eSIM abstract

Visible Launches eSIM Free Trial

Verizon’s flanker brand Visible just launched an eSIM free trial program. The trial offers 15 days of Visible’s standard plan with unlimited minutes, texts, and data. At the moment, it’s only available for recent iPhones (iPhone XR/XS and newer iPhones). No payment information is needed to sign up.

Sign-up Process

The sign-up process took me about ten minutes. I scanned Visible’s QR code, got the Visible app, and followed some straightforward instructions. I had to provide an email, but I wasn’t required to jump through hoops or provide billing information.

Multiple Numbers

Visible assigns a temporary number to each eSIM. If you join Visible after the trial, you can keep the temporary number or port in an existing number.

If you’d like to use multiple numbers in tandem during the trial (e.g., you want to trial Visible but also keep running your normal number and service), it’s easy. During setup, trial users select which SIM card should be used for each of three different services:

  • Regular calls & texts
  • iMessage
  • Data

In most cases, I’d suggest people trialing Visible let their original SIM card handle calls, texts, and iMessage while Visible handles data.

A Preview Of Things To Come?

Visible’s trial highlights how eSIMs could make the market for cell service more consumer-friendly. Potential Visible subscribers often wonder whether a low-price service can really offer good performance. Some people question whether congestion will lead to lousy speeds since Visible doesn’t get high-priority data. Now that Visible has a trial, there’s no need for guesswork.

Eligibility Details

The iPhone XR/XS and more recent iPhones running iOS 14+ are eligible for the free trial. Support for eSIM devices running Android is supposedly coming soon. Here’s how Visible responds to an FAQ entry about eligibility:

Anyone who is not currently a Visible member, or someone that has not participated in the trial in the past 12 months. If you meet these criteria, then all you need is an eligible iPhone device with eSIM capability to participate.

Full List Of Eligible Devices

  • iPhone SE (second generation)
  • iPhone 13
  • iPhone 13 Pro
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max
  • iPhone 13 mini
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone 12 mini
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
A red flag

Service Outage At Visible

Verizon’s flanker brand Visible has had a rough time the past few weeks. First, a security issue caused trouble for a large number of subscribers earlier this month. Then yesterday, reports of a service outage started to surface.

Several Reddit posts and dozens of comments mentioned the outage. I’m not sure how much of Visible’s subscriber base was affected.1 The issue was widespread enough for Visible to acknowledge the issue on Twitter:


Reports suggest the outage only lasted a few hours. Shortly after sharing its initial tweet, Visible noted that the outage was resolved:

I haven’t heard anything about the underlying cause of the outage.

Update icon

Visible Security Update

Earlier today, Visible shared a few tweets with updates on the security issue I posted about yesterday. Here’s the important bit:

Our investigation indicates that threat actors were able to access username/passwords from outside sources, and exploit that information to login to Visible accounts.

Taking Visible at face value, it looks like the attacker is exploiting information leaked in an unrelated data breach.1 Consequently, I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate to say Visible was hacked.2

I’m not sure what end game the attacker has planned. It sounds like many people are seeing fraudulent phone orders charged to the billing information on file in compromised accounts. Even if the fraudulent orders are fulfilled, it should be easy for Visible to track down the culprit. After all, the company knows where each phone is sent. Maybe I’m missing something.

Spitballing, I came up with a few possibilities:

  • Fraudulent orders could be a red herring to distract from the attacker’s real goal.
  • Multiple attackers could be working independently with the same compromised data.
  • An attacker could compromise numerous accounts and send phones to a large number of addresses. If only a small portion of the addresses were under the attacker’s control, it would be difficult and expensive for Visible to track down the attacker.

I don’t find any of these possibilities particularly likely. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

A lock

Visible Will Lock Phones For 60 Days

On Friday, Verizon’s flanker brand Visible announced that it will lock phones customers purchase from its online store for sixty days. Phones will automatically unlock after sixty days of service with Visible.

