Whopper of a Burger King deal: A side of free smartphone

Burger King offers a free Android smartphone with your chicken fries, but the fine print shows it's business as usual. Crave's Amanda Kooser digs in.

Burger King Android app
Take a bite out of smartphone prices. Amanda Kooser/CNET

Burger King wants its customers to use its new branded mobile app for Android. It wants this so bad, the fast-food company is giving away Android smartphones. This promotion is quite a bit more advanced than the usual "Jungle Book" toys or "Star Wars" glasses giveaways.

You can't just roll up into the drive-through lane at your local BK and get a deep-fried Galaxy S3 dropped into your bag next to your Whopper. The offer is available online and it does have some strings attached. The free phone requires a new or upgraded two-year agreement with AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon. This comes with all the usual rigmarole of signing up with a cell service provider, including possible credit checks, activation fees, early termination fees, and deposits.

The selection of phones is surprisingly respectable. You won't find the latest flagship models stuffed with all the highest-end specs, but you can choose from models like the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4, Motorola's Moto X, and some oddballs like the Casio G'zOne Commando and the LG Enact with a slide-out physical keyboard.

The buying process takes you through to Amazon to complete the checkout. For example, I picked out the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini on Verizon. Once on Amazon, the cheapest new Verizon individual plan is about $55 per month for 250MB of data. So your free Burger King smartphone will end up costing you the same as any other free-phone deal.

The app itself offers a fairly standard fare of coupons, a restaurant locator, a menu, and mobile payments for certain locations. The Android version of the app is new and seems to be suffering from at least one technical hiccup considering I couldn't get the menu to load. While Burger King hopes you'll be grateful enough to load its app onto your free phone, there's nothing to stop you from also loading up the My Wendy's or Taco Bell app, too.

Since the phones are delivered through normal channels, just like they would be if you ordered them online without the Burger King portal, they won't smell like french-fry oil, flame-broiled beef patties, and forgotten ketchup packets. But if you want to put a slice of cheese on your free smartphone, that's entirely up to you.