Best phone deals available right now: February 2022 | ZDNet

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Shopping for a new phone? There’s an abundance of high-performance options on the market, with a generous selection to choose from within every price point. In fact, below we’ve rounded up the very best smartphone promotions from Apple, Samsung, Google, OnePlus, and more — all which currently sell for significantly less than the original price. So if you had an ideal smartphone in mind, at least one of these deals should fit right into your budget.

Also: Best smartphone 2022: Weighing in the top choices


$200 off with activation


Samsung-galaxy-s21-fe

Samsung

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE launched at CES a month ago but has remained under the radar for a couple of reasons. For one, last year’s regular Galaxy S21 lineup was priced very competitively, with the lowest-end model starting at $799. Today, you can find the same phone costing hundreds less, which makes the $699 Galaxy S21 FE seem like a lesser-value offering. There’s also a couple of new Galaxies on the horizon.

However, the narrative changes when you can buy the 6.4-inch device at a $499 price point. Right now, you can find such a deal at Best Buy, though an activation is required. For the price, the Galaxy S21 FE provides a gorgeous 120Hz AMOLED display, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 4,500 mAh battery to keep you going all day. There’s a spectrum of pastel-colored finishes that you can choose from as well.

$150 off


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Shutterstock

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G is a mouthful to say, and there are just as many features to back it up. ZDNet’s Matthew Miller reviewed the foldable a couple of months ago and praised Samsung for refining most, if not all, the issues that plagued these fragile form factors in the past. With a new and improved hinge, a more durable glass screen, and a front display that is actually viable, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G makes for an outstanding bargain at this $849 ($150 off) price tag.

Up to $800 with an eligible trade-in and Magenta Max plan


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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Right now T-Mobile is offering up to $800 worth of credit when you trade in an eligible device towards an any iPhone 13 model. You will also need to be enrolled in the carrier’s Magenta Max plan in order to reap the highest trade-in values and credits given. That said, with an $800 credit, you can basically get the iPhone 13 mini or iPhone 13 for free, or pay the difference for an iPhone 13 Pro or Pro Max.

If you aren’t signed up for T-Mobile’s Magenta Max plan, you can still get up to $400 worth of credits for trading in the same phones.

Up to $2,000 in credits for new customers


iphone-13-pro-pro-max-1.jpg

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

If you’re on the fence about switching to Verizon, the carrier has a deal that will surely entice you. Currently, new customers can get up to $2,000 in credits ($1,000 via bill credit, $1,000 via prepaid MasterCard) when you switch to Verizon, buy any iPhone 13 model on a select unlimited plan, and add another line to your account.

If you don’t want to add a second line, you can take advantage of the carrier’s trade-in promotion, where you can hand in an old phone — working or not — and get up to $800 in credits towards an iPhone 13 model. This is similar to the T-Mobile deal mentioned above.

Either way, as along as you’re joining from another carrier, Verizon will give you a $1,000 prepaid Mastercard for your troubles.

$220 + free OnePlus Buds Pro ($149 value)


OnePlus-9-Pro-Silver

OnePlus

We reviewed the OnePlus 9 Pro and OnePlus Buds Pro last year and gave both devices some of the highest ratings within their respective product categories. While not as recognizable as the iPhones and Galaxies, OnePlus has carved a niche within the mobile industry through ultra-smooth user experiences and super fast-charging.

Right now, the best discount on the handheld can be found directly through OnePlus’ website, which is running a Valentine’s Day deal that bundles in a free pair of OnePlus Buds Pro when you purchase a OnePlus 9 Pro. This way, you’re not only saving $220 on the 256GB flagship, but getting a pair of true wireless earbuds that sound as good as its $149 price tag. If you just want the phone, Amazon is selling it for $799.

$180 off with activation


oneplus-9-winter-mist

OnePlus

Though not as flashy as the Pro model, the OnePlus 9 5G is an excellent Android smartphone and a solid competitor to the Google Pixel 6. ZDNet’s Matthew Miller reviewed the phone last year and praised it for its fast charging, 5G support, bloatware-free experience, and overall value-for-money. Believe it or not, while the OnePlus 9 can be had for as little as $549, the only notable differences to the 9 Pro is the lack of a telephoto lens and a smaller, flatter screen. 

