Verizon Wireless vs. AT&T Wireless Review 2020

Are you trying to decide between AT&T and Verizon? Well, you can’t go wrong, but we’ll help you find the one that’s best for you.
  • Best Coverage
    Most network coverage
    Not exactly cheap
  • Most High-Speed Data
    Higher data caps
    A bit pricey

AT&T and Verizon make up two of the major wireless networks in the country, but which carrier offers more bang for your buck? It depends what you’re looking for.

Verizon is the most expensive wireless carrier, but its coverage and perks are amazing (free Disney+, anyone?). AT&T offers the highest data caps (which means your data won’t slow down at the end of the month), but its coverage isn’t quite as reliable as Verizon. Though AT&T’s data plans are about $5 cheaper a month than Verizon, neither option offers super affordable plans.

We’ll walk through everything you need to know about AT&T vs. Verizon in this article.

Verizon vs. AT&T plan comparison

Unlimited plans

Choosing between AT&T and Verizon might come down to speed and network coverage.

AT&T and Verizon both specialize in unlimited data plans. In fact, neither provider offers much in terms of limited-data plans at all. So it’s go big or go home (or go get yourself a cheap limited-data plan from one of these other carriers).

But not all unlimited plans are created equal. There are a few different tiers that offer differing data caps (yes, unlimited doesn’t always mean unlimited), perks, and pricing. So we’ll compare Verizon’s and AT&T’s unlimited plans from each tier.

Verizon vs. AT&T: First-tier unlimited plans

Verizon Wireless Start Unlimited Plan

AT&T Unlimited Starter plan

So we’ve got the Start Unlimited Plan and the Unlimited Starter plan. That’s not confusing at all (is it so hard to come up with a more original plan name?). Both of these plans offer unlimited data (subject to throttling) and are just $5 apart in price.

AT&T’s Unlimited Starter plan will peg your video streaming at 1.5 Mbps, which is enough for standard definition but not HD. The plan is $5 cheaper (saving you about $60 a year) than Verizon’s, but you will pay a steeper startup cost.

Verizon’s plan also limits your video streaming (in this case it’s limited to 480p picture quality), but it makes up for this by giving you a free, one-year subscription to Disney+. So if you’re bummed about the $70 price tag on this plan, just distract yourself with an episode of The Mandalorian!

Both of these bottom-tier unlimited plans come with a pretty big caveat: there’s no hard data cap, but your data can be throttled, or slowed down, during times of network congestion. That means you might not have the bandwidth to live stream your favorite musical act at the festival.

All right, let’s move on to tier two.

Verizon vs. AT&T: Second-tier unlimited plans

Verizon Wireless Do More and Play More Unlimited Plans

AT&T Unlimited Extra plan

Verizon vs. AT&T: 2nd-tier unlimited plans

Verizon Wireless Do More Unlimited plan

AT&T Unlimited Extra plan

With the second-tier plans from Verizon and AT&T you’ll get an allotted amount of full-speed data. Your bandwidth won’t be throttled until you hit that cap.

For AT&T’s Unlimited Extra and Verizon’s Do More Unlimited plans your cap is 50 GB, which is a lot of data. Verizon’s Play More Unlimited plan has just half that (but 25 GB is still nothing to scoff at).

Money icon
How much data do you actually need?
If you’re trying to figure out whether you really need that unlimited plan or not, our handy guide might be able to help.

The other main difference between Verizon’s Do More and Play More unlimited plans is the video quality. The Play More Unlimited Plan will give you HD quality video streams, while the Do More Unlimited plan will keep you watching in standard definition.

All three of these mid-tier plans come with 15 GB of hotspot use, and unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico.

If you find yourself wanting even more from your cell phone plan then you’ll want to look at the top-tier plans . . .

Verizon vs. AT&T: Top-tier unlimited plans

Verizon Get More Unlimited Plan

AT&T Unlimited Elite plan

It’s not all about price. If you’re a YouTube junkie or a PUBG Mobile player, then Verizon and AT&T’s top-tier plans will be worth a few extra dollars.

Verizon’s Get More Unlimited Plan comes with a full 75 GB of unthrottled data. That’s enough data to binge watch every episode of Game of Thrones on your phone (in standard definition)! Not that anyone would ever want to do that . . .

