Verizon considers adding free Windows Phone 8 device to its line-up

verizon storefrontVerizon never took to Windows Phone 7 and last year offered just one phone with Microsoft’s operating system onboard. This has changed with the introduction of Windows Phone 8 though, as the carrier has already announced two devices, the exclusive Nokia Lumia 822 and the HTC 8X, and according to a new report, a third is on the way.

Rather than add another high-end Windows Phone, Verizon may be looking in the opposite direction, and could introduce a free Windows Phone 8 device soon. This comes from Verizon’s marketing officer Tami Erwin, who spoke to The Verge this week, saying “there will be a $100 and a $200 option, and ultimately before the end of the year we will have a device that comes in at the free price point.

We already know the Lumia 822 is the $100 option, and the HTC 8X costs $200, so what device will Verizon choose as its entry-level handset? The Samsung Ativ Odyssey is the obvious choice, as it has already been partially confirmed for the network after making an appearance during the Windows Phone 8 launch event.

The Odyssey is rumored to be a re-branded Samsung Ativ S, but as this is far from a basic phone, it’s unlikely to be made available for free. So, either the spec will be completely different, or another phone will take its place.

Samsung Marco

There could also have been a change of plan at Samsung. Back before Windows Phone 8 was fully revealed, there were two Samsung Windows Phone 8 devices rumored — the Odyssey and the Marco. The names of which became known as part of the documents released during the Apple/Samsung legal battle taking place at the time.

The specs put the Odyssey with a 4.65-inch screen and an 8-megapixel camera, and the Marco with a more modest 4-inch screen and a 5-megapixel camera, although both featured Qualcomm’s 1.5GHz dual-core processor. A tweet from @evleaks, the account responsible for the leaked Odyssey image, states the phone may be the Marco after all.

If so, this puts it in the same category as the HTC 8S. As HTC’s second Windows Phone has yet to appear on any U.S. or UK networks, it’s difficult to compare prices, but the SIM-free cost is half that of the 8X.

There’s also a chance Verizon may chose Huawei’s Windows Phone 8 device, which has yet to be announced but will almost certainly be cheap when it does eventually surface. Although Verizon hasn’t really worked with Huawei yet, the Chinese manufacturer indicated a deal with Verizon was “happening” during an interview in October.

A free Windows Phone 8 device could be quite a big deal, not only for Verizon, but for Microsoft too. At the moment, neither AT&T nor T-Mobile list a free WP8 device, and Microsoft needs a cheap option if it’s to effectively combat Android.

Earlier this year, Verizon’s CFO Fran Shammo said the network viewed Windows Phone 8 as a “differentiator,” and planned to help the OS become a “strong” third software competitor to iOS and Android. Offering its customers a free phone (with a contract, of course) would certainly be an important step in that direction.