US operator Sprint is once again pushing to undercut its rivals and woo upgraders, this time offering a free iPhone 8 with a qualifying trade-in.
As part of a promotion announced Monday, Sprint said it will offer the 64GB iPhone 8 for $0 per month in exchange for an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, or a Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, or Note8. Customers who trade in an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, or 6s Plus, Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S7 or Note5, or LG G6 or V20 can get the new iPhone for a half price discount. Sprint is also pushing its digital sales channel with an additional $30 discount and waived activation fees for customers who upgrade online.
The promotion expands Sprint’s previous offer of half off the monthly lease payment for the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus with an eligible trade in.
The move comes as Sprint seeks to combat a buy-one-get-one-free device offer quietly pushed out by AT&T following the iPhone 8’s launch. The latter’s offer applies to DirecTV and U-verse customers and comes in the form of up to $700 in bill credits toward a 64GB iPhone 8.
In a research note, BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk said the step up in Sprint’s promotional aggression “could be a sign that Sprint’s pre-orders of the iPhone 8 did not live up to expectations”. Other operators, he said, could be facing the same sluggishness, but “feel less pressure” to trade costly promotions for subscriber growth. For example, Verizon and T-Mobile so far have stuck with their respective offers of $300 off the new iPhone with eligible trade-ins.
AT&T CFO John Stephens earlier this year indicated slowing upgrade rates are partly a function of a “change in who pays” for devices in a non-subsidy environment, but Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure last week hinted the subsidy model might not be completely dead yet.
Speaking at an investor conference, Claure suggested operators “should invite the manufacturers to share a little of the cash flow burden that comes with — as the price of devices goes higher”.
Apple’s new iPhone 8 starts at $699, while the premium iPhone X model has a base price of $999.
Watch our highlights video of the launch here.