Android Central Verdict
Visible delivers on its promise of unlimited data with great coverage on Verizon's LTE and 5G network. Unlimited talk and text are also included in the price, starting at $40 per month with room to save up to $15 per month when you sign up with a four-person party.
Unlimited LTE and 5G data
Unlimited hotspot at 5Mbps
Simple plan with included fees and no contract
Visible Party Pay brings the cost down to $25 per month
Inconsistent data performance throughout the day
High ping times
Limited phone support with a slow 5G rollout
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Prepaid phone carriers come with a wide variety of data amounts and prices, but Visible stands out thanks to its single unlimited plan and one of the lowest prices for service. Since prepaid carriers use one of the networks of the Big Three carriers, there's a good chance you've got coverage. Still, prepaid carriers are often treated as a lower priority, so you want to make sure the network you choose can stand up to its traffic. Luckily, Verizon has one of the strongest networks, and Visible will likely deliver plenty of speed in most areas.
Visible is a prepaid phone carrier from Verizon that has left analog connectivity in the past and offers just one plan. Visible originally had hard speed limits, but it now offers the full speed of the Verizon network as long as the tower isn't congested. Visible has also added some new features to lower the cost of the service and make it easier to sign up and use.
Visible uses Verizon's LTE and nationwide 5G network for coverage, with no 3G or roaming options. While this won't be an issue for many, rural coverage may suffer. Still, for most people, Visible will be fast enough for day-to-day usage and many people may not notice a difference compared to their old carrier.
Visible Review: Will your phone work?
Visible is an all-digital carrier, which means that everything you do on your Visible connection happens over data. This includes calling, which requires that all Visible phones support VoIP, or voice over internet protocol. While most modern phones support this feature, you'll still need to check your phone before signing up. If it works on the Verizon network and is from the last couple of years, there's a good chance it will work.
Luckily, you can check your phone's IMEI before you create your account. If your phone isn't supported, you'll be directed to Visible's online store, where you have the option of buying a new one. You can also buy one of the best phones for Visible and bring it with you. If your phone is supported, you just need to wait for your SIM in the mail or set up your eSIM.
I tested Visible using an unlocked Samsung Galaxy S20+, and had no issues connecting and using the service once I got my SIM activated. Calls and texts were running without any input from me, and all settings were handled automatically.
Visible Review: What works well
Visible's plan hits the nail on the head. I know for a fact that I don't need unlimited data, calling, or texting, but I love to have it. When I've just spent hundreds on a new phone, I want to use it until the battery is flat and forget all about data. Visible's plan facilitates this selfish endeavor by offering unlimited talk, text, calling, and hotspot usage for $40 per month before Party Pay. It even includes calling to Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon offer a similar unlimited plan, but each is more expensive and has fewer features. T-Mobile comes close with its Essentials plan, but that has a slower hotspot and comes in at $20 more per month plus taxes and fees.
That's before Visible Party Pay as well. Party Pay allows you to join a party of other Visible users to bring your monthly cost down as low as $25 per month. Not only that, but you can join a party right from Visible's website so you can finish the whole process in just a few minutes. There's really no reason not to join a Visible party.
Visible's mobile hotspot is one of a kind in that it has no data cap, but comes with a 5Mbps speed limit. While you won't be streaming 1080p on your connected Wi-Fi device, standard definition video should work without a hitch, and standard browsing and social media should load reasonably quickly. If you're regretting opting for the Wi-Fi version of a tablet, Visible can make sure you stay connected on the go. No searching for public Wi-Fi is necessary.
This hotspot can also work with smartwatches, though Visible also has a standalone Apple Watch plan for just $5 per month. An Apple Watch Series 4 or newer is required.
Visible relies on Verizon's network for service, and for most people in the country, that's good news. Verizon has some of the best coverage around, and most people should have excellent coverage and plenty of speed. I rarely had anything but solid signal quality on my phone, even when I drove between cities in my area.
Speed tests showed over 30Mbps download most of the time with peaks over 100Mbps. Best of all, upload speeds were regularly above 10Mbps, often reaching closer to 30Mbps. So if you're sending pictures or videos to a friend, you shouldn't have to wait long, even in HD. This can also improve the quality of video calls. Video streaming generally worked well for me as long as I dropped the quality to 720p for 60FPS videos. Higher quality 1080p and 1440p videos would buffer often, but on a phone screen, it's far from a hardship.
5G connectivity on Verizon's nationwide 5G network is included as long as you have a compatible device. Your phone will need to support Verizon's 5G bands and have proper updates to work with the network. Even so, there's a chance your 5G device won't see the 5G network, but Visible does explicitly support most of the best Android phones, such as the Galaxy S22 series and Pixel 6 series. iPhones with 5G are also supported.
Speaking of iPhones, if you have one with eSIM support, you can get a free 15-day trial of Visible's network. I would have liked to see this feature available to Android users but it's better than nothing.
Visible Review: What falls short
While most of my speed tests showed great results, there were times when my speeds would plummet to under 2Mbps. Upload speeds stayed high, which is nice, but it was very noticeable when a web page or video would fail to load, or load unusually slowly. Usually, it would correct itself within a few minutes, but I definitely felt that my connection was a lower priority. Still, that's to be expected, and Visible clearly states your speed may be temporarily slower than other traffic.
