As the numbers (of subscribers) go, Verizon and AT&T are the two most successful wireless phone carriers in the U.S. Both are two of our top picks for cell phone service, with great unlimited plans, coverage, and speed.
Verizon vs AT&T: Plans + Pricing
Pricewise, both Verizon and AT&T are the most expensive carriers of any we’ve reviewed on this site. Neither compete on price – and with the number of customers both hold onto, they don’t seem to have to. That said, let’s dive into how their unlimited and family plan options compare with each other’s.
|AT&T||AT&T Unlimited &More||
|AT&T||AT&T Unlimited &More Premium||
Unlimited plans - Unlimited &More vs Go Unlimited
Verizon gives us 3 unlimited plan options, while AT&T offers just two. And upfront costs aside, AT&T is just the cheaper of the two carriers. The only time that AT&T’s unlimited plans even come even Verizon’s is when you hit 4 lines with Unlimited &More -- it’s the same prices as Go Unlimited - but that’s the only time.
Otherwise, when you look at those same 2 plans, the only big difference is that Verizon’s Go Unlimited has unlimited hotspot data, while AT&T’s &More has no hotspot access at all. And – of course – Verizon’s hotspot data speed is only 600Kbps, which isn’t very fast.
With both carriers, they can throttle your data at any time – you won’t get a concrete allotment of data until the next tier.
Unlimited plans - Unlimited &More Premium vs Beyond Unlimited
When you look at the next tier for both carriers, AT&T’s &More Premium gives you 1080p HD streaming, while Verizon’s Beyond Unlimited provides just 720p – both HD, but AT&T’s at a higher quality than Verizon.
Another big addition is the mobile hotspot – 15GB of 4G allowance for both carriers. The last, and arguably the biggest, is the addition of a 22GB data deprioritization threshold for both. Beyond this, we get into perks, which we’ll talk about later.
Unlimited plans - Above Unlimited
AT&T doesn’t have an answer yet for Verizon’s 3rd-tier: Above Unlimited. You get a huge boost in data threshold up to 75GB fo 4G – more than enough for most people. Two other carriers have similar data amounts (T-Mobile at 50GB, and Sprint at 50GB and 100GB). You’ll also get a nice 5gig-boost to your hotspot and a few more perks.
Family plans - AT&T
AT&T’s “Mobile Share Plus” plans are their flagship family plans, coming in just 2 sizes: 3GB and 9GB. You share your data between yourself and the others on your plan – so if you guys don’t use much, you’ll probably be fine.
But, if you do need more data, the Unlimited plans offer some decent discounts — escalating downward in increasing amounts to 4 lines for $40 and $48 per line, respectively.
Family plans - Verizon
Verizon offers you a few more options – specifically, the Small, Medium, and Large shared data plans. Unlike AT&T, who limits you at 5 lines, Verizon takes you all the way up to 10 if you need ‘em.
Again, data is shared, but you get a smaller option than AT&T if you don’t need 3GB, and 4 and 8GB if you need more than that but less than 9. All in all, pretty standard.
AT&T doesn’t charge overages for going over your data – but Verizon will charge you $15/GB.
Family plans - Access fees
|AT&T||Tablets, Connected Car, Cameras; Laptops, Netbooks, Hotspots; and Owned Phone||$20/mo/line|
|Verizon||Phone bought at full price||$20/mo/line|
|Verizon||Phone bought at discount||$40/mo/line|
Both AT&T and Verizon charge “line access fees” on their family plans. What’s that? A charge for each device to access the cellular network – pretty lame, but universal practice among carriers.
Verizon vs. AT&T: Coverage + Speed
Verizon, top; AT&T, bottom.
Both Verizon and AT&T are top carriers for coverage and speed, with great rural and city service. Of course, every carrier will have deadzones and the (hopefully) very occasional dropped calls. That said, we’ll take a look at how the two ranked in major national studies to make our determination.
Verizon took 1st place in the latest tests from both OpenSignal and RootMetrics, while AT&T took 3rd place. But a more recent study – the “Largest Ever Mobile Performance Evaluation” by Global Wireless Solutions in September 2018, found that AT&T was #1 overall.
Aside from the best “OneScore”, AT&T took “best streaming video quality and quickest loading times, while Verizon took the best score for fastest uploads of social media. So in actuality, these scores are in line with these other tests.
Another thing to note is that in the test from OpenSignal, T-Mobile actually takes 2nd place over AT&T for 4G coverage -- but that’s not always the case. T-Mobile’s ranking is heavily due to a new 600MHz spectrum signal, which many phones can’t access. So, without that, AT&T takes 2nd place for coverage, just behind Verizon.
So if you live in a more rural area, you might have a better bet getting a signal with Verizon than AT&T – although AT&T’s coverage is close enough that you might not notice a difference in some areas.
That said, however, quarter 1 results from Ookla’s SpeedTest.net actually shows AT&T as the frontrunner for speeds, with T-Mobile just behind and Verizon in 3rd place. But, Ookla says themselves that they don’t “validate national claims based on less than a quarter’s worth of data” — so only time will tell if this trend continues and makes AT&T the fastest carrier.
At present, we’ll give both coverage and speed to Verizon.
Verizon vs. AT&T: Devices
|Carrier||Sample phones||View phones|
|AT&T||iPhone XR, iPhone XS, XS Max, iPhone X, iPhone 8, 8 Plus, etc; Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 + 128GB, S10 + 512GB, S10e, Galaxy Note9, S9, etc.; G8ThinQ, Stylo 4+, K30, G6 Duo, etc.||View phones|
|Verizon||iPhone, iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone 8 plus, iPhone 8 plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, etc; Samsung Galaxy S10, Samsung Galaxy S10+, Samsung Galaxy S10e, Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy S9, Samsung Galaxy Note9, Samsung Galaxy J3 V 3rd Gen, Samsung Galaxy J7 V 2nd Gen, etc.; Google Pixel 3 XL, Google Pixel 3, Google Pixel 2 XL||View phones|
Both AT&T and Verizon have pretty similar phone lineups, but Verizon has one edge: Google Pixels. Sprint and T-Mobile have joined that bandwagon of late, too, but AT&T hasn’t quite caught up just yet here.
Verizon vs AT&T: Discounts
|AT&T||Unlimited &More Premium||
AT&T and Verizon both offer quite a few discounts and perks – but our money is with AT&T on this one. Not only do you get a live-TV streaming service (with 35+ GOOD channels) included in the base unlimited plan, but you also get discounts for bundling with DIRECTV or DIRECTV NOW.
And at the Premium level, you can pick one of several highly-desirable premium TV or music channels – so yeah, for most people we like AT&T’s discounts better: there’s simply more of them, sooner.
Verizon vs. AT&T: Customer Service
Although neither AT&T nor Verizon took first place according to J.D. Power’s latest study, Verizon was still higher up the rankings than AT&T by a considerable margin, which placed AT&T below the national average.
The ACSI reported similar, giving Verizon 2nd place again, and AT&T 3rd – but this time, AT&T came much closer to unseating Verizon.
Since both carriers have similar customer support contact methods - phone, chat, email, etc -, direct customer reviews can be mixed, and the wireless industry as a whole has a poor reputation, we’ll go with the numbers. Verizon wins here.
After all that, who’s the better carrier? Verizon or AT&T?
Overall, Verizon is the better of the two. At present, you’ll get faster speeds most of the time and better service coverage. But, AT&T has them beat on price and perks, with coverage that’s only a little bit under Verizon’s performance – so it’s a close call.