We are often asked which of the free government cell phone providers offer smartphones. many individuals end up
asking you this question, so we went and did a survey with the Lifeline Assistance companies that are
The free government cell phone is governed by an organization to call USAC, so we ask them first if any
companies have to offer cell phones. We wanted to call them to save time as we would have to call over 20
companies and speak to their service departments.
We received the following answer on February 29th, 2016 from the USAC.
"There are no requirements currently for any Lifeline phone company to offer a smartphone. This policy may
change in the future. If you have any more questions, please contact us."
When we received this answer, we knew that we would have to spend it more time to find out what companies are
offering free smartphones. we felt that this was appropriate because it would answer all of the questions our
The bad news for you is that not every company is going to offer a smartphone but many of these companies do.
The cell phone that a customer usually receives is often randomly selected. You may ask for a smartphone, but
this doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to get one.
The good news is that the companies that offer smartphones will often let you upgrade to a smartphone for a
small fee. This upgrade could cost you around $30 or more but by paying it you are going to get a
In addition, there is a little bit more and bad news because of these smartphones are often refurbished older
phones. You may get an older Android phone yeah I'm older iPhone and not the latest technology
The good news for most people is that even though these phones are a little bit older they should work just
fine. They might not look as great as other phones but you shouldn't have any problems with them turn
What Exactly is a Smartphone?
Many companies offer what are called smartphones but some don't understand what a smartphone actually is. A
company may offer you a data plan but this doesn't necessarily mean that they are offering smartphones. Here is
the full explanation of what a smartphone actually is.
A basic phone is often referred to as a feature phone. This phone can send pictures attached to text,t to
Facebook, Twitter, and other places. To do this sort of thing you require a data plan. If you don't have a data
plan you can send a text message but you can't attach a picture to it as this isn't able to go over the text
message Network or SMS.
A phone might be called a smartphone but it's not really. The smartphones that we think of today. a smartphone
today is quite powerful and you can think of something like an Android phone, iOS phone, Blackberry Os, or a
Windows phone as a smartphone. These will have applications installed by the maker of that phone and you can
also install your own applications.
You can be fooled by feature phones into thinking that these are an actual smartphone. Some Lifeline vendors
will probably stretch the definition of what a smartphone is because they may have Facebook, touch screen, photo
gallery, and so on but they are not actually technically a full smartphone like the ones we know of
If a Lifeline vendor doesn't highlight what type of phone they are giving out even if a data plan is offered,
they are probably not offering a smartphone.
Companies that offer smartphones
A Lifeline Assistance company might say that it offers smartphones but this might not mean that you get the full
internet experience that you might be hoping for. You will have to investigate all of the capabilities of the
We did some research on our own into the biggest names in the lifeline assistance business. We start with some
of the larger names and then work down to the smaller companies so you understand exactly what you're going to
We needed to do some work to determine if SafeLink offered smartphones to their customers. We looked within the
terms and conditions of the company and found out that they seem to offer it. We wanted to confirm this so we
called the company and we talked to a corporate spokesperson who said that the following:
"Smartphones are only offered in the state of California to applicants that are approved. The other states will
offer regular phones. You can get further details about the SafeLink California program on the link we have
provided for you. The BYOP Or bring your own phone program is not currently offered to our SafeLink
The answer to this question is that if you are living in the state of California you will be able to get a
smartphone from SafeLink. If you live in any one of the other states you will not be able to receive a
smartphone through the company.
Info on Safelink Wireless
In the frequently asked questions or FAQ from the company website we found the following information:
Am I able to use an Android smartphone with my account through Assurance Wireless?
"Only customers that are in certain areas of California are allowed to use approved Android devices with this
Can I use my iPhone device with my Assurance Wireless account?
"You are not allowed to use the data platform provided by iPhone with your Assurance Wireless account."
Info on Assurance
You will sometimes have to do some detective work to determine if a certain company is offering a smartphone.
