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Five tech freebies you shouldn't overlook

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Rick.Broida)
at 10:36AM Thursday June 27, 2013
under Freebies

It's true: there's no such thing as a free lunch. (Well, not unless you have a sandwich-shop card with nine punches.)

But tech stuff? There's more "free" out there than you might think, including a few items that might surprise you. Below I've rounded up five of my favorite tech freebies, including phones, phone calls, and e-books.

Last year's hot smartphone
Not everybody needs all the bells and whistles afforded by the latest and greatest smartphone. Indeed, if you're willing to "settle" for one of last year's models, you can score a sweet deal--possibly even a free one.

For example, a year ago the phone to have was Samsung's Galaxy S III, but you'd have paid $199.99 for the privilege. Today, with a little shopping around, I found the Galaxy S III at Amazon for $0.01 (with a two-year Verizon contract). And that's just one of several freebie phones you can get if you don't mind a slightly older model.

Now, of course the service isn't free, but that's true of any smartphone you buy--so you might as well get the best deal you can on the hardware. And it doesn't get any better than free.

Phone calls
Running low on your monthly allotment of minutes? Not a problem: Just grab the Vonage Mobile app for Android or iPhone and you can make totally free calls to anywhere in the U.S., Canada, or Puerto Rico. (It's not unlimited, but it's close: you get 3,000 minutes per month.) The app relies on Wi-Fi and 3G/4G connections, so calls don't count against your minutes.

Everyone knows the local library is a great place to stock up on books, but did you know most libraries also let you check out free e-books and audiobooks as well? Start your search at Download Destination, which helps you sign into your library account, browse the catalog of available items, and download them to your PC and/or mobile devices.

While you're at it, check out services like eBook Fling and eReaderIQ, which can help you find free reads for your e-reader.

There are countless sources for free music, starting with apps that will stream them to your smartphone, tablet, or even Roku box. Along with the obvious favorites (Pandora, Slacker, etc.), be sure to check out Songza, a terrific Android/iOS app that streams custom-tailored music stations totally ad-free.

If you're looking for music downloads, start at Amazon, which currently has a library of some 54,000 free MP3 tracks. Most of these come from indie artists, meaning this is a great way to discover new music without paying for it.

Finally, don't overlook your local Starbucks, which gives away a free song (via a code redeemable on iTunes) every week. 

Local TV
I know lots of people who are eager to cut the TV cord, to put an end to that pricey cable-TV bill--but don't want to lose out on local programming.

Lest you forget, you can still watch live broadcasts on your HDTV. All you need is an antenna; even an old set of rabbit ears will do. And if you want to record that TV? Put your Windows 7 PC on the job: Its built-in Windows Media Center software doubles as a great DVR. All you need is a tuner that plugs into a USB port, then the aforementioned antenna.

So you might have to pay a few bucks up front for some hardware, but in the end you'll be able to watch and record local TV stations absolutely free. Take that, cable company!

Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and, and also writes for PC World and Wired.