How Do Affordable or Free Phones and Tablets Help Low-income Families?
In the midst of the digital age, we rely on cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices more than ever. We need them to stay in touch with family members, friends, jobs, school, healthcare, and emergency services. We use them for communication, work, education, services, entertainment, and more.
As neither cell phones nor tablets are not considered a luxury anymore, but rather a necessity, the devices have become much more affordable. Nevertheless, there are still many individuals and families that are unable to purchase them, even though their livelihood may depend on them.
Luckily, the government offers two government assistance programs through which low-income households may be able to receive a free government phone and tablet.
How Can Low-income Families Get Affordable or Free Phones and Tablets?
Low-income households can receive a free government phone and tablet through two government assistance programs – Lifeline (which offers free phones) and the Affordable Connectivity Program (which offers free tablets).
Get a Free Phone and Tablet From the Government Under the Government Lifeline Program
Lifeline is a government assistance program that helps make communications services more affordable for low-income people. The program provides a discount of up to $9.25 (or $34.35 for eligible households on Tribal lands) on qualifying monthly telephone service, broadband Internet service, or bundled voice-broadband packages. Lifeline providers also often offer free government basic or touch screen cell phones.
Get a Free Phone and Tablet From the Government Under the Government ACP Program
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a government assistance program that provides a discount of up to $30 (or $75 for eligible Tribal households) on monthly internet services. Certain ACP providers also offer eligible customers a one-time discount of up to $100 on internet-connected devices, such as tablets, laptops, or desktop computers under the condition that the customer pays a mandatory co-pay of more than $10 and less than $50 (according to the government rules).
Many wireless providers offer both Lifeline and ACP benefits and due to this double funding, they may offer more monthly data, a better smartphone, or both a free government phone and tablet.
Get a Free Phone and Tablet from a Charity or Non-Profit Organization
In addition to the government, there are also some charities and non-profit organizations that offer free government phones and tablets for low-income households. Learn more about them below.
You Can Get Free Tablets From Relatives or Neighbors
If you urgently need a tablet for work or school, you can also ask your relatives, neighbors, or friends to lend you one. In case they have an old tablet in good working condition that nobody uses anymore, they may even give it to you for free permanently.
What Is the Process to Get a Free Tablet and Phone From the Government Under the Lifeline and ACP
If you qualify, you can receive a free government phone and tablet through the two government assistance programs (Lifeline and ACP) relatively easily. All you have to do is to follow the simple steps below:
- Step 1: Make sure you qualify for Lifeline and the ACP. Note: All people who qualify for Lifeline also automatically qualify for the ACP. See the Lifeline and ACP eligibility criteria in the next section.
- Step 2: Collect all the documents that prove your Lifeline/ACP eligibility. See the required documents below.
- Step 3: Apply for the Lifeline and ACP program. See the instructions below.
- Step 4: Apply for a free government phone and tablet through the Lifeline and ACP program. See how exactly to do so below.
- Step 5: Enjoy your free government phone and tablet and other Lifeline/ACP benefits, which are listed below.
How to Get a Free Phone and Tablet From the Government Under Lifeline and ACP
To enroll in the Lifeline and/or ACP program, you must be at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor. You must also be a resident of the state where your selected Lifeline/ACP provider offers its services. Also, note that both Lifeline and the ACP are limited to one benefit per eligible household and they are non-transferable. To apply for Lifeline/ACP and receive a free government phone and tablet, you must also meet the specific government-determined Lifeline/ACP eligibility criteria listed below.
How to Qualify for the Lifeline Program to Receive a Free Phone and Tablet
To qualify for the Lifeline Assistance Program, you or any other member of your household must meet at least one of the following eligibility criteria:
- Income-based eligibility: Your annual household income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
- Program-based eligibility: You or any other member of your household participate in at least one of the following qualifying government assistance programs (Federal or Tribal):
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF)
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
- Head Start (only households meeting the income qualifying standard)
How to Qualify for the ACP Program to Receive a Free Phone and Tablet
To qualify for the ACP Assistance Program, you or any other member of your household must meet at least one of the following eligibility criteria:
- Income-based eligibility: Your annual household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
- Program-based eligibility: You or any other member of your household participate in Lifeline, any of the Lifeline-qualifying programs listed above (Federal or Tribal), or any of the following:
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program, including at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Eligibility Provision schools
- Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year
What Documents Are Required When Applying for Lifeline and ACP Programs?
