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The best smartphone deals right now

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 smartphone deals

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

Ahead of Samsung's Unpacked 2023 event, the tech giant is offering customers $50 in Samsung Credit for reserving the new Galaxy smartphone. While the names and product range has yet to be announced, we expect to see the Galaxy S23, Galaxy S23 Plus, and Galaxy S23 Ultra. 

There is no obligation to buy the new smartphone, but if you register your interest, you will be eligible for the credit when you make your future purchase. As a bonus, if you reserve a Galaxy Book at the same time, you will receive $100 in credit.

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: $889
  • Original price: $1,060

You can currently save $170 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: $849
  • Original Price: $1,000

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. I'd go as far as to say that the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus is the sleeper pick for the best all-around smartphone last year. 

It has a generous 6.8-inch flat display that refreshes at 120Hz, a 50-megapixel main shooter that can capture videos as sharp as 8K, and is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 processor. Right now, Amazon has the phone discounted by $149, no strings attached. 

  • Current Price: $1,095
  • Original Price: $1,400

In the running for best smartphone of 2022, 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, has proven to be the Korean giant's most complete handset yet. Amazon has the 512GB variant discounted by $305, putting the Galaxy right beside the latest iPhone 14 Pro with four times the storage capacity.

  • 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. 

At the time of writing, there is also a flash sale if you speak to an advisor. With a new line, devices including the iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 13, iPhone 12 mini, Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G, and Google Pixel 7 are between $0 and $5 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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