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Verizon to offer free Windows Phone 8 smartphone before the end of the year

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Verizon Wireless recently announced availability of its first Windows Phone 8 devices, the HTC Windows Phone 8X and Nokia Lumia 822, both of which are shipping before the Thanksgiving holiday this year. The 8X and the 822 are priced at $199 and $99, respectively, but Verizon is apparently looking to fill the "free on contract" price point with another Windows Phone 8 device by the end of 2012. Concerning the carrier's Windows Phone 8 lineup, Verizon Wireless CMO Tami Erwin told The Verge that "there will be a $99 and a $199 [option] and ultimately before the end of the year we will have a device that comes in at the free [price] point."

It's not yet clear which Windows Phone 8 model Verizon will offer for free, but the carrier did tease the Samsung Ativ Odyssey at Microsoft's big launch event for the new platform. Unfortunately, we don't know official specifications or details for the Odyssey, but an alleged image of the device leaked yesterday that shows it to be a low- to mid-range device. The "free on contract" smartphone has always been a great gateway drug for new and timid smartphone buyers, and with Apple dropping the price of the iPhone 4 to free this year, customers shopping at the lowest price bracket can actually get a decent smartphone. Having a Windows Phone 8 device to compete at that level is something that Microsoft can certainly benefit from, and with the support of the nation's largest carrier behind it, it could introduce a lot more new smartphone buyers to the Windows Phone 8 platform.