Cell phone providers in the United States still like to talk about coverage and connection speeds, usually by bashing the other guys. When it comes to 4G LTE, here's the little secret that carriers don't want you to know: in most parts of the country, the coverage and speeds provided are nearly the same. That isn't to say there aren't areas where individual carriers shine, and others do not. After years of paying for phone service, however, you probably already know this.
With 5G service still in its infancy, selecting a phone provider has mostly moved past the coverage and speed arguments from the old days. Instead, many companies are trying to gain your business by offering unlimited, no-contract phone service. One of those companies, Visible, is owned by the largest provider in the country, Verizon. This can be good or bad, depending on your location.
For the past few months, I've been testing the Visible phone service and putting it through the paces. Overall, I've been impressed, although the service isn't for everyone.
Visible phone service
Price: $40 per month
Bottom line: Visible is an excellent choice for those looking for a no-contract, unlimited data experience using Verizon's vast network. However, you need to make sure to read the fine print.
- No contract
- Uses Verizon's large network
- Supports most iPhones
- Video and music gets throttled
- Poor selection of phones available
- Is Verizon service good in your area?
- Limited Android support
What is Visible?
Many of us continue to pay anywhere between $65 to $85 per month for a phone line through one of the big carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile. For this, we're given some extra perks such as "free" Disney Plus, Apple Music, or HBO. As more phones get added, the per-line price drops, but it's never to the point where we say wow, we're getting a great deal on our phone service.
In a world where many phones have pushed past the $1,000 mark, the trade-off for paying these outrageous prices is you get to finance your phone over monthly payments spread out over a 24-month period, and not pay up front.
With Visible, there's another way to go, as long as you're willing to make some sacrifices. If you can bring over your existing (and fully paid) phone to Visible or purchase a new one in full, it might be a great solution for your situation.
Look at that price
Visible: What I like
Until recently, Visible, which launched in 2018, offered only one plan. For $40 per month, you get unlimited LTE smartphone data without a speed cap. Visible says the last point is "for a limited time" and "free for as long as you remain a member." Included is Voicemail, Wi-Fi Calling, Call Forwarding, Call Waiting, Caller ID, Call Hold, 3-Way Calling, and Mobile Hotspot. The $40 includes taxes and fees, which makes balancing your checkbook each month much easier! Best of all: you can cancel the service at any time since there are no contracts.
Recently, Visible introduced "Party Pay," which gives you a service discount when you elect to have more than one line attached to a payment group. The discount depends on the number of active members at the time of payment:
- Two lines, $5 discount per line, or $35/month, or $70 total.
- Three lines, $10 discount per line, or $30/month, or $90 total.
- Four lines, $15 discount per line, or $25/month, or $100 total.
Regardless, the service provided is the same across the board.
If Verizon's coverage is great in your area, Visible's will be too. According to Visible, this means you'll "typically experience" 4G LTE network download speeds between 5-12 Mbps and upload speeds between 2-5Mbps.
During my tests in and around the State College, Pennsylvania area, those speeds were matched and often exceeded. You should check the Verizon coverage map for more information about the service available in your area.
Whether you're interested in only one line or up to four, Visible is a great deal, especially when you consider Visible won't slow down your speeds based on your data usage. To get started, all you need to do is pop in the provided Visible SIM card and follow the directions in the official Visible app.
Visible: What I don't like
What's the long-awaited catch about going with Visible? Video "typically" streams at a resolution of only 480p, which the company says looks "nice and crisp" on your phone. It also streams music at just 500 Kbps. Both numbers match what you get on Verizon's least expensive unlimited plan.
Visible will also slow down your data during times when the network gets congested. However, as Visible rightly notes, "this is common for any person on any carrier."
Visible's 480p video streaming limit is what's most eye-catching here. Honestly, however, it didn't bother me during my tests. Also, my 13-year-old daughter, who streamed more video with Visible that I did, never complained. Given her age and obsession with all-things YouTube, that's impressive.
Some users have noted online that Visible doesn't work with many Android-based phones. This is true, although that's not the case with most iPhones. If you're a current iPhone user, you should be fine. To be sure, check out the compatiblity chart.
Do you need a phone?
You can bring an existing phone to Visible or purchase a new one through the company. Yes, you'll have to pay the entire amount for the new phone up front. At the time of this writing, it's offering a $200 pre-paid Mastercard with most purchases. It also supports Affirm, so you can spread out the payments over up to 12 months.
Visible currently offers all the current-generation iPhones in its online store. However, some popular Android-based phones aren't available.
Keep in mind you can bring any unlocked phone to Visible, assuming it's compatible. One advantage of buying an unlocked phone through Visible (or anywhere else) is that you can move it from carrier to carrier if you want.
A true winner
If you live in an area where the Verizon 4G LTE network is superior and you want to save some cash, you should definitely consider switching to Visible. There's no data cap or lengthy contract to sign. Best of all, if you're unhappy with the service, you can cancel at any time and take your phone elsewhere.
Have any questions?
If you have any questions or concerns about Visible or carriers in general, let us know below.
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