You can spend $10 and buy a pretty case for your Samsung Galaxy S III. Or, you can spend a penny less and get the Android smartphone itself. This is not one of those too-good-to-be-true deals. Just go to Amazon.com and search for it.
There is, of course, a catch. But it's quite a reasonable one. To get the $9.99 Galaxy S III you have to sign a two-year contract with Verizon. But hey, if you go to the Verizon site, you’ll see that the same phone and the same contract is going for $199. If you want this phone, there's no reason not to save $190.
What’s going on here? A fire sale, as Samsung clears the deck for the recently announced Galaxy S4, which will be available in mid-April. That's a fairly ordinary move to make, but the magnitude of the price cut is surprising.
I suspect that Samsung is smelling blood in its battle for market share with Apple. The Galaxy series has a lot to recommend it, and I believe that an ultra-low price for a high-end phone will convince some buyers who would have purchased an iPhone to go with Samsung. Why the sale is restricted to Amazon is a good question that I can’t answer. But from a buyer’s point of view, it doesn’t matter.
My colleague Brian Carlson blogged about a head-to-head comparison of the S3 and the iPhone 5 late last year, and the conclusion was that you can't lose either way. Of course, he wasn't factoring in the huge discount that's now on the table.
The other factor behind the heavy discount is the dog fight going on between the four major carriers: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. All four carriers are spending huge sums of money to upgrade their networks and roll out ultra-fast 4G LTE to as much of the country as possible.
AT&T and Verizon are, of course, leaders by a wide margin, but the smaller carriers are fighting hard to narrow the gap. So it's not surprising that Verizon would attempt to gain new customers by offering a super-cheap deal on the Galaxy.
We saw a bit of desperation earlier this week, as T-Mobile announced that it's doing away with the standard, two-year contract in favor of plans that allow customers to buy and pay for unsubsidized phones over a period of months. As I mentioned earlier this week, the new offer has a lot of gotchas, but for some people it may be cheaper to go with T-Mobile over two years, despite the higher upfront cost, then to opt for a standard agreement with AT&T or Verizon.
In any case, it's good to see competition forcing carriers to give consumers a better deal. I just wish there were more of it.