During the Lifeline/ACP application process it is vital to prove your eligibility. If the provider is unable to do so itself, you may be required to provide some of the following official documents (depending on your eligibility criteria and the information the provider is unable to verify):
- An official document that includes your full legal name and annual income and proves that your annual household income is at or below 135% (Lifeline) or 200% (ACP) of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Acceptable documents include:
- Paycheck stubs
- Current income statement from your employer
- Prior year’s state, federal, or Tribal tax return
- A Social Security statement of benefits
- Veterans Administration statement of benefits
- Unemployment or Worker’s Compensation statement of benefits
- Divorce decree
- Child support award, etc.
- An official document that includes your full legal name, the name of a qualifying Federal or Tribal assistance program, the name of the establishment that issued the document, and an issue date within the last 12 months or a future expiration date and proves that you or your household member participate in a qualifying assistance program. Acceptable documents include:
- Benefit award letter
- Approval letter
- Statement of benefits
- Benefit verification letter
- School documentation
- An official document that includes your full legal name and date of birth and thus verifies your identity and/or age. Acceptable documents include:
- A valid government, military, state, or Tribal ID
- Birth Certificate
- S. Driver’s license
- Certificate of U.S. Citizenship or Naturalization
- Permanent Resident Card or Green Card
- Government assistance program document
Note: Emancipated minors must also prove their emancipation status with a court document, a certificate, or another official document
- An official document that includes your full legal name and address and thus verifies your physical address. Acceptable documents include:
- A valid government, state, or Tribal ID
- Driver’s license
- Utility bill
- Mortgage or lease statement
- Most recent W-2 or tax return
How to Apply for Lifeline and ACP Programs?
To receive a free government phone and tablet, you must apply for Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity Program, as the first program offers free phones and the second one offers free tablets. You can apply for Lifeline/ACP online or via mail. In addition, you can also apply directly at your selected Lifeline/ACP provider.
In order to receive a free government phone, you can apply for Lifeline online.
- To do so, visit fcc.gov/lifeline.
- Select your state or territory and press ‘Get Started’.
- You might have to log in or create a new account.
- You will be redirected to the online Lifeline application form. To fill it out, make sure to provide all the necessary information and documentation. At the bottom of each page, press ‘Next’, and at the end of the form, press ‘Submit’.
In order to receive a free government tablet, you can apply for the ACP program online.
- To do so, visit fcc.gov/lifeline/?id=nv_flow&amp;ebbp=true.
- You might have to log in or create a new account.
- You will be redirected to the online ACP application form. To fill it out, make sure to provide all the necessary information and documentation. At the bottom of each page, press ‘Next’, and at the end of the form, press ‘Submit’.
Apply Via Mail
If you wish, you can also apply for Lifeline via mail:
- Print out a Lifeline application at org/wp-content/uploads/documents/get-lifeline/LI_Application_NVstates.pdf.
- Fill it out.
- Add the copies of your proof documentation.
- Send the package to Lifeline Support Center, PO Box 7081, London, KY 40742.
To apply for the ACP program via mail, follow these steps:
- Print out an ACP application at gov/wp-content/uploads/ACP-Application-Form-English.pdf.
- Optional: Include a Household Worksheet available at gov/wp-content/uploads/lifeline/images/ACP-Household-Worksheet-English.pdf.
- Fill out both forms.
- Add the copies of your proof documentation.
- Send the package to ACP Support Center, PO Box 7081, London, KY 40742.
Apply Directly at a Lifeline/ACP Provider
If you wish, you can also apply for Lifeline/ACP directly at your selected provider.
As mentioned before, each eligible household can only receive one Lifeline and one ACP benefit. You can receive your Lifeline and ACP benefits from two separate providers or you can apply for the benefit at a provider that offers both Lifeline and ACP benefits. See how to apply at a Lifeline/ACP provider below.
How to Apply for Free Phones and Tablets Under the Lifeline and ACP Programs?
The exact application process may vary between providers, however, most of them follow this simple application process:
- Find a Lifeline/ACP provider (one that offers both benefits or two different providers) in your state of residence.
- Visit the provider’s official website and access their online application form.
- Fill out the application form by providing all the required information and documentation that proves your eligibility. Submit the application.
- In case you would prefer to apply via mail, contact the provider’s customer service and ask them how to do so.
- If eligible, your application will get approved within a few days and you will be notified. You will then receive your free government phone and tablet.
What Other Benefits Will You Get With Free Phone and Tablet After Qualifying for the ACP and Lifeline Program
In addition to the free government phone and tablet, Lifeline and ACP providers also offer several other benefits.
- Lifeline providers offer a discount on qualifying monthly telephone service, broadband Internet service, or bundled voice-broadband packages.
- ACP providers offer a discount on monthly broadband services.
- Some ACP providers may offer free (discounted) laptops or desktop computers instead of tablets.
- Lifeline + ACP providers offer free wireless services with:
- Unlimited talk
- Unlimited text
- Limited or unlimited monthly data
- Other perks, such as international calls to select countries, hotspot data, caller ID, etc.
