PROS / For its speed, performance and reliability, Verizon can’t be beat.
CONS / Quality has a cost: You’ll pay between $5 and $35 more for Verizon’s service than you would with any other national provider.
VERDICT / What other cellular companies claim to deliver, Verizon Wireless actually does. Its network is easily the best in the business.
Verizon Wireless is, plain and simple, the largest cell phone provider in America. It offers the most reliable coast-to-coast coverage and the highest consistent speeds in the industry. You can have your pick of almost any phone on the market, and Verizon's customer service team is renowned for its quality. The problem is you have to pay a lot for all of that stability and choice, so if you're on a budget the best cell phone plans for you will probably be a little lower on our lineup. If you're looking for the best of the best overall, though, Verizon is the only true contender. It deserves our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award.
Coverage & Quality
There’s no more important measure of a cell phone company than its network quality. Since back during its famous “Can you hear me now?” marketing campaign, Verizon Wireless has trumpeted its superior coverage, and for good reason: No other provider offers the same broad reach, dependable speeds and consistent performance year after year.
Of course, Verizon’s competitors claim otherwise. T-Mobile, for example, manages faster speeds in many areas, and points it out whenever it can. Over the entirety of the United States, though, Verizon has the more dependable LTE service. We know this thanks to the analysis of RootMetrics, an independent firm that does nothing but constantly test all four major carriers across the country, year-round.
Pricing & Fees
With the end of contract pricing, Verizon’s plans are far simpler than they used to be. You’re no longer locked into two years of service, which means you can functionally leave Verizon at any time if you’re not happy there. Of course, Verizon wants you to stay, which is why most phones that work on Verizon’s network will only work on Verizon’s network. You’re no longer locked into service, but you may still need to buy a new phone if your current one isn’t compatible.
A side-by-side comparison reveals that Big Red is more expensive than any other provider. The company's cheapest cell phone plan costs $50, giving you unlimited talk and text and 1GB of data for a single smartphone. That's upgradable to 3GB of data for $65, or 6GB of data for $80 a month. All this data is sharable, and families can add additional smartphones for $20 each. The average 4-person family can expect to spend $160 a month: $80 for 12GB of shared data, and $20 to get each of the four smartphones access, unlimited minutes and unlimited texting.
Remember that with no-contract pricing, none of these plans include the cost of a phone. Phones can range anywhere from $50 to $800, depending on how much power you want out of your device. The new iPhone SE, for example, clocks in at $399.99. That’s a solid deal for a high-quality mid-tier smartphone, but if you can’t afford it all up-front, Verizon gives you the option of paying for it over time, at $16.66 a month for 24 months.
A payment program may not be a contract in the classic sense, but it still ties you to Verizon until you pay the phone off. You have the option of doing that whenever you like, of course, but in the meantime Verizon lumps the cost of the phone into your monthly statement.
Like all of the best cell phone providers, Verizon offers unlimited talk and text with every one of its plans. It doesn’t, however, offer unlimited data – data is, after all, among the most lucrative elements of modern cellular packages, since we rely on it for everything from Facebook and WhatsApp to Netflix and Imgur. You can’t rollover unused data to the next month’s allocation, and you can’t stream any music or video apps for free like you can on some of its competitors.
Now that contract plans are a thing of the past, so too are subsidized phones and the early-upgrade plans that made so much news two years ago. Verizon will still offer early termination assistance to customers who are grandfathered into contracts at other companies, though that promotion could go away at any time.
Verizon's selection of phones suits the biggest name in the business. They stock popular devices including iPhones, Androids, BlackBerrys and Windows Phones, so there's no shortage of diversity. The Verizon-exclusive Droid line of phones from Motorola is present, of course, as are devices from HTC, Samsung, LG and more.
Tablets and hotspots are both available online, including the latest iPad Pro and iPad Pro 9.7-inch from Apple. These are, of course, the LTE-enabled versions of the tablets, designed for those who prefer to have their iPad connect directly to the internet than be tethered to their phones.
Help & Support
Look anywhere on the internet and you'll find people complaining about big companies. It's no different for Verizon, which has its fair share of disillusioned former customers with tales of bad experiences. This is true of every carrier, though, and we still back Verizon as having one of the best customer service teams in the business. Based on both our direct interactions with every provider and our extensive research of other customers' impressions, we happily recommend Big Red's customer service team.
Verizon Wireless is the biggest, most widespread carrier in the U.S. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the provider for you; if your budget is tight, then price probably means far more to you than coverage. However, when you take into account its diversity of phones, great customer support team and the fact that you can access the best cell phone service in America, it remains our number one pick.