(*three days later*)

If you thought 75 GB was a lot of data, try 100 GB. That’s what AT&T’s Unlimited Elite plan will get you each month. This unprecedented amount of data would be hard for even the most phone-addicted teenagers to use up.

AT&T’s top-tier plan will also get you 30 GB of mobile hotspot data and a free subscription to HBO (you know, for all that Game of Thrones). Verizon’s top-tier perks include 30 GB of hotspot data and free subscriptions to Apple Music and Disney+.

Our favorite AT&T and Verizon unlimited plans

That was a lot of information about unlimited data plans, we know. So we’ll make it a bit simpler for the TL;DR crowd. Here are our favorite plans in each of the tiers.

Our picks for AT&T and Verizon unlimited data plans:

First tier: AT&T’s Unlimited Starter is a bit cheaper than Verizon’s offering and it will get you access to the fastest network in the country, which might come in handy when the network is congested.

Second tier: Verizon’s Do More Unlimited offers 50GB of data on the top network for nationwide coverage. Plus you get a Disney+ subscription!

Top tier: AT&T’s Unlimited Elite will give you an eye-popping amount of data: 100 GB. This plan is cheaper than Verizon’s top-tier plan, but it doesn’t skimp on the perks (you’ll get a free HBO subscription).

Family plans

Verizon’s monthly prices are higher, but AT&T’s startup fees can add up fast.

There’s nothing like getting the whole family together to parse out who still needs to pay for their portion of the phone bill. But seriously, you can save a bunch of dough if you bundle up with your kids, siblings, and other relatives in a family plan.

Yet again, Verizon and AT&T’s offerings are quite similar. So for many the decision will probably come down to network and perks: Verizon has better coverage and AT&T has faster data speeds. Verizon gets you Disney+ and AT&T (higher-tier plans) will hook you up with HBO.

Here’s a closer look at the plans that each company offers.

Verizon’s family plans

Verizon has a ton of family plans—limited data plans, unlimited plans, and prepaid plans. You can see some of the most popular options here.

Verizon Wireless family plan comparison

AT&T family plans

AT&T also has a huge selection of family plans for all budgets. If you’ve got a family of data hogs then there are unlimited plans. If you want your kids to spend more time looking at their textbooks and less time looking at the phone, there are lower-data options too.

Here’s a selection of the most popular family plans from AT&T. Click on the table to go to WhistleOut’s website and customize your own family plan.

AT&T Mobile Share plans comparison

Info Box icon
What are line access fees?
With family plans, you pay for the data your family will be using, and then you’ll also pay an extra fee for each device accessing the data. You might notice that AT&T’s line access fees are a bit steeper.

Coverage and speed: Verizon vs. AT&T

Both Verizon and AT&T have great nationwide coverage, but Verizon’s got the edge.

We’ve talked in general terms about how Verizon has the best nationwide coverage in the industry and AT&T boasts the fastest data speeds. But let’s look at some of the data behind those rankings.

Coverage

It’s always best to look at a map to see if the spots important to you are covered. No point in choosing a carrier for its “better coverage”—which happens to be on the eastern seaboard—if you’re a surf bum living between Hawaii and California.

So here’s a peek at Verizon and AT&T’s coverage maps.

Verizon coverage map 

AT&T coverage map

As you can see, there’s not a gigantic difference between these two maps. If you live in a metropolitan area, you’ll almost certainly be covered by both Verizon and AT&T. But there are some parts of the rural west and Appalachia where Verizon’s signal will be stronger.

In testing both plans, we actually found AT&T to offer more reliable service than Verizon in our neck of the woods. If you’re thinking of switching to Verizon or AT&T, ask somebody who lives near you what kind of coverage they experience with either carrier. The last thing you want is to sign up for a Verizon or AT&T plan only to find that you live near a gigantic dead spot.

Speed

You can have awesome coverage but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your data will be lightning fast. Sluggish data speeds can interrupt your Facetime call, crash your Instagram binge, and spell doom for your Fortnite Battle Royal winning streak.

We sampled tens of thousands of wireless users and found that AT&T fell behind Verizon when it comes to wireless download and upload speeds. Here’s how the results looked for data speeds amongst the big three wireless carriers.

