In today’s world, having a phone is essential for staying connected with loved ones, accessing emergency services, and keeping up with work or school. However, for low-income households, the cost of owning a phone, especially a high-quality smartphone, such as an iPhone, can be a barrier to staying connected. Fortunately, there is a government program called Lifeline that offers free phones and services to eligible households. In this article, we will discuss Lifeline free iPhone options and how you can take advantage of this program.
What is Lifeline?
Lifeline is a government program that provides free or discounted phone and internet service to eligible low-income households. The program is funded by the Universal Service Fund and is administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The goal of Lifeline is to ensure that low-income households have access to essential communication services, which can help them stay connected to family, friends, and emergency services.
Lifeline has been helping people stay connected since the 1980s and it does so through many wireless companies that participate in the program. Lifeline currently offers a discount of up to $9.25 (or up to $34.25 for eligible Tribal households) for monthly phone, wireless, or internet services. Additionally, many Lifeline providers also offer free or discounted cell phones to eligible clients.
Nevertheless, Lifeline traditionally only offered entry-level to mid-range Android-powered cell phones. It was only recently that some Lifeline providers started to offer more advanced mobile devices of higher quality, including iPhones. This shift happened during the pandemic, when the government launched another similar government program, called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which offers discounts on monthly internet services and devices. Since some Lifeline providers also started to participate in the ACP program and receive additional ACP discounts from the government, a handful of them decided to start offering better Android smartphones and even free iPhones.
As such, it is impossible to speak of ‘Lifeline free iPhones’, as free government iPhones only come through both assistance programs – Lifeline and ACP.
How to Get a Lifeline Free iPhone (in a Nutshell)
Getting a Lifeline (and ACP) free iPhone is a relatively quick and simple process – that is if you get past step 1, which is to actually qualify for the government assistance programs. First, we’ll describe the steps in a nutshell, and in the following sections, we will dive deeper into every step.
- Step 1: You must qualify for Lifeline and ACP – either based on your low income or participation in another government assistance program.
- Step 2: You must be able to prove your eligibility with valid official documents.
- Step 3: You must apply for the Lifeline and ACP programs.
- Step 4: You must find a Lifeline and ACP free iPhone provider in your area and apply for its services.
- Step 5: If approved, you can enjoy your free iPhone and free monthly services, which typically include free monthly talk minutes, text messages, high-speed data, and other perks. Moreover, through the ACP program, you may also be able to receive a highly discounted tablet.
How to Qualify for Lifeline and ACP to Get a Free iPhone
To qualify for a Lifeline and ACP Free iPhone, you must meet certain income requirements or be enrolled in a qualifying government assistance program.
The income requirement varies by state and is based on federal poverty guidelines. To qualify based on income, your household income must be at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines for Lifeline and at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines for ACO. You can check the income guidelines for your state on the Lifeline website or by contacting a Lifeline provider.
You may also qualify for Lifeline and ACP if you are enrolled in a qualifying government assistance program, such as:
- Medicaid (Lifeline and ACP)
- SNAP (Lifeline and ACP)
- SSI (Lifeline and ACP)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Lifeline and ACP)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit (Lifeline and ACP)
- Tribal programs (Lifeline and ACP)
- WIC (ACP)
- Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program (ACP)
- Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year (ACP)
Moreover, you automatically qualify for ACP if you are a Lifeline subscriber as well. You will need to provide documentation that you are enrolled in one of these programs to prove your eligibility.
In addition, you must be at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor to participate and the only applicant in your household (although, exceptions do sometimes apply).
How to Prove Your Eligibility for Getting a Lifeline Free iPhone
To prove your eligibility for Lifeline and ACP Free iPhone, you will need to provide documentation of your income or enrollment in a qualifying government assistance program. You can provide documentation in several ways, including by mail, fax, or email. You may also be able to provide documentation online through the Lifeline website or through a Lifeline provider’s website.
The documentation you need to provide will depend on whether you are qualifying based on income or enrollment in a government assistance program.
- For income-based qualification, you will need to provide proof of income, such as a recent tax return, pay stubs, or a letter from an employer.
- For enrollment-based qualification, you will need to provide documentation that you are enrolled in a qualifying government assistance program, such as an approval letter, benefits verification letter, or statement of benefits.
You may also be required to provide:
- Proof of identity and/or age, such as a valid ID, passport, birth certificate, etc.
- Proof of physical address, such as a valid ID, driver’s license, utility bill, mortgage or lease statement, etc.
- Proof of life
- Your Social Security Number
- Proof of emancipation, such as a court document or emancipation certificate
To ensure a quick and smooth application process, it’s best to prepare these proof documents in advance. Make clear copies using a copy machine, scanner, camera, or smartphone, and make sure to never submit original documents.
