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May 10, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Aio

The power to choose is a strong demand, and people need it met. Wireless carriers are realizing this, with various companies starting to provide prepaid no-contract options for the mobile freedom fighter. On Thursday, AT&T launched its solution to meet that need, and it is called Aio Wireless.

A fully owned subsidiary of AT&T Inc., Aio exists to give a client base identified as value conscious and wanting unlimited offers, simple choices and no commitment in their service exactly that. With pricing from $35 to $70 per month depending on the market (Aio is launching in several including Tampa, Houston, and Orlando), Aio Wireless’ 4G service is available on unlocked phones. It’s a confident move on AT&T’s part, essentially letting plans sell themselves at face value.

The rub, so to speak, is this: no annual contract that can ensure continued business with AT&T means no subsidized phone prices. If a customer wants or needs a new phone to go with an unlimited talk, text and data plan, Aio does provide them through the official website, but rather at prices those who have been stuck in contracts might have forgotten about. The front page of the Aio website does offer savings on phones (and is even sweetening the deal on a Samsung Galaxy Amp with free movie tickets), but those with a sentimental attachment to their income are running back to the extremely low hardware prices and restrictions of a more contract service.

This no-contract, no strings attached option is growing in popularity, however. T-Mobile is also offering similar simple choice plans. Tech industry analyst Jeff Kagan mentions the key to success for Aio in the pre-paid wireless world can come down to brand reliability

“This is just what so many customers today are looking for,” says Kagan. “Many pre-paid customers today buy from lesser-known, brand names. There is an opportunity here if Aio Wireless can hit the target.”

According to a spokesperson for AT&T, it’s a branding choice that they are well aware of, implying that the marketing team behind the subsidiary has eyes to win the prepaid wireless market. "Different brands serve different customers with different needs... We decided to go after [an] unmet need and we built a service around answering it."

Edited by Alisen Downey

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