Verizon Wireless vs. AT&T Wireless Review 2021
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.
The best cell phone deals right now
Meanwhile, smaller MVNO carriers like Mint Mobile and Visible Wireless are offering $50 virtual gift cards or discounts on select phones to entice new customers interested in more budget-friendly smartphones like the iPhone SE (2020) or Google Pixel series.
Find these and other offers in our monthly roundup of the best cell phone deals.
Verizon vs. AT&T plan comparison
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
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).
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What discounts do Verizon and AT&T Wireless offer?
Both AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless regularly offer discounts on their services—including options to bundle your cell phone plan with internet to save some cash. It’s worth checking the AT&T and Verizon Wireless sites to see what’s on offer right now—we usually see the deals change month to month.
Both companies also offer military discounts, and we’ve detailed the eligibility requirements here.
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
- National Guard
- Retired military
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
- National Guard
- Retired military
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.