Skip to content

Visible vs. TracFone: Battle of Verizon‘s Prepaid Services

Verizon is the nation‘s largest wireless carrier, with a range of plan options covering postpaid, prepaid, and MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) services. As Verizon has consolidated acquisitions over the years, subscribers may wonder how its different prepaid offerings compare. This comprehensive guide will analyze key differences between Visible and TracFone Wireless to help you determine the best fit.

A Tale of Two Prepaid Services

Visible and TracFone have more in common than meets the eye. Verizon fully owns both companies, though they operate as standalone prepaid providers.

Visible first launched in 2018 as an online-only service focused on simple unlimited data plans. This mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) was a play to attract savvy digital natives who value flexibility and app-based management.

TracFone, meanwhile, has serviced American households since 1996. Now the country‘s largest no-contract cell phone provider, TracFone pioneered the prepaid wireless model with Pay As You Go options.

In a 2020 deal valued at up to $7 billion, Verizon acquired TracFone and its 21 million subscribers. Let‘s take a look at how the offerings compare now that they fall under the same parent company.

A Primer on MVNOs

Before analyzing Visible and TracFone specifically, it helps to understand where MVNOs fit in the competitive wireless landscape.

MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) are wireless providers that lease network access from major carriers. By piggybacking on existing infrastructure, MVNOs can launch quickly without building towers or spectrum rights from scratch.

Leading MVNOs include:

  • Visible: Owned by Verizon
  • Metro: Owned by T-Mobile
  • Cricket Wireless: Owned by AT&T
  • Google Fi: Leverages T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Three networks

Over 200 smaller regional MVNOs also exist in the United States. These carriers sell leftover network capacity from major players on the cheap.

MVNOs stay competitive through low pricing, differentiated features, strong customer service, and flexible bring your own device (BYOD) options. In turn, Verizon and peers benefit by monetizing unused network bandwidth while addressing more market segments.

According to ResearchandMarkets.com, MVNOs represent over 10% of wireless subscriptions in North America. By 2027, MVNOs should account for 15% mobile market share as adoption of data-heavy apps accelerates.

Network Technology and Performance

As Verizon subsidiaries, Visible and TracFone both leverage the industry-leading 4G LTE and nationwide 5G network. Over 75% of TracFone devices already tap Verizon‘s networks. You can expect reliable nationwide service — even in rural areas — during and after migration.

That said, network technology and prioritization vary between the prepaid offerings:

Attribute Visible TracFone
Core Network Shared from Verizon Shared from Verizon. Will fully migrate by Nov. 2024
Spectrum Bands 700MHz, 1.7/2.1GHz 4G LTE
600MHz, 2.5GHz 5G
Varies based on device. Supports Verizon‘s key bands
5G Availability 5G Nationwide + 5G Ultra Wideband Up to 5G Nationwide after migration
Prioritization Policy Lower priority than Verizon postpaid (may see slower peak speeds) Same priority as Verizon prepaid; Some data gets lower priority during congestion
WiFi Calling & Mobile Hotspot Mobile hotspot included. No WiFi calling No hotspot. WiFi calling only on select Verizon-network devices

5G Network Breakdown
| Generation | Description | Typical Speed Range |
|-|-|-|
| 4G LTE | Verizon‘s primary LTE bands offer excellent coverage with theoretical download speeds up to 300 Mbps | 5 – 60 Mbps |
| 5G Nationwide / Sub-6 GHz 5G | Uses 600 / 700 MHz for better range & indoor access. Speed bump from 4G LTE | 100 Mbps – 500 Mbps |
| 5G Ultra Wideband / mmWave 5G | Super-fast but limited range requiring line of sight to small cells | 500 Mbps – 1 Gbps |

While true performance parity will require a few years, TracFone migration should enable vast 5G access with minimal customer disruption. Towers and networks have ample capacity thanks to upgraded architectures like virtualization.

TracFone wins technology support since all customers will tap modern Verizon infrastructure by 2024. However, Visible edges ahead for unlimited premium data and mobile hotspot capabilities today.

Winner: Slight edge to Visible

Device Selection

When it comes to device selection and bring your own device (BYOD) policies, Visible clearly has the edge. With online-only ordering, Visible showcases the latest iPhone, Samsung, and Google Pixel flagships compatible with Verizon‘s advanced LTE and 5G networks. You can also bring your own device as long as it supports key wireless bands and isn‘t still tied to another carrier via payment plan.

TracFone takes a much more budget-friendly approach to hardware. While you‘ll save big money upfront on barebones devices, they likely won‘t impress in terms of features and specs compared to premium brands. TracFone also makes it difficult to bring your own device instead of purchasing directly from their catalog.

For context, roughly 20-30% of wireless subscribers swap devices annually according to BayStreet Research. Another survey found bring your own device policies ranked second in wireless plan selection priorities. By limiting BYOD options, TracFone risks frustrating digital-savvy consumers who upgrade frequently or want control over their mobile hardware.

