Verizon Report Card
Verizon can point to an extensive network, excellent customer service and an assortment of attractively priced plans. In the end, though, that wasn't enough to best T-Mobile and its array of subscriber perks to become our choice as top cellphone provider. Still, Verizon came in second by the thinnest of margins. It's an excellent choice for your wireless service, especially if you place a premium on network performance and reliability.
Carrier Performance (48/50 points)
Verizon had the fastest average download and upload speeds in our six-city carrier testing. Big Red posted a national average of 24 Mbps down and 14.3 Mbps up, and it was the only carrier to post an average speed of less than a minute in our app-download test. Verizon's performance was strong in each of the cities we tested, but it fared particularly well in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Our results mirrored findings by network testing specialist RootMetrics, which declared Verizon the best-performing network in its most recent report. (It's the sixth consecutive time Verizon has topped RootMetrics's rankings.) Verizon finished behind T-Mobile in testing by OpenSignal.
The bottom line: If you're in Verizon's coverage area — and since the company's network covers around 308 million people, there's a good chance you are — you can count on fast speeds and solid performance.
Plan Offerings (17/20 points)
Last year, Verizon simplified its data plans, eliminating the distinction between family and individual plans and paring back its offerings to just four data allotments. While the carrier continues to charge access fees, these have at least been simplified to $20 per device, regardless of how you purchased your phone or how much data you use. This year, it's boosted the amount of data it now offers subscribers and lets people who sign up for those plans roll over their unused data to the following month. (On the downside, pricing went up $5 to $10 on Verizon's plans, but existing subscribers can still with their current plan and pay their old rate if they choose.)
After this rejiggering, Verizon's 4GB plan for $70 is a good choice for individuals. T-Mobile offers unlimited data for the same amount of money, though it limits the quality of video streaming. What's more, Verizon offers a superior network, increasing the value of that $70 plan, even with tiered data.
For family plans, Verizon also has an attractive offering: 16GB of shared data for $90 a month, and it throws in another 2GB of data per line in a current promotion. Access fees would push that to $170 a month for a family of four. Those fees, coupled with the unlimited data that T-Mobile offers subscribers gives T-Mobile's $160 family plan the edge over Verizon. (And T-Mobile promotions sometimes push that cost lower.)
Verizon has prepaid plans as well, but they're pretty pricey, relative to the plans from dedicated prepaid carriers like Cricket and MetroPCS. Still, opting for Verizon gives you prepaid service on Big Red's superior network. Be sure to take advantage of automatic payments if you do use one of Verizon's prepaid plans, as the carrier gives autopay customers an extra gigabyte. So Verizon's $45 a month plan would give you 3GB instead of the standard 2GB.
Customer Service Rating (13/15 points)
Verizon's highly informative support site, helpful live chat and knowledgeable phone reps contributed to a thoroughly impressive array of technical support. In our undercover tests, Verizon's Twitter presence quickly proved helpful as well. Only slow responses on Facebook kept the carrier from a higher finish.
Phone Selection (8/10 points)
Like the other major carriers, Verizon makes sure to have many leading flagship phones on offer to customers. Of the phones on our checklist, only the LG G Flex 2 and Galaxy S6 Active were unaccounted for, putting Verizon's offerings just behind AT&T's extensive selection. Note that Verizon's CDMA network prevents many unlocked phones from using its service, though.
Special Features (3/5 points)
As noted above, with Verizon's installment plan, you can buy your phone one monthly payment at a time and can upgrade early by trading in your phone — but only after you pay off your current device. By contrast, Sprint's Easy Pay and T-Mobile’s Jump let you trade in at 50 percent, though those two programs also charge monthly fees.
Verizon customers on the More Everything Plan get premium access to NFL Mobile, which lets them watch the NFL Network live and view local and prime-time games. Verizon customers also get free, exclusive features on INDYCAR 15, including live radio broadcasts, pit-crew chatter and in-car video streams — if you're into that.
Under Verizon's Travel Plan, you can now take your regular plan with you when you travel abroad, though it costs extra — $2 a day per line in Canada and Mexico and $10 a day in 65 other countries. (Subscribers with 16GB and 24GB monthly plans can use their regular plans for free in Canada and Mexico.) Verizon also offers international plans for lengthier trips overseas.