How to Apply for Lifeline and ACP to Get a Free iPhone
You can apply for Lifeline and ACP through the National Verifier. You can do so online or via mail. Note that by applying online, you can expect to receive immediate approval, while applying via mail will likely take a while, as the mail has to physically travel to the Lifeline and ACP support center, they must then review it manually, and contact you back.
How to Apply Through National Verifier Online
To apply for Lifeline online, visit nv.fcc.gov/lifeline and fill out the application form by providing all the required information and digital copies of your proof documentation.
To apply for ACP online, visit nv.fcc.gov/lifeline?id=acp&awsl=link-from-how-to-apply and complete the application form by providing all the required information and digital copies of your proof documentation.
How to Apply Through National Verifier Via Mail
To apply for Lifeline via mail, print out an application at
lifelinesupport.org/wp-content/uploads/documents/get-lifeline/LI_Application_NVstates.pdf, fill it out, add the physical copies of your proof documentation, and send the package to Lifeline Support Center, P.O. Box 9100, Wilkes-Barre, PA 1877.
To apply for ACP via mail, print out an application at affordableconnectivity.gov/wp-content/uploads/ACP-Application-Form-English.pdf, print out a Household Worksheet at affordableconnectivity.gov/wp-content/uploads/lifeline/images/ACP-Household-Worksheet-English.pdf (this step is optional but advisable), complete both forms, add the copies of your proof documentation, and send the documentation to ACP Support Center, PO Box 9100, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18773.
If your National Verifier application gets verified, you can proceed to the next step.
Find a Provider That Offers Lifeline and ACP Free iPhones Near You
When your National Verifier application gets approved, you will need to find a Lifeline provider in your area that provides ACP and Lifeline free iPhones. Note that there are very few companies that currently offer free iPhones through the government. Most Lifeline and ACP providers only offer Android phones. Moreover, the majority of providers do not allow customers to choose which phone brand and model they wish to receive. In fact, customers generally don’t even know which models are available in advance, as the offer depends on the state, the plan you qualify for, and availability.
The companies that currently offer ACP and Lifeline free iPhones are:
This is a Lifeline and ACP company that offers free monthly wireless plans with high-speed data, talk minutes, and text messages, as well as free phones for eligible customers. The company allows customers that qualify for both Lifeline and ACP to choose which device they wish to receive and the clients can select from a variety of high-quality Android smartphones and iPhones. Through ACP, customers can also buy a highly discounted tablet.
The provider’s services are available in Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
You can find additional information and apply at airtalkwireless.com.
Cintex also offers free monthly services with unlimited minutes, texts, high-speed data, and free smartphones (Android or iPhones) to eligible customers. Customers can also purchase a discounted ACP tablet.
The program is available to eligible residents of Arkansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Learn more and apply at cintexwireless.com.
This company also offers free monthly wireless plans, free smartphones (Android or iPhone), and discounted tablets.
These benefits are only available to residents of Louisiana and Wyoming.
Find out more and enroll at newphone.com.
When you apply, make sure to choose the most valuable Lifeline & ACP Combo plan, as this is the only plan that provides free iPhones. Provide all the required information and proof documentation, and submit the application.
You can search for other Lifeline and ACP in your area at cnm.universalservice.org.
What ACP and Lifeline Free iPhone Can I Expect to Get?
The companies that provide ACP and Lifeline free iPhones currently offer the following models:
- iPhone SE
- iPhone 6
- iPhone 6 Plus
- iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s Plus
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone 8
What to Do if I Can’t Get an ACP and Lifeline Free iPhone?
In case you are unable to get a free iPhone through the government (perhaps because you don’t qualify or because no provider offers free iPhones in your area), you can either try to get an Android free phone or you can try your luck with the following:
- Promotional deals: Many carriers and retailers offer promo deals on free or discounted mobile devices. However, these deals come with certain preconditions. For instance, you must switch to their services, add a line, purchase a pricey plan, trade in an old device, etc.
- Non-profits: Certain charities and non-profit organizations offer free phones for people who are unable to buy such a device themselves. However, they generally tend to offer used or refurbished Android phones or flip phones. Getting an iPhone from a charity may be a long shot.
- Marketplaces: At online and offline marketplaces, such as Amazon, eBay, Swappa, Gazelle, Facebook Marketplace, etc., customers can potentially buy a refurbished or used iPhone at a highly discounted price.
- Online surveys: You can take part in online surveys, which can enable customers to receive free devices from various companies, including Amazon Vine.
- Online giveaways: Participate in online giveaways that offer a chance to win a free iPhone. However, remain cautious of any potential scams while participating in these contests.