Average Wireless Download Speeds
Wireless Upload Speeds

Verizon averages 32.2 Mbps for download speeds and 12.89 Mbps for upload speeds, whereas AT&T averages 28.9 Mbps for download speeds and 9.4 for upload speeds.

Basically, that means that on average, everything you do on the internet, like streaming, refreshing Twitter, and posting Instagram stories, will be a bit faster on Verizon’s network than on AT&T’s network. But again, data speeds are always influenced by your location, so its possible you have a different experience.

Devices and phones

AT&T and Verizon both offer the latest devices from Apple, Samsung, Google, and more.

The best time to get a new phone is when you’re signing up for a line with a new carrier. So you might want to know which phones are available from Verizon and AT&T before you make the choice to sign up.

The short answer: all of them.

Bullhorn icon
Ready for a new phone?
If you’re looking for the best deal on a new iPhone 11 or Galaxy S20, check out our weekly roundup of the best cell phone deals on the market.

Here’s a look at some of the most popular phone models that are available from these two companies.

Is the idea of parting with the 256 GB iPhone XS Max that you bought last year just too much? Don’t worry, you can also bring your own, unlocked device to either AT&T or Verizon.

Recap: Which is better for you, AT&T or Verizon?

Verizon and AT&T are both top-shelf cell phone carriers with great plan selection, reliability, perks, and the newest devices. But there are some differences between the two brands, too.

Here’s a quick recap of what makes each carrier great.

Verizon: Best for coverage

If you want the very best coverage in the nation, Verizon is the company for you. While every carrier’s coverage map has come holes, Verizon works hard to make sure that even the most remote communities have a few bars of service.

Verizon’s data speeds are respectable, even if they’re not quite as fast as AT&T’s. The company has plenty of new devices to buy (and it runs great deals, too)

AT&T: Highest data caps, and slightly cheaper

If you want the fastest data speeds in the industry, then AT&T’s network is the way to go. It has dominated in recent speed tests, making it the best provider for gamers, streamers, and influencers of all kinds.

AT&T’s top-tier unlimited plans also come with an unprecedented 100 GB of high-speed data and a free HBO subscription! Binge your heart out, America.

FAQ

What discounts do Verizon and AT&T wireless offer?

AT&T often offers discounts when you bundle your service with AT&T-owned DIRECTV service. Unfortunately, Verizon doesn’t have the same telecommunication bundle deals.

Both companies also offer military discounts.

Military discount

Both Verizon and AT&T offer military discounts on plans and accessories to qualified personnel. Take note: Verizon’s discount extends to the whole family, not just spouses, unlike AT&T.

Verizon’s military discount eligibility:

  • Active duty
  • Reserves
  • National Guard
  • Retired military
  • Veterans
  • Family

Verizon offers $15 off per month for unlimited plans, and other plans may get up to 15% off. Additionally, you can get 25% off accessories with Verizon’s military discount.

AT&T’s military discount eligibility:

  • Active duty
  • Reserves
  • National Guard
  • Retired military
  • Veterans
  • Spouses

AT&T offers a 15% discount on eligible plans for military personnel and their spouses, but it doesn’t apply to access fees. However, Verizon’s discount applies to access fees over $34.99 and data features over $24.99.

  • CVBG

    I have a phone on verizon and one on att, both the same make and model. I got the ATT phone because in Southern NH I was losing calls in many places on VZ and wanted to find out if it was LTE or VZ. ATT didn’t have the call drops. Despite having fewer cells, ATT engineering seems much better. Very rare to drop a voice call. They have not destroyed their 3g spread spectrum network like VZ has up here. VZ in some towns has been putting in microcells mounted on poles. Quite often they will be located near a school or business to provide very good in-building coverage to that building. These usually operate on 2100 mHz. ATT has used a few of them but I have only found 2 or 3 where Verizon has quite a few. Depends on the town. Some towns have none, some have a lot. I use the phone in Southern Maine, Southern NH, and North East MA. If I had to choose one of the two it would be ATT because ever since the days of them being SouthWestern Bell Mobile systems their engineering has been top notch. Their AMPS implementation was very good. Their TDMA implementation was good, their GSM implementatin was quite good and when they went 3g we had both voice and data at the same time unlike Verizon. That’s what I would do but Verizon has put in a lot of microcells and in many places will have in building coverage that the other carriers lack unless they have a site nearby.