Everybody's heard of Verizon. It is unquestionably the largest cell phone provider in America, offering the most reliable coast-to-coast coverage and some of the most consistent speeds and uptime in the industry. Barring a couple of the competition's carrier exclusives, you can have your pick of almost any phone on the market. And Verizon's customer service team is recognized as one of the finest around. Granted, you'll pay a lot for all that stability and device choice, so if you're on a budget the best cell phone plans for you may be a little lower on our lineup. But if you're looking for the best of the best overall, Verizon is it, which is why it earns our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award.
There's no getting around it: Verizon is pricey. Compare any of its cell phone plans against the company's competition and you'll find yourself paying more with Verizon than almost anyone else. It's not the most expensive cell phone provider in America, but it's a close second.
Verizon's single-line plans start at $60, giving you unlimited talk and text and 1GB of data. It's upgradable to 2GB of data for $75. But the company works hard to obscure both prices: You can get the plans for $45 and $60, respectively, if you sign up with Verizon Edge. Edge is the company's early-upgrade program, which reduces the cost of lines by $15 each but requires you to pay the full price of your phone over 24 months, with the ability to upgrade after 18 months of payments. We break down the details of Verizon Edge and other early upgrade plans here; in short, though, you can always expect to pay more over time with a Verizon Edge plan, in exchange for paying less up front.
Verizon's family plans are just as hard on the wallet. Light-usage families should be able to get away with 6GB of shared data and four lines for $240 a month, but most quartets will want to spring for 10GB of data, which will run them $260. You can add or subtract lines for $40 a phone, and move your data allocation up or down to match your family's usage. As with single lines, you can get much cheaper month-to-month prices if you ditch the contract and go with Verizon Edge, but you'll have to pay monthly for each of your phones on top of the line fee. In the long run, expect to pay slightly more for the ability to upgrade early than you would with a classic contract.
Like all the best cell phone providers, Verizon offers unlimited talk and text with every one of its plans. And, as befits a national carrier, it has business plans, international plans and will subsidize the cost of expensive, $600 phones if you sign a two-year contract. Of course, Verizon knows it's the top dog, so it doesn't try to lure customers away from other providers with promises to pay your early termination fees; it doesn't need to. If you go with Verizon, you're probably doing so because you want its reliability.
Unfortunately, Big Red doesn't shy away from fees. Every new phone you add to a plan will tack an extra $35 activation fee to your first month's bill, and should you decide to return that phone within the two-week grace period, you'll be charged a $35 restocking fee. If you go with a contract instead of the Verizon Edge early upgrade plan and you try to get out of it early, you'll owe up to $350 in early termination fees.
It's a tighter race than it's been in the past, but Verizon Wireless still offers the best cell phone coverage in the nation. While AT&T reports that it serves more markets with 4G LTE (620 markets to Verizon's 506), companies can define a "market" any number of ways. When it comes to pure coverage across the 2G, 3G and 4G spectrums, Verizon comes out on top. Put simply, you're more likely to have service – even when your friends don't – than with any other provider.
The bad news is speed: Though it can hit some astonishing highs, Verizon 4G LTE data speeds average just over 6Mbps. That's fast enough to stream video to your phone, but it might not be full 1080p quality over the air. Of course, this is just an average – assuming you're not in an extremely congested area, you can expect to hit speeds well over 10Mbps, which is more than enough to stream HD video.
Verizon's selection of devices befits the biggest name in the business – from iPhones and Androids to Blackberrys and Windows Phones, there's no shortage of diversity. While you might not be able to get an Amazon Fire Phone or Sharp AQUOS Crystal – phones exclusive to AT&T and Sprint, respectively – you have access to just about anything else on the market, including the Verizon-exclusive Droid line of phones from Motorola.
Tablets and mobile hotspots are both available online, including the latest Nexus tablet from Google and iPad from Apple. These are, of course, the LTE-enabled versions of the tablets, designed for those who would rather have their iPad connect directly to the internet than be tethered to their phones.
Look anywhere on the internet and you'll find people complaining about a big company. It's no different for Verizon, who has its fair share of disillusioned former customers with tales of bad experiences. While this will be true of every carrier, we'd 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'd happily recommend Big Red's customer service team. They tend to be unfailingly friendly and quick to tackle problems.
Verizon Wireless is the biggest, the most widespread, and – in our judgment – the best cell phone carrier in America. True, in may not be the provider for you; after all, if your budget is tight then price probably means far more to you than coverage. But when you take into account its diversity of phones, its great customer support team and the fact that you can get coverage just about anywhere in the U.S., it remains our number one pick.
Verizon's coverage and quality has competition, but no equal. If Big Red doesn't cover you, chances are nobody will.
You'll pay for that ubiquity: Verizon's prices are among the most expensive in the industry, and the company charges for data overages instead of throttling back your speeds.
Verizon Wireless has long been – and remains – the overall best cellular carrier in America. Yes, it can be expensive, but the quality of service you get for your money is worth it.