6 Best Carriers That Offer Free Phones Under Lifeline and ACP?
One of the best carriers that offer free monthly services and phones under Lifeline and ACP is Access Wireless. Lifeline and ACP providers rarely disclose which phone models and brands eligible customers may receive in advance, as the offer depends on several factors, including the location and availability, and Access Wireless is no exception. However, expect to receive an entry-level to mid-range Android smartphone, as most providers offer such free phones.
To apply, visit accesswireless.com/lifeline. Provide your ZIP code and press ‘Learn More’. On the next page, review your state’s offer and press ‘Apply’. Select your application form (online or print-out) and fill it out by providing the required information and documentation. Submit the application and if approved, you will be notified.
Unlike most other Lifeline and ACP providers, Cintex Wireless (and its affiliate companies – NewPhone and AirTalk Wireless) offers both Android and iOS free phones along with free monthly services. Also, unlike other providers, Cintex allows eligible customers to choose their free phone. The company offers a large selection of free government phones, including a Samsung Galaxy A32, iPhone 7, LG V50 ThinQ 5G, and more. See their free devices at cintexwireless.com/free-phone.
To apply, go to cintexwireless.com/apply, enter your ZIP code, and press ‘Apply Now’. Follow the on-screen prompts to fill out the application form.
enTouch Wireless is a nationwide Lifeline and ACP provider that offers free monthly services and a free 5.5-inch smartphone from a trusted brand. The exact phone model depends on availability, however, it features a large screen and Android OS.
To enroll, go to entouchwireless.com, press ‘Enroll today’, and choose your state of residence. Follow the instructions to fill out and submit the application form.
Life Wireless is a Lifeline and ACP provider that offers free cellular service and free smartphones. The exact phone model that you will receive depends on the location and availability.
Apply by visiting lifewireless.com/enroll. Fill out the company’s online application form and when you are done, submit it. If approved, you will be notified shortly.
This is another proud Lifeline and ACP provide that provides free monthly services and free smartphones. Customers cannot select or know which phone model they will receive in advance.
In order to sign up, visit safelinkwireless.com/Enrollment/Safelink/en/Web/www/default/index.html#!/newHome. Enter your ZIP code in the provided box and press ‘Start’. Fill out the application form by providing all the required information and documentation.
Last but not least, there is TruConnect – a nationwide Lifeline and ACP provider that provides qualifying customers with free monthly services and phones. Eligible clients will receive a free Android smartphone of an unknown brand and model, as the offer is subject to availability.
If you decide to enroll, go to truconnect.com and start the application process by providing your ZIP code and email address. Then, follow the prompts to fill out the application form and submit it. If approved, you will be notified and you will receive a free phone shortly.
4 Best Carriers That Offer Free Tablets Under Lifeline and ACP?
AirTalk Wireless (as well as its affiliate companies – NewPhone Wireless and Cintex Wireless) offer both Lifeline and ACP benefits. In addition to free monthly services and a free smartphone (Android or iOS), eligible customers can also receive a free government tablet.
At AirTalk Wireless, ACP-eligible customers can expect to receive an Alcatel Joy Tab, Apple iPad Air, Apple iPad Mini 2, KonnectONE Moxee Tablet, Samsung Galaxy Tab A SM, or another high-quality tablet model from a reputable brand for just $10.01. See their discounted tablet selection at airtalkwireless.com.
To apply for a free government phone and tablet at AirTalk, go to airtalkwireless.com/apply, enter your ZIP code, and press ‘Apply now’. Follow the on-screen prompts to fill out and submit the application form.
Easy Wireless is another one of those rare and precious Lifeline and APC providers that offer both free government phones and tablets along with free monthly smartphone service.
Like most other ACP providers, Easy Wireless does not reveal which tablet brand and model eligible customers may receive in advance, as the offer depends on location and availability. Nevertheless, they do promise to provide eligible customers with an 8-inch tablet valued at $120 for only $10.99.
To sign up and receive the free tablet, visit myeasywireless.com. Enter your email address and ZIP code in the provided boxes and press ‘Enroll Now’. Follow the instructions to fill out the application form and submit it.
Go Technology Management
Go Technology Management is one of the leading communication service providers in America. They participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program and as such offer a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer to eligible customers, which must pay a mandatory co-pay of more than $10 and less than $50 to obtain the device.
The company does not disclose which tablet brands and models they offer in advance. However, according to customer reports, you can expect to receive an Android tablet with 10 GB of monthly data and access to AT&T’s network.
To apply, visit enroll-goknows.telgoo5.com/lifeline. Enter your ZIP code in the provided box and press ‘Start’. If the ACP benefits are available in your area, you will be redirected to the company’s application form. Fill it out and submit it. During the application process, you will also have the opportunity to select a service plan that best fits your needs.
