iPhone deals ever.
Rick BroidaSenior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
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Cheeps, I am excited today! Because, let's face it, it's hard to call yourself a cheapskate (or The Cheapskate) when you pay a hefty premium for your smartphone. Which is exactly what happens whenever I buy an iPhone. (What can I say? I just don't care for Android.)
Ah, but when you can get an unlocked, current-gen iPhone for a reasonable price, and pay nothing for monthly service -- well, now we're talking.
Let's start with the hardware: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Groupon has the unlocked, recertified iPhone 6 (16GB) for $379.99 shipped. It's available in your choice of gold, silver or space gray, and it's compatible with FreedomPop -- a Sprint-based carrier that will give you 200 voice minutes, 500 text messages and 500MB of data absolutely free every month.
What does matter is that, unlike with most FreedomPop-powered smartphone deals of the past, this one doesn't tie you to FreedomPop. The iPhones (model A1549) are unlocked and can be used with any CDMA or GSM carrier. Take it to Verizon, T-Mobile, Cricket or wherever.
Speaking of wherever, consider RingPlus, the sounds-too-good-to-be-true-but-isn't carrier that offers even more free-service goodness. The company's latest promotion, the Borg plan (no relation to "Star Trek" that I'm aware of), gives you 1,500 voice minutes and text messages per month, plus 1.5GB of LTE data (with the possibility of more).
There are a couple upfront costs, however. You'll pay $49.99 for a lifetime Member+ subscription and $25 for a top-up balance (which remains in your account unless you go over one or more of your monthly allotments). Don't want to spend $50 for the Member+ subscription? Choose the Accretion plan (um, plan names are getting weird), which lets you skip that subscription while giving you 1,000 minutes, messages and megabytes each.
Whew, okay, got all that? My advice: Grab the iPhone, bypass FreedomPop and snag a RingPlus account. That's because I've heard a lot of complaints about FreedomPop's coverage, customer service (or lack thereof) and misleading billing practices. By the way, you can bring any compatible phone to RingPlus and score the same seriously awesome freebie. Thoughts?
Bonus deal: Here's an odd but awesome bundle. BuyDig is offering the Canon MG5720 multifunction printer for $59.99 shipped, a price that includes a $30 Vudu credit and 3-month subscription to Rhapsody Premier. Typically the printer alone sells for at least $20 more. The compact inkjet can print, scan and copy, and it supports both AirPrint and Google Cloud Print.
Contest! Two lucky winners will walk away with an LG G5 smartphone. All you have to do is sign up for CNET's awesome Insider newsletter and, bam, you're entered into the contest. Just make sure you do so before April 8. Good luck!