Access Wireless doesn't mention that they offer smartphones on their website. It gives you a selection of phones
from Motorola, Samsung, ZTE, Alcatel and some other manufacturers that are upgraded.
We called the help desk from Access Wireless and they indicated that the initial phone provided is usually going
to be a smartphone.
Info on Access
The Life Wireless company gave us this answer to our inquiry.
"We charge $45 for smartphones. If you have any other concerns or questions you should contact our customer
service department by calling 1-888-543-3620. Our company is open between 8 am to 10 pm Est Monday-Friday and 8
am to 8 pm weekends."
Info on Life
Q Link Wireless
In the last year that Q Link wireless company has grown quite a bit and they are considered one of the largest
free government providers of cell phones. This company serves Lifeline customers in Arizona, Colorado, Arizona,
Idaho, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Maine, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, Nevada,
Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, South Carolina, Washington, Vermont,
Wisconsin, and West Virginia
We assumed that the primary reason for its Newfound success is its smartphone policy. You can have a look at
their website and read the Frequently Asked Question section of their site.
If I upgrade my phone and what kind of phone will I receive?
"Qlink Wireless provides free phones but this all depends upon the availability of those phones. The models
shipped to you and may vary. We only ship smartphones so you can take advantage of the latest calling features,
connect your phone to Wi-Fi, do picture messaging, and perform other data tasks."
"Once we received your application and approve it then your order will ship and contain the tracking
information. If you've already received your phone, you'll be able to login to your Q Link account and find your
phone's model number there."
"If you're currently in existing customer and have a basic phone you may want to upgrade to a smartphone. You
can upgrade your phone for a fee of $25 by clicking here. You can also call us toll-free at 1-855-754-6543 and
we will take your order over the phone. You can also pay online or through the phone with a credit card or a
debit card that is in your name or you can also use a prepaid gift card."
Provided by the company indicated that:
"QLink wireless service differs from other providers of Lifeline. We provide each one of our new subscribers
with a smartphone that is of a high-quality. This Smartphone can connect to Wi-Fi so you have internet access.
Our customers have the ability to play games, download applications, access email, and surf the Internet. We
offered the most UNLIMITED texting and the MOST minutes."
We consider QLink to be one of the better providers and which other companies would follow this one.
This company offers smartphones and you can also bring in your own smartphone. The smartphones are randomly
given to customers so there is no assurance that you're going to receive a smartphone from them.
Info on Tag
When we spoke to a representative of Terracon Wireless during a live online chat session we received the
" When you apply for any Services the first phone you receive is always going to be a
randomly-selected refurbished phone we also have upgrade options for you."
"So this phone might be a smartphone or an older non-smartphone. Am I able to use my
current smartphone with my Terracom plan?"
"Yes the phone to receive could be a smartphone or a non-smartphone. You have the ability
to use your own phone with our service if it is compatible."
Info on Terracom
We found out that assist Wireless does offer smartphones. On the company's website we found the following
information for you:
Upgrade Your Cell Phone Today
You have the ability to upgrade your cell phone anytime that you want. If you want to date a phone we have this
for you. If you want a smartphone we also have this available. You can choose to cell phone there's going to be
a suit your individual needs and then put this into the shopping cart. Each one of these phones is going to work
with your Lifeline plan.
If you want to upgrade your cell phone to something else we can cover you for this. If you want something that
has more functionality this is not a problem for us. We offer a wide selection of flip phones, brick phones,
smartphones, and data phones. All of these phones are going to work with your Lifeline cell service plan. All
you need to do is to pick the Lifeline cell phone that is going to suit your current needs.
Info on Assist
This company is now a part of Terracom Wireless
When we reached out to EnTouch they implied that they offer smartphones for any one of their Lifeline assistance
What Will I receive?
We provide phones that are full-featured and Wireless. With your Lifeline phone service and phone, you will have
the ability to text photos, call nationally, go to websites, and check your email. You may also bring your own
smartphone when you choose our program.
