Rogers, Bell, Telus, and now even SaskTel are offering smartphones for $0. Conditions vary, but the standard is a two or three year contract and a minimum monthly rate plan of about $50.
While the deals don't include iPhones, they still do include some sweet devices, including RIM's BlackBerry Torch.
So what's with this, anyway? Is it National Free Phone Month? No, although that would be cool.
There are two primary forces driving this: the domino effect spurred by oligopolies, and the power of a long term contract.
First, if one company offers a significant deal, in this case Rogers, it's very likely the others will follow, in this case Telus then Bell then SaskTel. Sort of like gas pumps, where there are unwritten rules about staying in line. Even though these companies are in direct competition with each other, it's mutually beneficial to keep the playing field even (for them). If true competitive measures were to be taken, prices would plummet and their profit margins wouldn't look so rosy.
Second, a three-year contract is immensely profitable and a guaranteed source of income for a generous length of time - so really, these telcos are happy to toss you a free device for signing your name in ink on the dotted line.
In the end, if you actually need a new phone and can commit to a contract, you are saving $100 to $200. But if you're anything less than 100% certain, pass on the temptation - deals like these will always be around.