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Connectivity Mobile Technology

Visible cell phone service review and using an AT&T eSIM

I recently gave the Visible cell phone service a try. I felt that I needed to try a new service as I have been with my incumbent, AT&T, for a long time. I am paying a fair bit each month for the Family Unlimited Elite plan (their top offering) – and for a user in the Bay Area, the current service in my area honestly isn’t really that great in terms of availability, coverage and speed.

I have brought this to the attention of AT&T a number of times, I am always promised an engineer will take a look, and normally I get an email a few days later with the response that no issue is found:

My usual AT&T response when I report I have one or zero network bars in my area.

Enter Visible, a new service provided by Verizon. I have been impressed with Verizon’s coverage and speed in the areas through word of mouth, so I thought this would be a good test of their offerings indirectly.

First I wanted to move my AT&T physical SIM to an eSIM to make way for the new Visible SIM card. AT&T were very helpful here. As I have an iPhone 11 Pro, it was fairly straight forward. I contacted AT&T, they took my details and within 10 minutes they pushed an eSIM to my iPhone. I then removed the physical AT&T SIM card.

I signed up for Visible with ease through their iOS app. They took a few details, and ensured my phone was compatible from me entering my IMEI number. Visible do offer devices for sale and number porting, but I simply wanted a line to try their service. The sign up was easy and straight-forward. There is no credit check process as Visible’s service is pre-paid only.

I signed up to a one-month trial, which was $25 – the normal monthly rate is $40, and this standard pricing gets cheaper the more lines you add through their Party Play program. This isn’t the same as a conventional family plan – you can work together with friends to group lines together (you’re still individually responsible for payments) and get the pricing down to $25 a line per month. You could start a shared plan with friends, family or simply the folks you don’t talk to you rent a house with!

The $25 one month trial I signed up for included unlimited everything – i.e. US texts, data and calls. 4G LTE coverage through Verizon’s network with WiFi calling and a mobile hotspot. My trial included no speed capping. At time of writing, I think this no speed capping still stands and Visible do not cap speeds during busy times.

The Visible physical SIM card

It was easy to sign up through the iOS app and within a couple of days my new SIM card arrived. I inserted it, activated through the Visible iOS app and was ready to go in no time.

It’s interesting setting up two lines on your iPhone and there’s a great article on using a physical and eSIM on the Apple site and it can be found here. I also found out you can have several eSIMs stored on your iPhone, but only use one at a time (along with your physical one)

One thing that would be great for Visible to offer would be an eSIM – I’m sure that option will soon be on its way.

The speed test result for the Visible service over 4G LTE Mountain View, CA.

The trial worked extremely well. I found the coverage and speeds (and customer service) was excellent during my trial. I also had a road trip during that time from the Bay Area, CA to San Diego and found the signal strength and data speeds consistent and super fast for the whole 444 miles. My wife, on AT&T, with an iPhone, less so unfortunately. I was very impressed with the service overall. It’s important to say that there’s no real scientific test here, I’m not anti or pro either provider, I’m just commenting on my real world experience. One night I was streaming Netflix via my phone to a TV in a hotel room (which might have been against the terms of service TBH), but it worked flawlessly.

After the month was finished, I did not renew. However, this was more of a personal decision as Visible did not offer an international roaming service and support for wearable devices (such as the Apple Watch). I would need this in a service and I am sure Visible will be quick to catch up. As I’ve mentioned already, the option to purchase an eSIM and start using immediately rather than wait a few days would be appealing to some users. If Visible could offer roaming, no speed caps, and wearable device support – I’d sign up in a heartbeat.

If you do not need bells and whistles I would thoroughly recommend Visible at this point in time for its network service, customer support and simplicity in billing.

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Connectivity Home internet Technology Xfinity

Xfinity XB7 gateway review

Today I had the delivery of the new XB7 gateway router from Xfinity. I’ve heard a good deal about it, and recently contacted Xfinity asking them to send it out to me.

I was interested to get my hands on one as it’s the next gen DOCSIS 3.1 gateway, supports up to 2.5 Gbit/s (which is a significant change on the current 1 Gbit/s XB6), but my main reason was it supports dual band 802.11ax (aka WiFi 6.) I don’t have much in my house compatible with this right now, apart from my iPhone 11 Pro and iPad Pro, but wanted to give it a whirl anyway. This gateway is manufactured by Technicolor.

I spoke to Xfinity over customer online chat and I had no issues at all with the request, but have heard many others having an issue depending on the market. I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area, and have gigabit service. Within a few moments the Xfinity agent had dispatched my new gateway.

I’ve been using the XB6, or the xFI Advanced Gateway for many months now without any issue. A disclaimer here, I have been using it in bridge mode with my Google WiFi throughout my house. However, I was interested to see how the XB7 would perform on its own, compared to the XB6, in terms of speed and range.

An unboxed Xfinity XB7 / CGM4331COM

Specifications

  • Model number CGM4331COM
  • Xfinity name XB7
  • 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • Dual band WiFi
  • Throughput 2.5 Gbps
  • Supports two telephone ports if needed
  • Supports Zigbee and Bluetooth LE (low energy)
  • Grey/white – less noticeable LED light than previous XB6

Delivery, unboxing and install

The router was delivered fast, even with the COVID situation. The box it came in was sparse with no fancy enclosure or additional information. Xfinity had placed a packing slip in the box to say at the present time they’d rather minimize high-touch packing and would rather get the hardware out quickly – so hats off for them for that.

The install, was very straight forward for me via the self-install and using the iOS Xfinity Xfi app. Probably took 10 minutes end-to-end, and also took all the previous settings from my XB6 and transferred it to the XB7 which was cool. (Firewall, WiFi, passwords, etc)

Observations

Before I put my my XB7 into bridge mode, I wanted to compare the wireless connectivity with my XB6. Another disclaimer, this is not scientific, but will give a rough idea. Obviously I was getting near 1Gbps via ethernet direct from the previous XB6 to my iMac.

I first had held my iPhone about a couple of meters from the XB6, ran a speed test a few times, and the best I could get was 343 Mbps down.

Wireless speed XB6 to iPhone 11 Pro at around two meters

After I had the XB7 setup and running for a while, I did the same test. Again, not very scientific, but the best speed I could get was 785 Mbps wirelessly. Pretty good.

Wireless speed XB7 to iPhone 11 Pro at around two meters

So, as you can see, quite the difference. These speeds are amazing for sure. However, where things don’t go so well for me is speed over a distance. Admittedly, I place my XB7 in the garage, so it has a few walls and doors to contend with, but if I travel through my house around 50-60 from the XB7 on the same level, the speed drops down to around 2-3 Mbps. Not great for a gigabit service – but I know, in my home, I probably have various things not great for WiFi. So, it was soon back to using the gateway as a bridge modem and linking it through to my Google mesh WiFi throughout my house.

I have read that there are some issues with service speed reduction over time when in bridge mode. I have not experienced that yet, but will be on the look out.

In conclusion, in my opinion only, if you had a gigabit service, you had the gateway somewhere centrally in your home with a useable radius range around 30 feet or so, with WiFi 6 equipment, you might be OK to make the most out of the gateway. It’s no good using the Xfinity Xfi Pods either as you are not going to get the most out of the speeds you sign up for.

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Photography Places to visit Technology

Three lenses at Apple Park

Using the three lenses on my iPhone 11 Pro. Triple 12MP cameras: ultra wide: ƒ/2.4 aperture and 120° field of view, wide: ƒ/1.8 aperture, telephoto: ƒ/2.0 aperture.