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The best smartphone deals right now: Pre-order the new Samsung Galaxy S23

Look to these great promotions on the latest iPhones, Androids, and more across major retailers to secure your next smartphone.

For how essential smartphones are to our daily lives, when it's finally time to buy a new one, it's important to find a device that is both capable and reliable enough to last you for years down the road. 

Ahead of Valentine's Day, there are plenty of new deals on the latest handsets, including that of Apple, Samsung, Google, and more that are worth your consideration. Skip the flowers this year -- you can upgrade your loved one's device and save some cash. If you missed out on the initial wave of promotions, look to these remaining offers to save hundreds on some of the best smartphones. 

Best Samsung Galaxy S23 pre-order deals

We will start with the best deals on Samsung's new flagship devices from the Galaxy S23 range, as revealed at the Samsung Unpacked event, before moving on to Google, Apple, and other manufacturers.

If you're hoping to get your hands on one of Samsung's new flagship Galaxy S23 models, the tech giant is ready and waiting to entice you to make a pre-order purchase. The starting price for the S23 is $799, whereas the S23+ will set you back $999. However, you can reduce this bill significantly with up to $100 of Samsung Credit and up to $350 off if you trade in an old device.

The current deal will give you a free storage upgrade, too. The S23 will come with an upgrade from 128GB SSD storage to 256GB, whereas an S23+ will be boosted from 256GB to 512GB for free, saving you potentially hundreds of dollars. (It's worth noting the storage upgrade offers typically only stay around for a few weeks.)

If you pre-order one of the new smartphones, Samsung will give you steep discounts on the Galaxy Watch5 Pro and Buds2 Pro earbuds. You can also take advantage of carrier deals directly on the Samsung website, with some companies offering up to $1,000 in bill credits with the eligible trade-in of an older device.

Orders will be released on February 17, 2023.

If you're most interested in the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, the tech giant will give you up to $500 in instant trade-in credit and $100 in Samsung Credit when you pre-order an unlocked device. The current deal will give you a free storage upgrade, too. The S23 Ultra will come with a free upgrade from 256GB SSD storage to 512GB. However, the storage boost doesn't apply to 1TB models. 

If you pre-order one of the new smartphones, Samsung will give you a discount of up to 30% on the Galaxy Watch5 Pro and Buds2 Pro earbuds. As we previously mentioned, you can investigate carrier deals directly on the Samsung website -- with up to $1,000 in bill credits with the eligible trade-in of an older device.

At Verizon, you can take advantage of up to $800 in bill credits when you trade in an old or damaged phone to upgrade to a Samsung Galaxy S23+ (on select 5G Unlimited plans, a new line is required). Free storage upgrades are available.

Alternatively, if you're willing to front the bill for a new line or service plan, Verizon will throw in a Samsung Galaxy Watch5 or Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE 5G. Furthermore, Verizon will give you a $200 gift card when you switch.

AT&T is offering a trade-in deal for a new Samsung Galaxy S23. To take advantage of this deal, you need to trade in an eligible, older Galaxy device, and either sign up or upgrade to an unlimited plan. In return, you will receive up to $1,000 in bill credits over 36 months. 

Twice the storage is on offer -- moving you from 128GB to 256GB for free. 

T-Mobile will give you a free Samsung Galaxy S23 or S23+, with no deposit required, if you pre-order now. A storage upgrade bonus is on the table -- a 256GB Samsung Galaxy S23 for the price of a 128GB model or a 512GB S23+ device instead of a 256GB option. 

To qualify for a free S23, you must sign up with a new line on a Magenta Max plan, and the discount is applied via 24 monthly bill credits. When it comes to the S23+, you must trade in an eligible device on Magenta Max, or alternatively, you can enjoy $800 off with a new line via 24 monthly bill credits. You can receive up to $1000 in bill credits on the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Best Buy has a number of deals available for the Samsung Galaxy S23. You can save up to $780 when you pre-order the new smartphone and trade in your old device and while the storage offer is active, you can pick up a 256GB Galaxy S23 model for the price of a 128GB device, or either a 512GB Galaxy S23+ or S23 Ultra for the price of a 256GB smartphone.

Furthermore, $100 Best Buy gift cards are available and you can save up to $180 on unlocked models with activation.

Amazon is also offering an interesting pre-order deal for the new Samsung flagship device. If you purchase an unlocked Samsung S23 Ultra through the e-commerce giant, you can expect a bonus of $100 as an Amazon Gift Card. The company is also matching the free storage upgrade from 256GB to 512GB at no cost. 

Best smartphone deals

Below, you'll find ZDNET's top picks for smartphone deals, including that of Google, Apple, Samsung, and more.

iphone-14-pro-2
Jason Hiner/ZDNET
  • Current price: $0
  • Original price: $800

If you typically buy your smartphones from the local carrier, it may be in your best interest to stick to the practice at the start of 2023. Right now, providers like AT&T are running promotions that will get you the latest iPhone 14 for free. There are some loopholes, of course, but they're less of a chore than you think. 