We investigated this company further and got in touch with one of their representatives. The indicated that you
will be signed up with a non-smartphone on most occasions. They do offer a bring-your-own-device program. Once
you sign up for the program you'll be given the specifications of the type of phone you can use.
The website also indicated that a database is going to check to determine whether the mobile device can be
activated on their network but this only takes a minute or less.
This means that an inactive smartphone could be used on your account through this company but not all phones are
going to be compatible with the EnTouch system. If your phone has been reported as stolen or your phone is
associated with any active Wireless account then it's not eligible.
An e-mail exchange with them indicated that they are not going to tell people what is available on their website
because the inventory they have is always changing. We have no way of knowing what smartphones or other phones
that they actually have available. they did indicate that some California residents will get signed up for a
This is an indication that some California customers may get a cell phone right away but there's no indication
of what other customers from other states are going to receive.
You have to spend a lot of time at SaffeteyNet's website even determine if they offer smartphones. We looked at
their terms and conditions and found this buried within it.
Handsets provided by SafetyNet could be refurbished incapable of making voice calls or texting. are free
handsets are not capable of carrying data. The customer may purchase and then upgrade to a handset that is
capable of carrying data. The free furbished handsets that SafetyNet Wireless provides are the industry standard
grade of A/B.”
This California website but not in the terms and conditions on their sites in other states. The handset upgrades
may only be available in California.
Info on SafetyNet
We know that CintexCurrently offers only one smartphone model made Huawei. it's not clear if the company offers
any other models. The model that they do offer is quite expensive. When we talked to the representative they
could not tell us which model was provided but did indicate that the upgrade to this phone is going to cost you
Info on Cintex
Wireless for Hope/Easy Wireless
HopeDoes business as easy Wireless and on its website FAQ we found the following information.
Can I use my iPhone phone or Android card phone with my Easy Wireless account?
"Yes. easy Wireless provides both iPhone handsets as well as Android-powered handsets. We have a selection of
phones available for you in our catalog."
I received a different phone than my friend. Why did I receive one that is different than the one pictured on
your Easy Wireless website?
"Each easy wireless phone model that is sent out is dependent upon the availability of that phone. The model
ship to you could vary. We make efforts to ensure that each model we give to the customer is the best one that
is available currently. We distribute used refurbished A&B phones at the present time. We can send you pictures
upon request. We also offer used, new, and refurbished models that you can purchase from us."
Info on Easy
We looked through the TruConnect website and found this comment for you
" We offer cheap mobile phones such as Moxie and BLU prepaid phones as well as a variety of mobile broadband
devices. We offer 4G LTE smartphones, Samsung, Novotel, D-Link, and Unimax 4g LTE Wi-Fi hotspot."
Info on TruConnect
This summary should give you an indication of the smartphone offerings you'll receive from the free government
cell phone companies to meet your needs.
Companies that offer smartphones to all of their customers: QLink
Companies that offer smartphones to just some customers: Assist Wireless, Assurance (California only),
Safelink Wireless, Safelink Wireless, Budget Wireless, Access Wireless, SafetyNet Wireless, True Wireless, Life
Wireless, Terracom Wireless, EnTouch Wireless (California only), Tag Wireless, StandUp Wireless, Cintex
Wireless, Wireless For Hope (dba Easy Wireless)
No smartphone offering: US Connect
Only one of the lifeline assistance free government cell phone providers offers smartphones. Some companies make
these available randomly to their customers but all of the companies will offer them as upgrades for an
You should understand what you're going to be receiving when you upgrade to a smartphone. Not every smartphone
is going to be created equal. Some of these phones have more capabilities than other phones and you should
understand what you're going to be getting before you agree to pay for an upgrade.
It's important for you to be an informed consumer before you upgrade to any smartphone So know what you're
getting into before you agree to make any sort of payment.