Verizon Wireless sweeps nearly every award in nearly every test and survey listed in Our Sources. It outclasses all other nationwide carriers in terms of call quality (J.D. Power and Associates), 4G data speed (PC World, Computerworld and Laptop Magazine) and coverage (PCMag.com). Geographically, Verizon Wireless trounces AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint in almost every major city and region of the United States, and only U.S. Cellular surpasses it in the North Central region of the country.
The best cell phone service. One source dubs Verizon Wireless (*Est. $40 per month and up) "the Cadillac of cellular," and other reviewers agree it is easily the best cell phone service money can buy. But like a Cadillac, it doesn't come cheap, and reviewers say Verizon Wireless tends to charge more for fewer minutes on its cell phone plans. However, the current costs of Verizon Wireless plans are more than competitive. The lowest-priced Verizon monthly cell phone plan costs $40, which includes 700 anytime minutes, plus free nights and weekends. Verizon does have a $30 plan, but only for seniors. TopTenReviews.com gives Verizon Wireless the maximum 10 points for its selection of plans, while Mark Spoonauer at Laptop Magazine calls Verizon's 4G service "fast but expensive."
Verizon Wireless's plans contain the Share Everything option, in which several devices can use the same plan. The unlimited talk, unlimited text and shared-data plan costs $30 per device per month for a basic phone and $40 per device per month for a smartphone, with an additional cost in each plan of $50 for 1 GB of data. Going forward, new customers will automatically be enrolled in the Share Everything plan. Current customers who buy a 4G smartphone from Verizon at a discount will also be automatically enrolled. If you pay full price, you can stay with your current plan.
Fast and reliable. Both experts and customers report the best coverage and the fewest dropped calls with Verizon Wireless. PCMag.com readers rank Verizon Wireless best among national cellular service providers, just behind U.S. Cellular, due to its best-in-class coverage and good call quality. Verizon Wireless's reliability is also well above average.
Verizon's extensive 3G network transmits data quickly and reliably in expert tests. In the J.D. Power and Associates survey of over 26,000 cell phone users, Verizon Wireless ranks top for network quality in five out of six geographic regions, losing only to U.S. Cellular in the North Central region. The survey also highlights Verizon Wireless's consistency of excellent performance, as the carrier has won in the Northeast region for 15 years straight.
And when reviewers and users switch to 4G, Verizon Wireless is clearly the fastest. In a test by Computerworld in and around New York City, Verizon's 4G LTE speeds blew away those of Sprint's 4G network. Verizon Wireless clocked 13.3 Mbps versus Sprint's 4.1 Mbps for data download, and the data upload speed was as impressive. Jared Newman of PC World states that Verizon Wireless's 4G network is the speediest among major carriers.
However, Verizon works on the CDMA network, which is not compatible with European or Asian GSM networks, so you may not be able to use your phone abroad. The carrier has a small selection of global phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S III, that can be used overseas. AT&T (*Est. $40 per month for 450 minutes and up) and T-Mobile (*Est. $40 per month for 500 minutes and up) both use GSM technology, but they lag far behind Verizon Wireless in reviews.
Iffy customer service ratings. Verizon Wireless's customer service has managed to infuriate many customers and some prominent critics. Customer service gets iffy ratings: Verizon Wireless scores above average for customer service at J.D. Power and Associates, landing in second place behind Sprint Nextel, but average or below in other big customer surveys. Over 90 user contributors to Epinions.com have made known their views of Verizon's customer service, and they don't like it: The average score of 1.5 stars out of 5 reflects their complaints of long wait times to speak to a customer rep, "condescending" customer support and repeated hang-ups.
Extensive and top-notch selection. Reviewers at TopTenReviews.com consider Verizon Wireless's selection of phones to be extensive, and Ben Gottesman at PCMag.com calls the handsets "significantly better-than-average." Verizon offers a handful of basic phones from Samsung, LG and Pantech and over 50 smartphones, including the Apple iPhone 5 and a multitude of high-end Android devices. The carrier's 4G LTE smartphones now have removable SIM cards, which means that when you upgrade your phone you can use the same SIM card that contains all of your cell phone data.
