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A woman in a yellow sweater holding a cell phone.

Government Assisted Cell Phone Options

Free Government Cell Phones

In today’s day and age, pretty much everyone needs a cell phone. They’re crucial to keep in contact with people and to be reachable yourself. And if they’re smartphones, they provide even more utility on top of standard communication.

However, cell phones are getting more and more expensive as the years go on, and the same goes for cell phone plans. Luckily, thanks to free government cell phones, it is possible for everyone to stay connected.

What are Free Government Phones?

Free government cell phones are cell phones and service plans intended to help those within low-income brackets have access to a cell phone primarily through the government’s Lifeline Assistance Program (LAP).

Additionally, the FCC offers a program known as the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB); it is similar to the Lifeline Assistance Program but with some slight differences.

Those who are unemployed or working (but still within the low-income range) can qualify for the Lifeline Assistance Program. People receiving benefits from government programs such as Head Start, Food Stamps, Section 8, or Medicaid are also pre-approved. You can see if you qualify for either the Lifeline Assistance Program or the Emergency Broadband Benefit.

Many cell phone providers work with both the LAP and EBB, and these vary depending on your state of residence. Be sure to check and see which provider will work best for you.

Pros of Free Government Cell Phones

Both the LAP and the EBB were created to help those most in need stay connected. These services include talk, text, data, and more. Not only is it one less bill for them to worry about, but it also gives them the means to advance themselves and stay in touch with their loved ones.

If a person is looking for a new job or waiting to hear back from the lease manager of an apartment complex, they need a number where they can be reached.

The world will always function to some degree on a who you know basis, and as such, you need to be reachable, or it doesn’t matter what connections you have. If you’re struggling, these programs can help keep you above water and makes opportunities more accessible.

Cons of Free Government Cell Phones

Since these are free government phones, you won’t have the best options to choose from. The selections have kept up with the times, so you will be able to get a smartphone, but these aren’t the fastest or strongest devices out there. Don’t expect any of the latest and greatest iPhones or Android devices (unless you already have a device and just need a benefits provider).

If you intend to use your phone as a tool for your work, don’t place too high of an expectation on your device, as it may not be capable of handling what you need it to do. Additionally, you may only have one Lifeline service account per household, and the service is not transferable.

What Service Providers Do I Have Access To?

As stated above, there are many service providers in each state, but there are a couple of providers that are widely accessible nationwide and well worth mentioning. Those providers are:

Assurance Wireless

Assurance Wireless is now under the umbrella of T-Mobile, which makes it an attractive provider of the Lifeline Assistance Program. However, T-Mobile is currently only offering discounts through the Lifeline program in seven states and Puerto Rico.

This does not mean that Assurance Wireless is only available in these eight locations, but rather T-Mobile specific discounts are only available in these eight locations. The list of state availability for Assurance Wireless can be found here.

Safelink Wireless

Safelink Wireless is under the same umbrella that houses names like Net10, Simple Mobile, Straight Talk, and TracFone. All of these are notable names in the No-Contract cell phone market.

TracFone Wireless is currently the largest no-contract provider in the United States and has the best track record, no pun intended. One of the reasons SafeLink is arguably the top provider of free government cell phones is because they accept almost any GSM phone.

QLink Wireless

Available in 28 states and Puerto Rico, QLink Wireless is another strong presence in the field of affordable cell phones and cell phone plans.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Providers

The EBB is a limited-time plan created as part of the government’s overall COVID-relief efforts. There is currently no set end date, but that is subject to change at the discretion of the FCC.

The primary difference between the LAP and EBB is that EBB isn’t just limited to cell phone usage but internet service too. Additionally, more renowned service providers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile offer EBB services in numerous states across the country (though these states are very limited).

Free Government Cellphone Options

Coolpad Legacy GO

Most of the free government cellphone options that you can expect will be unlocked phones that you can bring over to numerous carriers, but Assurance Wireless has their own lineup of phones for you to choose from. One of their options is the Coolpad Legacy GO.

Features:

  • 8GB ROM/1GB RAM
  • 5MP Camera
  • External memory that supports up to 64GB MicroSD external storage
  • Removable Li-ion 2150mAh Battery
  • M4/T3 HAC Rating (Beneficial for those who are hearing impaired)
  • 5.0” Touchscreen Display

ZTE Tempo X

Another free government cellphone option courtesy of Assurance Wireless, is the ZTE Tempo X.

Features:

  • 5.0″ Touchscreen Display
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 32GB microSD external storage compatibility
  • 1.1GHz Quad Core Processor
  • 8GB ROM/1GB RAM
  • 5MP Camera
  • M4/T3 HAC Rating (Beneficial for those who are hearing impaired)

Alcatel Dawn

A third popular option is the Alcatel Dawn, which uses an Android operating system.

Features:

  • 4.5″ Touchscreen Display
  • 1.1GHz Quad A7 Processor
  • 8GB ROM/1GB RAM
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 32GB microSD external storage compatibility
  • M4/T3 HAC Rating (Beneficial for those who are hearing impaired)

Most Convenient Option: Bring Your Own Phone

While there will of course be individuals out there that have no cell phone at all (and these people do have options), the most hassle-free option will likely be to bring your own phone, provided you have one.

Bringing your own phone not only saves you the trouble of having to get a new number or wait for a new phone to arrive, but it also expands your cell phone options. Even iPhones can be used in tandem with LAP or EBB. Make sure to check if your current unlocked cell phone is compatible with your chosen service provider.