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T-Mobile launches zero-down deals for mobile phones

The promotion lets buyers get their hands on phones and other mobile gadgets without a down payment, but the devices must still be paid off in full via monthly installments.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere.

Consumers will be able to pick up a new iPhone or Galaxy S4 phone through T-Mobile with zero dollars down.

Starting Saturday, the carrier's new summer promotion offers a variety of 4G LTE smartphones, feature phones, tablets, and mobile hotspots with no upfront cost and regular monthly payments. For example, you could get Apple's 16GB iPhone5 for $27 a month, Samsung's Galaxy S4 for $25 a month, or Nokia's Lumia 925 for $20 a month.


The deals are good for both new and existing subscribers. No expiration date was revealed. A spokesperson for T-Mobile noted that the promotion is time-limited for the summer and that the carrier's promos usually last for days or weeks rather than months.

Zero-down sounds like a tempting offer. But keep in mind that you're still paying the full non-subsidized price for the device, just spread out over 24 months. Paying $27 a month for the iPhone over two years adds up to $648, just a dollar less than the $649 retail price for the 16GB version. And those payments are naturally on top of the cost of the mobile phone plan.

The carrier is also touting its new Jump program, which doesn't require you to keep the same phone for the entire two-year period. Under Jump, you can upgrade to a new phone without having to pay off the monthly finance fee on the old one. But to score that deal, you have to trade in your old phone and of course start paying the monthly fees for the new one. The Jump plan also adds an extra $10 per month to your payments.

What happens if a customer buys a zero-down phone and then wants to upgrade to a new device before the 24 months are over? That person would either have to hop on board the Jump plan or pay off the balance of the existing device in order to purchase the new one.

T-Mobile no longer offers subsidized mobile devices. In March, the company introduced its new contract-free plans, which separate the cost of the device from the cost of the monthly service. No contract also means no subsidies, so subscribers pay the full retail cost of the phone.

Update, 11:11 a.m. PT: Adds additional details on the promotion.