The best deal on the OnePlus 9 right now is at Best Buy, selling for $549 ($180 off) with an activation. If you’re buying the phone outright, Best Buy and Amazon will instead discount $130, putting it in line with the Google Pixel 6’s $599 price tag.

$50 off with activation


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Sebaztian Barns/ZDNet

Many would argue that between Google’s latest 5G smartphones, the lower-end Pixel 6 is the one to get. It sports a 6.4-inch, 90Hz display that does an excellent job portraying the simple and personable software experience you’d come to expect from a Pixel. On the back is a newly-designed camera hump that houses a new 50-megapixel main camera and a 12MP ultrawide lens. Powered by Google’s in-house Tensor chip and a 4,614 mAh battery, we’ve found the Pixel 6 to be dependable, efficient, and what I consider a “no-fuss” smartphone.

While deals on Google’s latest handheld is less prevalent than other manufacturers, you can still save $50 right now when buying and activating a Pixel 6 at Best Buy. 

Common questions about smartphones

When should I upgrade my phone?

Believe it or not, you don’t have to upgrade to that new, shiny phone every year. Modern day smartphones are designed to function for years and years, especially if the manufacturer offers extensive software support.

Still, there are a couple of reasons why you may want to consider upgrading from your current phone:

  • Poor software performance: If you’ve had the displeasure of experiencing app crashes and delayed loading times, then you may have been told to “factory reset the phone”. While that certainly helps with refreshing the internal state of your device, it is only a Band-Aid of a solution and you’ll be hard pressed to face similar usability problems again in the long run.
  • Faulty battery: Nearly every phone in the market runs on lithium-ion batteries, which degrade over time and have the potential to swell if kept in hazardous conditions. If you’re experiencing poor battery life or your phone doesn’t hold its charge well, then that may be your signal to replace the battery or the phone altogether.
  • Hardware defect: Like the battery, if your device suffers from any hardware damage (i.e Cracked screen, unresponsive digitizer, crackling speaker, etc.), then an upgrade may be due.

It never hurts to switch to the best, and as this deal list has shown, you don’t have to pay a fortune to do so.

Should I buy from a carrier or directly from the manufacturer (unlocked)?

Between carrier stores and that of brands, the first question you should ask yourself when deciding where to buy from is “Locked or unlocked?”.

  • An unlocked phone allows you to use the device with different carrier services and without any of the third-party bloatware and contractually agreements. This is important if you plan on switching carriers or travel internationally.
  • A locked phone restricts your mobile data usage to the carrier that you purchased the device from, whether that’s T-Mobile, Verizon, or AT&T. While it sounds less beneficial than buying unlocked, carrier stores are more likely to offer you deals and promotions that make the upgrading cost significantly less. For example, the best iPhone deals available right now are mostly from carriers.

If you do purchase a locked phone from a carrier and end up switching to a different service, don’t fret. Thanks to the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act,” US carriers must unlock your phone after you’ve fully paid it off and finished any contracts or agreements.

Which phone should I buy?

There is a plethora of phone brands on the market so you’ll definitely meet a few crossroads during your purchasing journey. To help, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. iOS or Android? These two operating systems make up more than 95% of the market, so picking between the two is your first big choice. iOS, the Apple iPhone’s operating system, is known to be user-friendly, secure, and home to a robust library of quality apps. Android, on the other hand, utilizes Google’s software and AI smarts to produce a more customizable user experience.
  2. Small or large? What do you use your phone for? Browsing social media? Streaming TV shows on the go? Some users prefer smaller devices for its ergonomics and one-handed usability. Larger phones provide more screen real estate for social and multimedia consumption. You can also expect greater battery life with the latter.
  3. Budget? How much are you willing to spend on your next phone? Fortunately, there is a wide selection of capable mobile handsets on the market, so paying less doesn’t always mean you’re getting the worst. Today, you can buy a 5G-ready smartphone for as little as $200.

My best advice for you is to give every phone a try! There’s nothing more helpful than holding and interacting with the phones at your local brick-and-mortar and seeing what satisfies your consumer needs.


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