Verizon Wireless vs. AT&T Wireless Review 2019

The top two providers offer very similar packages—Verizon wins in most categories, but AT&T’s great for TV fans on a budget.
BEST OVERALL
Best coverage and speed
Not exactly cheap
GREAT FOR BIG FAMILIES
Discounts for bundling
A bit pricey

Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless are two of our top picks in the land of cell phone service. You may already know both companies have solid nationwide coverage, 4G LTE speeds, unlimited data plans, and access to pretty much any phone out there, but how are they different?

Verizon wins with price, coverage, and speed, but AT&T is a close second—and AT&T wins big for TV fans who want to save on their monthly bills. And for some large families, AT&T might actually be the better deal.

How many devices do you have? It makes a difference.

Verizon is one of the priciest options out there, but if we’re looking at pricing without autopay and paperless discounts, AT&T costs about as much as Verizon—to a point.

Unlimited plans

If you just need one phone, AT&T and Verizon cost almost the same, so we’d say to check the coverage map and find out which provider makes more sense for you. You may also want to look at AT&T if you need six or more lines.

Verizon vs. AT&T: 1st-tier unlimited plans

Verizon Wireless Go Unlimited plan

AT&T Unlimited &More plan

Although pricing differences aren’t dramatic between Verizon and AT&T, they do add up month over month. Consider a $5 difference per month—that’s a $60 difference over the course of a year, enough to buy some sweet new kicks.

So Verizon’s first-tier unlimited plan pricing is better than AT&T’s for most people. AT&T’s price is just a bit cheaper per month, but AT&T’s activation fees are higher per device. So if you have multiple lines, just be ready for that up-front cost.

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

Verizon Wireless Beyond Unlimited plan

AT&T Unlimited &More Premium plan

With the second-tier plans from Verizon and AT&T, you’ll get the same 22 GB of data use without speed throttling, 15 GB of hotspot use, and unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico.

AT&T offers cheaper plans, but Verizon wins best coverage, reliability, and speeds, so if you want the best out there, you’ll pay a bit more for Verizon. And don’t forget to factor in activation fees.

Verizon’s Above Unlimited lives up to its name

It’s not all about price. If you’re a YouTube junkie, then Verizon’s newest Above Unlimited plan is where it’s at. The Above Unlimited plan has more benefits than either of AT&T Unlimited plans, and, for that reason, you’ll be paying a premium rate.

Verizon Wireless Above Unlimited plan

Verizon’s Above Unlimited plan comes with 75 GB of unthrottled data, which is three times as much as the next tiered plan from both Verizon and AT&T. You’ll also get 20 GB for hotspot access, which will save you when you don’t want to pay your hotel’s stupid Wi-Fi fee.

And then if you’re posting a billion selfies and sunsets to Instagram, you can store them with your 500 GB of Verizon Cloud storage.

As of right now AT&T can’t compete with Verizon Above Unlimited, but we’ll keep our ears to the ground for when they have an answer.

Money icon
Prefer prepaid?
We’re comparing AT&T and Verizon’s unlimited and family plans in this review. But we’ve reviewed both carriers’ prepaid plans before, in our Best Prepaid Plans piece.

Family plans: Isn’t it about . . . data?

Verizon charges for overages, but AT&T slows you down

AT&T and Verizon’s family plans cost around the same price for the around the same data and around the same speeds. With both AT&T and Verizon, you’ll get 4G speeds and have to pay access fees ranging from $10 to $30 per device.

The difference between Verizon’s and AT&T’s plans lies mostly in what happens when you go over your data limits.

Verizon’s family plans: “The New Verizon Plan”

Verizon family plans won’t throttle speeds. If you go over your limit, Verizon will charge you $15 per GB you go over, which can get pretty pricey pretty fast if you don’t catch it. But if you always need fast speeds for surfin’ the web or streaming, you should still go for Verizon—just keep an eye on your data.

Verizon Wireless family plan comparison

AT&T family plans

AT&T won’t charge you for overages. If you’re sticking to a budget, you may want to look to AT&T’s family plans. While you won’t get charged for going over, be aware that your data usage can be slowed to 128 Kbps—about as fast as dial-up.

