May 10, 2013 12:20 PM EDT
AT&T has launched its first no-contract plan with Aio Wireless that will provide users with ‘unlimited’ talk, text and data. The plan will cost between $35 to $70 per month for 4G service for smartphones and $15 for tablets in Houstan, Orlando and Tampa before it is expanded to other market. Jennifer Van Buskirk laid out the target demographic of the no-contract plan. "We talked with no-annual-contract customers and created our service around what they want. They want simple, easy plan choices with unlimited offers; first-class service at affordable prices; great devices; nationwide voice and data coverage; and no annual contracts. Today's wireless customers don't want to compromise. We are set up to win over value-conscious customers who are increasingly moving towards smartphones and mobile broadband." A no-contract plan should be simple in theory. Users pay for the phone and the monthly charges and can renew or leave the plan as they please.
However many companies like T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile who offer no-contract plans often have large amounts of fine print that misleads consumers about the nature of the plan. T-Mobile was reprimanded by the Washington state Attorney General for advertising a misleading no-contract plan, “My office identified that T-Mobile was failing to adequately disclose a critical component of their new plan to consumers, and we acted quickly to stop this practice and protect consumers across the country from harm.”
The Aio Wireless basic plan (which is cheapest) is only available on non-smartphones, similar to the way Virgin Mobile’s payLo Plan works. The Aio plan is also ‘unlimited’ only in theory. Like most other mobile services the data gets throttled after 250MB of use for the basic plan while the Aio Smart plan gets throttled after 2GB of use. Finally the Aio Pro plan gets 7GB of data before being throttled. The plan falls most short for tablets where only 250MB of data is available before throttling.
The biggest problem for many users will be phone selection. You can bring your device over (but won’t be eligible for the cheapest plan) or you can buy one of their phones. Aio wireless favors iOS and has many iPhones but not a lot of solid Android devices. This will prove disappointing for many droid users since you’ll be paying full price for any phones you buy. Overall Android users shouldn’t get their hopes too high about AT&T’s no contract options.
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