In addition, Verizon offers an option for international travelers. Because most of Verizon's cell phones do not work overseas, Verizon offers hybrid CDMA/GSM phones, ranging from the Apple iPhone 5 (*Est. $200 with two-year contract) to the Motorola Droid Pro (free with two-year contract), both global smartphones. Although this enables you to use the same phone on a Verizon CDMA network in the United States and a GSM network abroad, you are locked into a two-year contract and will need to add Verizon's international phone plan to your existing service.
1. J.D. Power & Associates
Review Credibility: Excellent Verizon Wireless ranks highest in the northeastern United States. It's also the highest-ranking service in the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Southwest and West, losing to U.S. Cellular only in the North Central United States. Verizon Wireless has fewer customer reports of dropped calls and late text messages than the regional average.
Review: 2012 U.S. Wireless Network Quality Performance Study, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, Feb. 28, 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent ConsumerReports.org polls more than 66,000 subscribers nationwide, asking them to rate their cell service for value, voice/texting/data service and various types of customer support. Editors rank the major carriers -- AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and regional carrier U.S. Cellular -- from best to worst overall, and they also rate how the carriers perform in each of 26 urban areas.
Review: Overall Cell Phone Service Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, January 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good Despite its high fees and poor plan options, PCMag.com readers rank Verizon Wireless best among national cellular service providers, thanks to its best-in-class coverage, good call quality and top-notch handsets. Verizon Wireless ties for first place with U.S. Cellular.
Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2011: Mobile Phones and Carriers, Ben Gottesman, May 23, 2011
Review Credibility: Good This site names Verizon as the best cell phone provider overall, with the highest ratings for plans and support, but call quality is not rated. A detailed comparison chart lets you compare features offered by each provider.
Review: Verizon Wireless, Editors of TopTenReviews.com, As of December 2012
Review Credibility: Good Verizon Wireless's 4G network again proves the fastest in this test. Brian Nadel tests it against the Sprint 4G network in and around New York City.
Review: 4G Shootout: Verizon LTE vs. Sprint WiMax, Brian Nadel, Feb. 3, 2011
6. Laptop Magazine
Review Credibility: Good Laptop Magazine gives Verizon Wireless an A- for its fast but expensive 4G network. Sprint 4G gets a B, T-Mobile a C+ and AT&T an F.
Review: 4G Report Card: Who's Winning, Who's Failing, Mark Spoonauer, March 18, 2011
Review Credibility: Good Verizon Wireless is so much more reliable for iPhone voice calls than AT&T that Joshua Topolsky concludes it makes "the best smartphone in America just a little bit better" -- even though Verizon's 3G data speeds aren't quite as fast as AT&T's.
Review: Verizon iPhone Review, Joshua Topolsky, Feb. 2, 2011
8. PC World
Review Credibility: Good Verizon Wireless's 4G network is the speediest among major carriers, Jared Newman concludes, but "the data caps are a downer." PC World rates the Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, MetroPCS and Clear/Clearwire 4G networks based on data from its own tests, the networks themselves and third-party sources.
Review: Verizon LTE vs. The Rest: 4G Smackdown, Jared Newman, Dec. 2, 2010
Review Credibility: Fair Over 600 people have given Verizon Wireless an average score of 75 out of 100, rating it higher than the overall average of other service providers. Verizon's coverage earns rave reviews, as do its plan options.
Review: Verizon Wireless Network Reviews, Contributors to Viewpoints.com, As of December 2012
Review Credibility: Fair Over 90 contributors to Epinions.com share their views of Verizon's customer service, and as a group, they are not fans. The average score of 1.5 stars out of 5 reflects the complaints of long wait times to speak to a customer rep, "condescending" customer support and repeated hang-ups.
Review: General Reviews of Verizon Customer Service, Contributors to Epinions.com, As of December 2012