Winner: Visible

Plan Options, Perks, and Limitations

Here is where these sister carriers differ most dramatically in their wireless plans:

Visible only sells unlimited data plans starting at just $25/month. The entry-level Visible Plan gets you unlimited talk, text, and data on Verizon‘s 4G LTE and nationwide 5G spectrum. Stepping up to the $45 Visible+ Plan includes 50GB of high-speed Premium Data before any potential throttling. Visible+ also enables widest access to Verizon‘s 5G Ultra Wideband network for the fastest speeds where available.

TracFone, conversely, stakes its reputation on limited, pay-as-you-go service without unlimited data options. While all plans include unlimited talk and text, data buckets only range from 0GB to 8GB per month depending on your tier. Prices start at an incredible $15 per month but wireless data runs out quick. TracFone also sells yearly plans at a discount for savings over time.

Both carriers feature monthly plans with no lengthy annual contracts. Customers appreciate the flexibility to switch plans or even carriers at any time.

Beyond core service differences, some perks to mention:

  • Visible includes mobile hotspot functionality with international roaming in Mexico and Canada
  • Visible+ expands global roaming data and text reach to over 30 nations
  • Some TracFone plans allow rollover data when renewing service
  • TracFone offers convenient prepaid refill cards sold in 100,000+ retail shops

Neither operator bundles media subscriptions or discounted family plans.

Winner: Visible better satisfies heavy data users thanks to unlimited options, while TracFone fits light data needs with pay-as-you-go savings

Prepaid Market Trends

In 2021, roughly 23% of wireless subscriptions fell into the prepaid category according to CTIA‘s Annual Wireless Industry Survey. However, prepaid market share edged down 1% year-over-year as postpaid subscriptions grew 6% to 191 million.

Within the prepaid space, unlimited plans are growing while pay-as-you-go limited services decline. MVNOs gave prepaid services a boost through digital-first offers. However, many MVNOs still find profitability challenging compared to major carriers with scale.

These trends signal that while the prepaid market isn‘t disappearing, offerings need to modernize to satisfy consumer expectations. Mobile-first subscribers want:

  • Generous, uncomplicated data without shocking overage fees
  • Premium devices compatible with the latest networks
  • Convenient account management via apps and websites

As an industry pioneer, TracFone will need to balance legacy customers reliant on minute cards with new users that consume mobile data by the gigabyte.

Customer Support Experience

Stiff competition in wireless drives carriers to compete on customer support and satisfaction alongside network performance and plan value. How do Visible and TracFone stack up?

Visible differentiates itself through app-based and online account management. While you can request a callback, issues must be handled through Visible‘s virtual agent, chatbots, help site resources, or active online community. Visible garnered attention through quirky culture and social media engagement.

TracFone takes a traditional approach with extended customer service hours available via phone, in-store, email, and web tickets. Wait times generally run under 9 minutes based on mystery shopping data. Support quality varies however based on specific subsidiary brands.

When it comes to product satisfaction, TracFone tends to underperform other leading value carriers. Complaints often cite issues with throttled data speeds or hidden fees exceeding advertised rates. Visible subscribers complain about congestion but have better perception of value overall thanks to predictable billing.

Winner: Draw. Those wanting DIY digital support pick Visible, while folks valuing human interaction would choose TracFone.

The Outlook for Visible and TracFone Moving Forward

The prepaid wireless market stands at a crossroads in balancing legacy business models with changing consumer habits. As satellites of America‘s largest carrier, Visible and TracFone are well-positioned to navigate this evolution.

While subtle so far, we should expect Verizon‘s ownership to reshape TracFone‘s offerings over time. As satellites of the largest wireless carrier, Visible and TracFone will likely push further into 5G to complement the flagship brand.

For example, TracFone could migrate legacy CDMA subscriptions over to VoLTE technology enabled by 4G LTE. They also may expand smartphone options as more capable devices hit affordable price points.

Meaningful differences will remain between Verizon‘s prepaid brands however:

Visible caters to savvier online consumers wanting unlimited data on premium devices. Look for Visible to extend connectivity capabilities through growth of 5G and mobile edge computing. AR, VR, cloud gaming, and IoT represent target growth avenues.

TracFone tries balancing smarter devices and new use cases while maintaining extreme affordability. The brand must avoid alienating legacy consumers reliant on calling minutes and limited texts. Partnerships with Lifeline could help fund expansion of data-driven prepaid plans.

The prepaid segment represents a balancing act for Verizon between innovation and accessibility. Move too close to Visible, and TracFone risks abandoning budget-conscious users. Stay too basic, however, and the brand loses relevance as mobile consumption explodes.

Striking the right competitive balance remains imperative as wireless competition mounts. MVNOs like Google Fi, cable providers through Mobile Virtual Network Enablers (MVNEs), and private 5G networks may all vie for subscriber minutes and megabytes.

Which Carrier Should You Choose: Visible or TracFone?

In summary:

Visible best suits digital natives and heavy data consumers who want the latest devices and unlimited 5G data access.

TracFone fits cost-conscious light data users with minimal mobile needs. Expect TracFone to modernize offerings as they complete Verizon migration over the next two years.

Hopefully this comprehensive comparison helps you select the right Verizon prepaid service for your needs! Please reach out via comments below any other questions.