In the past few years, established wireless providers like Verizon and AT&T have seen growing competition from dirt-cheap carriers called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). We know that sounds boring and technical, but the idea behind these low-cost providers is simple. Unlike Verizon, which operates its own network and cell towers, an MVNO piggybacks off a larger carrier’s infrastructure while selling its own phone plans.
Normally I wouldn’t care about that except that the savings can be huge, which is why I signed up for Visible’s unlimited plan for just $25 a month. After a year of service, here’s my Visible Wireless review:
Plans and Pricing
This is where Visible crushes its competition. When I signed up in April 2022, Visible offered unlimited data, text, calling, and hotspot use for just $40 a month. But after doing some more research, I found that I’d pay just $25 a month if I used “party pay,” a group plan that anyone could form with strangers online. For the equivalent at Verizon, you’d pay at least $60 a month for a single line.
The bad news is that Visible — a Verizon company, by the way — is changing its pricing in 2023. Now customers have the option between a $30-a-month unlimited plan and a $45-a-month plus option, which comes with extras like international calling and a “premium network experience.” Still, Visible remains one of the cheapest no-contract mobile providers in the country, beating or matching most competitors’ prices.
|Network||Unlimited data, talk, text, and mobile hot spot usage (capped at 5 Mbps)||Unlimited data, talk, text, and mobile hot spot usage (capped at 5 Mbps)|
|Extras||Unlimited talk and text to Canada and Mexico||50 GB of fast premium data; 5G ultra wideband coverage; expanded international texting and calling|
Call Quality and Data Speeds
If you’re a power user who needs high-speed data and top-notch call quality, look elsewhere.
Although Visible uses Verizon’s 5G network for coverage, I consistently ran into call quality, data, and connection issues on the carrier's normal plan. That’s partly because Visible deprioritizes its users' data, favoring premium Verizon users during peak times.
Today, for instance, I’m getting 7 Mbps download and 0.48 Mbps upload speed on Visible’s 4G LTE network, number that Google classifies as “fine.” That’s accurate. Most of the time, surfing the web was “fine” — no worse, no better. But I also found Visible’s coverage buggy. When I would enter a dead zone and regain service, I’d have to turn off my phone to start using the internet again. Call quality was also hit or miss. While it was passable most of the time, service would occasionally be so spotty that the person on the other end couldn’t understand me.
Of course, my experience may have differed from Visible+ users, who benefit from 50 GB of data that hasn't been deprioritized, among other perks.
Despite Visible’s shortcomings, I’ve been impressed with its hotspot data. While capped at 5 Mbps and limited to one device, I was able to work on my laptop without issues using my phone as a hotspot. As long as you don’t have to stream video or do any heavy downloading or uploading, the service is fine.
@addison.jarman the ULTIMATE hack with @Visible 🤫 #VisiblePartner #cellphonebill ♬ original sound - Addison Jarman
There’s no way around it: Visible’s customer service is terrible. Even calling it “customer service” might be too generous, seeing as the company only offers a 24-hour chat function. After just one conversation with Visible’s in-app customer service, I can confidenty say that ChatGPT is more helpful.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a cheapskate who doesn’t mind the occasional technical hiccup and couldn’t care less about 5G speeds, then you might be able to see past Visible’s shortcomings. I complain a lot, and yet don’t plan on jumping ship soon. But everyone else — power users, techies, and Netflix addicts — should shop around for more reliable cell phone plans, or try Visible's premium $45-a-month option.