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New Verizon promotion offers discounts when swapping a broken phone for a 5G one

Verizon is boosting its efforts to get people to upgrade to 5G devices and its "premium" unlimited plans.

Angela Lang/CNET

Have a cracked iPhone, busted Galaxy or waterlogged Pixel? Verizon wants you to trade it in for a shiny new 5G phone on one of its "premium" unlimited plans. 

In a promotion announced on Wednesday, the nation's largest carrier unveiled a new deal that offers up to $440 in credits towards the price of a new 5G phone for existing customers and up to $1,000 for new users who switch or add a line. All you need to do is trade in a broken phone and sign up for one of the carrier's higher-priced unlimited plans known as Do More, Play More or Get More. 

While the deal goes into effect on Thursday, April 1, the carrier says it is not an "April Fool's joke" and will instead run for an undetermined "limited time." Those looking to get the deal will be able to do so in Verizon stores or online, and you can buy any of Verizon's 5G phones as part of the deal. This includes recent additions including last year's Apple's iPhone 12 or Google Pixel 5 as well as 2021's Samsung's Galaxy S21 line, devices that not only support Verizon's current 5G flavors but also its upcoming midband network (known as C-band), which will arrive later this year. 

Not every busted phone will be eligible for the full $440 or $1,000 value, though you will be able to check what for yours will get you when shopping in-store or on Verizon's website. Existing customers will be able to get $100 for a broken iPhone 6S or iPhone 7 (or a broken Samsung Galaxy S7). More recent devices including the iPhone 8 and X as well as Samsung's Galaxy S8, S9 and S10 can get $440 even if they're broken. 

New customers who switch to the carrier could get $350 for a broken iPhone 6S or iPhone 7, as well as a $300 gift card to bring the total value to $650. The busted Galaxy S7 has $400 in trade-in value and comes with a $200 gift card for a total value of $600. 

Krista Bourne, senior vice president of Verizon's consumer sales and operations division, tells CNET that the carrier will accept devices that have cracked screens, don't turn on or are water damaged as part of the promotion. Phones that have battery damage, however, will not be eligible and the carrier says it won't return battery-damaged devices that are shipped to it. 

While the deal offers consumers some value for devices that might otherwise have none, the fine print makes it clear what's in it for Verizon. In addition to requiring one of the step-up unlimited plans, the payments for your old devices will also be dished out as bill credits over the course of 24 months thereby incentivizing you to stick with the carrier. 

If you leave Verizon before the 24-month period is up, or if you downgrade your unlimited plan, you will forfeit the remaining bill credits and need to pay off the rest of what is owed on the device. 

As for what Verizon might do with all the broken old phones, Verizon spokesman Andrew Testa tells CNET that the company's "first priority is to renew and reuse the device." He adds that when the phones "can't be renewed and must be recycled" the company follows "a zero-landfill policy to keep e-waste out of landfills."