Maybe we should warn adults about the dangers of taking free phones from corporate entities like we warn kids about taking candy from strangers.
First, the painful truth: “free” smartphones are anything but. Deeply discounted smartphones purchased from a cell phone carrier may look good at first blush. Ultimately though, over the course of a two-year term, it’s a more expensive way to get a phone.
You’re much better buying your phone outright, either from a carrier that doesn’t “lock” phones (i.e., not one of the “big four” carriers in the US) or from a retail store. Ask specifically for unlocked devices and you’ll then have your choice of which carrier you choose to accept service from.
Let’s just reiterate that: Which carrier you choose to accept service from. With an unlocked phone, you’re in the power position, not the carrier.