What I didn't expect was the frankly massive ping times. Ping is the latency of your connection, measured in milliseconds, and represents the delay between your phone requesting a connection and receiving it. Some people are more sensitive to this than others, but it has a big impact on how snappy your connection feels. Home fiber connections, for example, usually average under 5ms, while cable and DSL connections can be closer to 40ms depending on several elements.
I never saw less than 100ms on Visible, and frequently saw over 150ms. My AT&T and Mint Mobile SIMs are regularly under 50ms for comparison. I thought perhaps 5G might improve things a bit, but after finding a good place to connect to Verizon's nationwide 5G network, I found the results to be very similar to LTE. It's still a very usable connection but definitely worth considering if you want to play multiplayer games online, or are used to lower latency browsing.
One last thing to consider is phone support. You can see the list of compatible phones on Visible's help page, and while it includes most of the heavy hitters, you still need to check it before buying an unlocked phone. This is one extra step that many prepaid customers aren't used to taking when signing up for service.
Visible Review: The competition
Mint Mobile stands out as one of Visible's biggest competitors, with an array of plans starting at just $15 per month for 4GB of data when you buy 12 months.
It must be said that the upfront cost of Mint Mobile is a lot higher, with the greatest value coming from buying an entire year of service. If you are switching carriers looking for more freedom, Mint Mobile will feel a bit more restrictive in this sense. Mint Mobile also doesn't offer a truly unlimited plan, with its unlimited option throttling at 35GB of usage and only coming with 5GB of hotspot data.
Metro by T-Mobile is another prepaid option with unlimited plans that will work for most people, while including family plan savings. Save per line with each additional line, up to five, while still getting access to plenty of LTE and 5G data on the T-Mobile network. Hotspot data is available in 5GB and 15GB of data, depending on which unlimited plan you choose at $50 and $60 per month for a single line.
If you want to stick with Verizon's network, US Mobile is a solid alternative with custom plans and unlimited family plans available. For a single line, you'll pay more than Visible, but the Unlimited Basic plan is competitive with Visible at $35 for a single line. With three lines, it's a match at $25 and with four lines it comes down to $20 per line. This plan comes with 30GB of premium data on Verizon's network but T-Mobile SIMs are also available for greater phone support.
Visible Review: Should you sign up?
You should buy this if...
- You need to use a lot of data
If you've got Twitch or YouTube running for hours a day, data usage can stack up. With Visible, you can forget about how much you use and leave it running. You can also let all of your apps update automatically. You can even watch videos in full resolution if you set them to download in the background. Whether you spend a lot of time away from Wi-Fi, or simply don't want to waste your home internet data on background video streams, Visible eliminated data usage worries.
- You don't want contracts or extra fees
Visible's plan starts at $40 per month, including fees and taxes. There is no contract or commitment necessary. If you just want to stay for a month and stream to your heart's content, you can. While many other carriers lure you in with a low price before tacking on a bunch of small fees, Visible keeps it simple and includes these fees with the plan's cost.
- You have a compatible phone, or are ready for a new one
One of the biggest hurdles to sign up for Visible is making sure you have a compatible phone. While iPhone users are lucky with just about every iPhone working, Android support is much more limited. Still, some of the best Android phones you can get, like the Galaxy S22 series, are compatible as well as Google's Pixel 3 and newer. If you've got a compatible device, the only thing you need is a SIM card, and you can try out Visible with no contract locking you in.
You should not buy this if...
- You need a premium data experience
There's no way around the fact that on Visible, your data is a lesser priority than a postpaid Verizon phone. For the most part, the difference is minimal, and the data experience will keep up with any normal usage, but there are times that you won't be able to stream in HD and will have to wait longer for downloads. If you need your data connection at peak performance at all times, Visible may not be the right answer for you. Then again, if your area has plenty of Verizon capacity to go around, you may not notice any slowdown at all.
- You need roaming of any kind
Roaming is not supported by Visible, and neither is 3G. If you stay in a place with Verizon LTE service or newer at all times, this will not be an issue, but if you live in the country or frequently drive through it, Visible might not hold up. Just be sure to check coverage in all the places you plan to go before signing up with any phone service.
Overall, Visible makes sense for people that want to forget about data caps and don't mind getting throttled when things get crowded. The simple pricing makes it a great fit for someone that needs to get connected on a budget with only one line. Remember that you need to use a supported phone, and trips through the countryside may see some dropped connections.
Visible makes a lot of sense to many people, and it's clear by how many copycats have sprung up that people like the concept. Most of the weaknesses with Visible's service will be resolved in time, as more phones come with full support for Visible's digital network, and 5G eases the burden on the data network. But, when it comes down to it, Visible allows you to make the most of your new phone by allowing your data usage to become an afterthought.
This review was originally written on February 9, 2021. It was updated on June 28, 2022, with the following changes.
- Apple Watch plan information has been added.
- Smartphones compatible with 5G information has been updated.
- Images have been cropped to meet updated formatting guidelines.
- A new header image has been added.
- Added mention of the iPhone-only 15-day trial.
- Updated US Mobile's unlimited plan information in the competition section.
When Samuel is not writing about networking or 5G at Android Central, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.
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