Maxsip Telecom is a wireless provider that participates in the ACP program and offers discounts on monthly internet services as well as free (discounted) ACP tablets.
The exact tablet brand and model that you may receive is unknown, as the offer depends on the location and availability. However, the tablet is said to have 4G connectivity.
To apply, go to maxsipconnects.com/apply. Fill out the company’s online application form by selecting the service you wish to apply for and providing the required information and documentation. Submit the application and if approved, expect to receive the device shortly.
Best Carriers Who Offers Both Free Phones and Tablets
There are many Lifeline providers that offer free phones and there are several ACP providers that offer free tablets. However, there are only a few carriers generous enough to offer both free government phones and tablets. These carriers include:
- AirTalk Wireless
- Cintex Wireless
- Easy Wireless
- NewPhone Wireless
- Q Link Wireless
- StandUp Wireless
Is There Any Other Way to Receive Free Phones and Tablets Other Than Lifeline and ACP?
In addition to the government assistance programs, there are also some other ways to receive free phones and tablets, including:
- By finding a carrier deal (carriers offer free phones/tablets if the customer switches to their services, adds a line, purchases a select plan, trades in an old device, etc.)
- By becoming a reviewer
- By becoming a marketing agent
- Through Amazon Vine
- Through online surveys
- By entering a giveaway (make sure to avoid scams)
- From a charity or non-profit organization (this option is only available for low-income people)
The Best Charitable and Non-profit Organizations That Provide Free Phones and Tablets for Low-income Families
Some of the best charities and non-profits that offer free government phones and tablets include:
- Accelerated Schools Organization
- Computers For Learning
- Computer Technology Assistance Corps
- Komputers 4 Kids
- Microsoft Registered Refurbished
- On it Foundation
- Technology Assisting People In Need
- The Salvation Army
- World Computer Exchange
What Are the Lifeline and ACP Restriction Rules for Free Phones and Tablets?
Both Lifeline and the ACP program come with a set of strict rules and limitations, including:
- Lifeline and ACP benefits are limited to one Lifeline and one ACP benefit per eligible household
- Lifeline and ACP benefits are non-transferable
- Eligible households can only receive one Lifeline/ACP benefit from one provider at a time
- If no longer eligible, customers must notify their provider within 30 days
- In order to continue receiving the benefits, you must use them at least once every 30 days
- You must reapply for the benefits once a year
What Are the Basic Features of Free Tablets?
Free government tablets are new, refurbished, or pre-owned. However, they all come in excellent working condition and are loaded with all basic features, including the following:
- Intel Core processor
- i3 core chipset
- Android OS
- 8 GB of RAM
- 128 GB of internal memory
- 512 GB of external memory
- An 8 MP rear camera
- A 5 MP front camera
- A touch display
- A microphone
- A 5000 mAh Li-Ion battery
- A SIM card
- Voice calling
- 5G and Wi-Fi connectivity
- A warranty
Can I Replace My Free Phone or Tablet if It Doesn’t Work Properly?
If your free phone or tablet doesn’t work properly, you may be able to replace it. However, it all depends on your provider. Some providers only allow replacements within the first couple of days if the damage is not due to physical abuse. Others, on the other hand, offer a warranty or an insurance program that may even offer replacement devices if your original phone/tablet got broken, spilled, stolen, or lost. To find out more, contact your provider’s customer service.
What Is the Lifeline and ACP Program?
Both Lifeline and ACP are government assistance programs that offer discounts on telephone/internet services and connected devices. Read more above.
What if I Don’t Qualify for a Free Device?
If you don’t qualify for a Lifeline/ACP free government phone and tablet, you may be able to receive a free device through a charity, non-profit, a carrier deal, an online giveaway, or as a reward for becoming a reviewer or marketing agent.
Where Do I Check My Application Status for a Free Phone and Tablet?
Most Lifeline/ACP providers allow customers to log in to their account and check their application status there. However, all providers will notify you via email as soon as your application status changes.
How to Fill Out a Free Tablet Application Form for Low-Income Families?
You can fill out your free government phone and tablet application form by visiting the provider’s website and completing the form by providing all the necessary information and documentation.
Can I Get Free Phones and Tablets With the EBT Program?
EBT is an electronic system used with the Food Stamps (SNAP) program. Since SNAP participants qualify for both Lifeline and ACP benefits, you can easily get a free government phone and tablet with the EBT program.
Why Does the Government Offer Free Phones and Tablets?
The government offers free phones and tablets because these devices are vital for people to stay in touch with loved ones, work, education facilities, healthcare, emergency services, and more.