The announcement mentioned an exemption to the rules for members of the military. While Visible suggests customers can make international calls while a phone is locked, rules around international roaming aren’t made explicit:

Locked devices will still work as normal on Visible, and will still be able to make calls internationally to Canada, Mexico, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. And for those serving in the military, Visible will be able to unlock devices before the 60 day period if you are being deployed outside of the Visible service area.
I’m inclined to think Visible’s locked phones won’t work by default with international carriers.

My take

The updates to Visible’s policy are reasonable. Without the policy change, Visible would be at higher risk of people taking advantage of promotions that incentivize new customers. Before Friday’s announcement, I think Visible only locked phones customers acquired through the carrier’s swap program.

Up arrows indicating improvements

Visible Party Pay Improvements

Visible, a flanker brand of Verizon, offers just one plan: unlimited minutes, texts, and data for a base price of $40 per month. In 2019, Visible launched a feature called Party Pay. With Party Pay, customers can join together in parties to get lower rates:

  • 2-line party – $35 per line each month
  • 3-line party – $30 per line each month
  • 4-line party – $25 per line each month

Unlike conventional family plans, Visible bills each member of a party separately. Additionally, Visible doesn’t try to limit parties to family members. Visible subscribers are allowed to form parties with strangers and over the internet.

Previously, Visible capped parties at a maximum size of four people. Today, Visible dropped that cap. It’s a great change. Managing a Party Pay group used to be clunky. If one person dropped out of a full Party Pay group, the remaining members would have to either pay more or scramble to quickly re-fill the party. Now, large parties can be formed online. If someone drops out of a party, monthly prices for those left in the party won’t change as long as at least four lines remain.

I might start my own Party Pay group that’s open to anyone, but if you’re looking for a group now, consider joining this big one that’s actively seeking members.

Other changes at Visible

Visible recently released a handful of other updates:

  • e-SIM is now supported for subscribers with compatible iPhones.
  • Visible brought back a referral program. If you refer a friend, you get a month of service for only $5.
  • Calls from the U.S. to Mexico, Canada, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico are now free.
  • Visible launched a new community forum platform.
5G city image

Visible Rolling Out 5G For iPhones

Visible, a flanker brand of Verizon, has just started rolling out 5G service. Yesterday, a Reddit user posted a screenshot showing an iPhone running over Visible’s service with a 5G connection.

At this time, it looks like Visible’s 5G service is only available to customers with devices in the iPhone 12 line that are running iOS 14.3. Here’s an excerpt from a Q&A on Visible’s website:

You’ll need the most up-to-date iOS software and carrier bundle for your device before you can experience 5G. Remember, we only offer 5G on iPhone 12 at the moment, and you’ll need to be in a 5G area to experience 5G.

It looks like Visible has updated its coverage map to show areas where 5G is available. As expected, Visible’s 5G coverage looks essentially identical to Verizon’s 5G coverage.

Now that Visible’s 5G has launched for iPhones, I don’t think it will be long before the carrier launches 5G service for some Android devices.

Abstract

Visible’s First Month For $3 Promotion

Visible is running a promotion where new subscribers can get their first month of service for only $3. The promotion will run until December 21. No commitment or device purchase is required.

Those taking advantage of the deal need to enter “Tryfor3” as their promo code at checkout. While Visible isn’t mentioning the promotion on the most prominent parts of its website, you can find more details from Visible here.

I regularly encourage people on expensive phone plans to try out a low-cost, prepaid carrier for a month. In many cases, people have a great experience and decide to stick with their new carrier and benefit from big savings month after month. In the cases where people don’t have a great experience, they aren’t locked in and can switch back to a premium carrier.

With Visible, I especially encourage people to treat their first month of service as a trial. While many people find their experiences with Visible to be almost indistinguishable from their experiences with expensive plans offered directly by Verizon, a meaningful minority of people who try Visible encounter issues. With the current promotion, it’s easier than ever to give Visible a go on a trial basis.

Visible’s Plans For 5G

Visible, a flanker brand of Verizon, just shared details about its plans for 5G service (hat tip to Dennis Bournique who tweeted about the news).

Visible will soon offer 5G service for phones in the iPhone 12 line. 5G service for some Android phones will be available a bit later.

