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Verizon's stealth budget wireless service may finance your next iPhone

Visible offers an unlimited data plan for $40, but there's a catch.

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Visible is part of Verizon, but promises a new wireless experience.

Visible

As a low-cost option for wireless service, Visible has been anything but. The budget wireless provider, a part of Verizon, wants to change that.

Visible launched last year with little fanfare, offering a stripped down, iPhone-only version of wireless service you could access only through an app. It offers you a decent deal -- as long as you don't mind artificially limited speeds. The service has only one option, a $40 plan (taxes included) that covers unlimited text message, voice, wireless hotspot and data -- that's always limited to 5 megabits a second.

The service has been operating quietly for the last few months as it works to get its infrastructure ready to handle a large volume of customers. (Despite running on Verizon's network, the business built out a more efficient network within Verizon to handle its customers.) But on Thursday, the company said it would begin financing iPhones for customers who wanted a new device. Separately, Visible also said it would support Android smartphones, starting with the Galaxy S9 and S9+.

The additional support and iPhone financing should make it more palatable to consumers looking to give the service a shot. Previously, you needed to bring your own iPhone -- a hurdle since most people want to upgrade to a new phone when switching services. It also didn't support Android devices.

Visible serves as an alternate way of winning over consumers in the ever-increasingly crowded wireless business. While Verizon has built its reputation on network quality and customer service, Visible is going after (non-Verizon) customers with a more attractive option for those looking to save a buck. Visible also underscores the reality that even Verizon, which typically boasts decent customer growth, isn't immune to the broader slowdown in new customers in the industry.

"From the start of our business, we wanted to set a new bar for the way things are done by redefining and evolving wireless and the overall retail experience," CEO Miguel Quiroga said in a press release. 

In addition to financing, Visible said it will offer a form of phone insurance called Visible Protect for $10 a month. The service includes AppleCare services and will cover issues like damage, loss and repair.

The company has tried to raise awareness through guerrilla marketing tactics like opening up a defunct pop-up wireless store that tried to highlight the antiquated notion of having to go to a physical retail location to sign up for service.

But with the company working out some of its early infrastructure growing pains, it's looking to be a lot more visible in the coming months.

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