Verizon’s Visible prepaid brand figures it can entice its digital-savvy audience with a new twist: offering a free 15-day trial for consumers with compatible iPhones.
As long as a consumer has an eSIM-capable iOS device, they can try out the Visible service without buying a new device or going through a bunch of hoops. Heck, they don’t even need to fork over a credit card. But they do need an Apple device for the free trial.
“At Visible, we want to make it as simple and risk-free as possible,” said Jeremy Bolton, chief strategy officer who’s been with Visible since its inception. “A lot of people think our value prop is too good to be true. We wanted to give them an easy way to check us out.”
Free trials are fairly common among digital brands, so it’s not unique in that respect. However, one thing that is different is Visible’s desire to upend the old ways of selling wireless.
“The great thing about the Visible free trial is they don’t have to leave their current wireless provider. They don’t have to change phones. They don’t have to port their number. They don’t have to enter credit card details, and thanks to eSIM, they don’t even have to leave their sofa,” Bolton said. “It’s just straight up unlimited talk, text, data and hot spot, free of charge, for 15 days.”
The eSIM, which stands for embedded subscriber identity module, eliminates the physical SIM card, so a customer doesn’t need to visit a physical store to switch carriers. It encapsulates what Visible is trying to do, because it’s all about offering services online and through apps rather than physical stores. With eSIM, a device can handle more than one service provider at the same time.
The eligible phones for this offer are all in the Apple iOS family: iPhone SE 2020, iPhone XR, iPhone XS /Max, iPhone 11/11 Pro/11 Pro Max, IPhone 12/12 Mini/12 Max/12 Max Pro, and all iPhone 13 models.
To be clear, Visible supports Android devices, both in terms of sales and Bring Your Own device. But Visible’s eSIM devices currently don't include Android, something it's eager to see changed in the coming months, according to Bolton. CEO Angie Klien has stated that Visible is moving to a “100 percent eSIM model,” so it’s eventually going to be across the board.
Owned by Verizon, but different
Visible uses the same radio network that parent company Verizon owns and operates, but Visible is 4G and 5G only, so it doesn’t rely on older legacy technologies. It’s also not going to be using Verizon’s C-band spectrum right out of the gate when that’s available, but “stay tuned” about a future launch on that, Bolton said.
That doesn’t have anything to do with the prepaid product. “It is a business decision that Visible has made in the near term that we are going to launch C-band spectrum at a future point,” he said.
That brings to mind another question: How much is prepaid differentiated from postpaid these days? The lines between the two used to be pretty clear, but that’s changing.
“We did set out to blur the lines between prepaid and postpaid,” Bolton said. Now when people ask him whether Visible is prepaid, “I like to say we are a subscription service,” which, whether music or video streaming, is paid for and then consumed.
However, “we don’t think of them as prepaid,” he said. With Visible, “we are a digital subscription service, and in that sense, we’re neither prepaid nor postpaid. We’re like any other digital subscription service.” Beyond that, Visible tries to do things that are typically seen at postpaid, rather than prepaid, carriers, such as offering device financing and device insurance. It also offers an upgrade program, which isn’t something typically seen at a traditional “prepaid” service provider.
Visible’s service plans are available for $40, taxes and fees included. With “party pay,” a customer can get it down to $25/month as more friends and family are added to a service plan.
The company doesn’t reveal the number of subscribers Visible serves and Bolton said he couldn’t comment on whether that will change anytime soon.
What about TracFone?
Verizon’s acquisition of prepaid provider TracFone was approved by regulators late last year. TracFone is centered around brick-and-mortar sales and each brand targets different segments.
In contrast, Visible is not sold in any physical stores, but is sold via Amazon.com and Walmart.com. It’s a direct-to-consumer business model within the wireless sector, so with its target customer segment compared with TracFone’s, “there’s no overlap,” Bolton said. “We’re going for a very specific segment,” while the TracFone brands are going for “very specific but different segments.”
Coming to market as an all-digital play, all the time, sounds like a no-brainer. But it’s not without challenges. For example, the U.S. wireless industry has trained consumers to go into a store to carry out transactions. The vast majority of switching transactions still happens in physical stores.
One of Visible’s missions is to change that. “That has been the mantra of the wireless industry since its inception, and we are single-handedly trying to undo that,” he said. “But the world is moving in Visible’s direction, and it gets easier by the day.”