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
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.
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.
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
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
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 Savings.com, and also writes for PC
World and Wired.