AT&T Mobile Share plans comparison

So AT&T won’t charge you extra, but it will reduce your speed until the end of the month. Again, if you always need fast speeds, go for Verizon.

Price Tag 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.

Coverage and speed: Verizon vs. AT&T

Both Verizon and AT&T cover nationwide, but Verizon’s got the edge.

Verizon took first place ahead of AT&T in the majority of recent speed studies done for the top four major providers.1, 2 However, both AT&T and Verizon consistently rank in the top two or three positions, so unless you live in a rural area, you can’t go wrong with either AT&T or Verizon.

And if you do live in a rural area? Check those coverage maps to make sure you aren’t paying for nothing.

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.

Verizon coverage map

Verizon Coverage Map

Source: Verizon

AT&T coverage map

AT&T coverage map 2019

Source: AT&T

Speed

So which carrier has faster speeds, Verizon or AT&T? Well, Verizon has faster 4G speeds, but AT&T comes in a close second.3

Still, Verizon’s the fastest cell phone provider out there. And you’re more likely to have those speeds in more areas, too, thanks to Verizon’s coverage.

Devices and phones

AT&T’s Pixel problem may give Verizon the advantage.

The vast majority of phones will work with Verizon and AT&T, but that doesn’t mean you can buy or lease every phone from them. Verizon has all of our favorites, but AT&T is missing one major player in the game: Google Pixel.

You can still use a Google Pixel phone on AT&T, but you’ll need to buy an unlocked phone and add a brand-specific SIM card—which doesn’t cost extra, but it is a factor for those hoping to lease a shiny new Pixel from AT&T.

Verizon: Best overall

Verizon offers faster speeds and better signal reliability than AT&T. Not only that, but you can also buy every major cell phone from Verizon, including iPhones, Samsung phones, and Google Pixels.

Basically, if you want premium service and are willing to pay for it, go with Verizon.

We really can’t say much more other than Verizon’s been a top provider and will continue to be a top provider, if not the top provider for the foreseeable future.

AT&T: Solid service with TV perks

AT&T’s service will work for most people, even though it doesn’t get as high of marks in coverage and speed. Also, Verizon doesn’t offer the extra TV benefits and discounts that AT&T does. If you use these perks, AT&T will make you happier, in the long run, by saving you a lot of cash while you watch your favorite shows.

FAQ

What discounts do Verizon and AT&T wireless offer?

Fans of DIRECTV and HBO should think about getting AT&T.

You can expect discounts for signing up for autopay and paperless billing from both AT&T and Verizon (and every other major phone company). While the companies treat this as a given, we want to let you know: you have to sign up for the autopay and paperless billing to receive the discount.

Verizon bundle discount

By bundling Verizon Fios TV or internet or both, you’ll save $10 on your phone plan and $10 on your Fios bill. That adds up to $240 in a single year, so if you need two or three of these services, Verizon will help you out quite a bit.

AT&T bundle discount

You can save $15 on your DIRECTV or DIRECTV NOW bill with AT&T unlimited plans. This should make you football fans happy, since DIRECTV has exclusive rights to NFL SUNDAY TICKET.

A premium TV channel with AT&T

For its higher-tier unlimited plan, AT&T includes a paid subscription to your choice of HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, Cinemax, VRV, Pandora, or Amazon Music. These services usually cost up to an additional $15 per month or more on your cable bill, so over the course of a year, you could save $180.

Unfortunately, Verizon doesn’t offer any TV perks with its unlimited plans.

AT&T includes Watch TV app

One of our favorite perks from AT&T is the included WatchTV App. This streaming service app has 30+ live channels (a decent selection with AMC, Cartoon Network, HGTV, and Discover), plus on-demand content and a 72-hour rewind so you don’t have to schedule out time to catch Fear of The Walking Dead or Gold Rush.

This service is $15 per month on its own, but you’ll get it included with either the &More or &More Premium plan.

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.

Additional contributors

Mindy Woodall