To get an iPhone 14 that's fully discounted, you'll need to trade in a suitable device and you'll also have to be under a qualifying Unlimited plan, which includes Premium, Extra, and Starter. The discount is applied in 36 monthly bill credits. 

  • Current price: $710
  • Original price: $1,060

You can currently save $350 on the new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4. Available from Samsung, this smartphone comes in many flavors: locked to carriers including AT&T, Verizon, and US Cellular, or unlocked. Trading in an eligible device will net you the discount, or alternatively, you can go with a carrier for up to $1000 in bill credits, substantially reducing the cost of the device. 

  • Current Price: $865
  • Original Price: $1,050

Ever since Samsung made the push for "Ultra" smartphones, the Plus model has been left in the dust but not entirely forgotten. That's because it mostly retains the big-phone features that come with the Ultra but in a more affordable, less polarizing form factor. 

It has a generous 6.6-inch flat display that refreshes at 120Hz, 256GB SSD storage, 8GB RAM, and a 50-megapixel main shooter that can capture videos as sharp as 8K.

Right now, Samsung has the phone discounted by $185 with an eligible trade-in. You can also save if you trade in a suitable device for the 128GB SSD model.

  • Current Price: $1,140
  • Original Price: $1,400

In the running for one of the best smartphones of last year is the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, with its gorgeous 6.8-inch OLED display, up to 8K video recording, S Pen support, and a generous 5,000mAh battery. Amazon has the 512GB variant discounted by $260.

  • Current price: $150 (with activation)
  • Original price: $300

Over the last two years, OnePlus has carved up a new segment of smartphones that focuses on bringing value to cheaper price points -- and it's gotten really good at it. The Nord N20 5G is among the few nominees for best cheap 5G phone of last year. The reasoning is actually pretty simple. For one, it has a sharp-looking 6.43-inch AMOLED display -- a rarity in this sub-$300 market. Then there's the 128GB of base storage, 4,500mAh battery, and 33W fast charging that laps that of Motorola and Samsung's low-mid range offerings. 

  • Current price: $99+
  • Original price: $1,099+

Verizon is offering up to $1000 in credit toward a new Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max -- alongside other models -- when you trade in an old or damaged device included in the promotion. Depending on what device you hand over, this could mean you can grab one of the new iPhones for as little as a few hundred dollars. You may also be eligible for up to $200 when you switch.

Another promotion of note is a new iPad for only $200 when you buy the device and sign up for a new line. 

When you sign up for a new line with Verizon, you can choose a free phone from a variety of manufacturers. This includes the Apple iPhone 13 mini, the Motorola edge 5G, and Google Pixel 6a. Contracts start at $0 p/m, depending on your preferred contract.

Hand holding iPhone 14 Pro Max
Image: Zhang Peng/Getty Images

In a limited-time deal that might be suitable for family or work purposes, T-Mobile is offering four free iPhone 14 devices when you sign up for four lines and trade in four qualifying devices. If you switch, these lines will cost you $25 each on the Essentials 4 Line plan.

Amazon smartphone deals

Here are some other smartphone deals available at Amazon:

Best Buy smartphone deals

Here are some other smartphone deals available at Best Buy:

Walmart smartphone deals

Here are some other smartphone deals available at Walmart:

How did we choose these smartphone deals?

When it comes to finding the best deal, part of the equation is looking for smartphones that users will actually enjoy using. By testing most of the handsets that hit the open market all year long, ZDNET's team of subject experts can offer the best advice on what to buy and what to avoid. 

The second part of the equation is determining whether or not a deal is real or not. In some cases, retailers will mark down a product knowing full well that it has been discounted for weeks and months before. In other cases, like the ones mentioned above, you're saving money on the products like never before. 

What is the difference between a cell phone and a smartphone?

You can call and send SMS text messages on traditional cell phones and smartphones. However, while the former is a portable, radio-based phone, the latter is more akin to a portable computer and provides the user access to the internet, mobile apps and software. In recent years, smartphones have evolved as smart home managers, personal health trackers, and devices able to access social media as well as financial services. 

Are smartphone cameras as good as a DSLR?

Smartphone cameras are improving every year. They are excellent for casual photography on the go and while traveling, but do they measure up to DSLRs?

The short answer is no. DSLRs have larger sensors and can capture more information. They also tend to do better in low-light or difficult conditions, whereas smartphones perform best in well-lit environments. 

However, one of the differences that should be noted is the use of AI algorithms and smart technologies to optimize images. Older DSLRs lack these functions. When it comes to imagery, smartphones are convenient, but DSLRs offer far more in terms of capture and editing, and so are better suited to professional photography.

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