5G won’t cost extra, but Visible suggested it may impose a speed cap (emphasis mine):

We believe that people deserve a better phone service experience, which is why we’re including 5G, with speeds up to 200 Mbps, as part of our core plan at no additional cost. No hidden fees, no forcing you to upgrade into a different, secretly-more-expensive plan.

I’m not confident the 200Mbps cap will be enforced, at least initially. In the past, Visible mentioned a 5Mbps limit on hotspot speeds, but the company didn’t strictly enforce the limit.

It looks like Visible’s 5G service will include both Verizon’s sub-6 5G and Verizon’s millimeter wave 5G:

At launch, 5G will be available for Visible members where Verizon 5G coverage is available.

On Visible’s website, the carrier shares more information about its plans for 5G.

Visible’s Swap Program Now Offering Better Phones

I previously raved about Visible’s swap program. New customers used to be able to trade in almost any Android phone to get a free ZTE R2. In my case, I was able to trade in an old phone that was several years old for a much better device.

Visible recently made the swap program much better. The ZTE R2 has been dropped from the program, and customers now get to choose between the ZTE Blade A7 Prime and the Motorola Moto e6. I haven’t got my hands on either device yet, but from what I’ve read, both look like solid entry-level phones.

If you have an Android phone that powers on and isn’t already compatible with Visible, it should be eligible for the swap program. You can verify whether a device is compatible by entering its IMEI on Visible’s website. If you get a message that your device is incompatible, hit the “Next” button to continue with the swap program.

Visible Launches Party Pay

The Verizon flanker brand, Visible, just launched what it calls Party Pay. With Party Pay, groups of up to four people can get discounts on their service while still maintaining their own, separate billing.

Previously, Visible offered only one plan. For $40 per month, subscribers could get unlimited minutes, texts, and data over Verizon’s network. Visible has a few limitations: hotspot speeds are throttled, a limited set of devices are compatible, and subscribers have low priority during periods of network congestion. Still, at $40 per month, Visible was offering a good price for an unlimited plan that ran over Verizon’s network. Today, Visible’s pricing got a lot better. With Party Pay, subscribers now pay a per-line rate determined by how many people are in their party:

  • 1 person: $40 per month
  • 2 people: $35 per month
  • 3 people: $30 per month
  • 4 people: $25 per month

Party pay is not a traditional family plan. Visible doesn’t require that users be family members or even know each other in real life:1

If you’re already active on Visible, get a party link from a loved/liked/iffy-about one, or an internet stranger. Click the link, and ask to join the party.

If you want to, it’s possible to treat Party Pay like a family plan—though it might take a bit of work. Here’s what a Visible employee on Reddit suggests:

How can I pay for everyone in my party (like a family plan)?

Easiest way to do this is just adding the same payment info to all the accounts you want to pay for and turn on Autopay.

Parties don’t have a manager. Anyone in a party that is not full can invite others, approve requests from people wanting to join, or choose to leave a party. It is not possible to kick another member out of a party.

If a subscriber leaves a party, Visible’s rates for those still in the party will adjust accordingly. Here are excerpts from Visible’s FAQ explaining the process:

If one of my party members miss a payment or leaves the party, what happens?
When someone misses a payment or lapses service, pauses service without billing, cancels their account, ports out and leaves Visible, they are removed from the party. When that happens the party membership changes and Visible monthly service amount changes based on the number of members in the party.

If one of my party members leaves the party, what happens?
They are removed from the party. When that happens Visible monthly service amount changes for the remaining members based on the number of members still in the party at the time the next bill is created [or something to this effect].

At $25 per person for an unlimited plan over Verizon’s network, Visible’s Party Play is hard to beat in price. That said, it may not be for everyone. A fair number of subscribers have reported issues with aspects of Visible’s service (see my full review).

With the introduction of Party Play, Visible made a few other changes. New customers now get their first month of service for $25 regardless of their party size. Additionally, the Visible referral program is being phased out. Existing subscribers will keep their bill credits for past referrals, but Visible won’t continue to give referral codes to new customers.

Feel free to leave invitation links for your party in the comments (but check if another commenter has open spaces in their party first).