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Free Mobile offers smartphone rental

Phone firm leaves rivals flat-footed as it says customers can hire iPhone or Galaxy S4 for €12 a month

MOBILE phone operator Free is to rent smartphones to customers – with the Samsung Galaxy S4, Apple iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 up for grabs at €12 a month.

The new deal comes just days after it stunned its mobile market rivals by offering the new 4G service at the same price as 3G, €19.99. Other companies had been using 4G as a prestige bonus with higher contract charges but have had to rethink their plans.

Saying it was “democratising access to top-of-the-range smartphones,” Free said it was an “unbeatable” offer for customers

It means that, rather than buying a smartphone or having the mobile company subsidise it as part of a contract, customers will be able to get a new model for an initial payment of between €49 and €129 and then signing a 24-month rental contract.

The rental price is a massive discount on the market price for an iPhone. The 16Gb 5S sells in France for €709 at the Apple Store (it is £549 in the UK) and the initial payment of €99 plus €12 a month for 24 months totals €387.

Free customers are not tied in to their mobile phone contracts and the two services are itemised separately on the bill. After 24 months customers can return the phone and hire a new one.

Mobile phone rival Bouygues Telecom has already challenged Free’s 4G contract by offering 4G on its low-cost B & You network for €24.99 – and saying it has already has 63% of France covered with 5,000 transmitters, against just 700 transmitters for Free.

Orange has also responded, with its low-cost Sosh network offering 4G at €24.99 a month from January 9.

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