Aio Wireless Review: In the Beginning was the End

Aio Wireless - Lumia 620 Start Screen

This year, I made two significant mobile communications changes: I switched to a prepaid carrier and, at the same time, purchased my first smartphone.

Why Aio? First, my wife and I are saving over $30 per month on Aio compared to what we would be paying on a Sprint network family plan with two smartphones. Second, I didn’t want to be tied to a contract.

I chose Aio over other prepaid carriers and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), such as Boost, Straight Talk, Net10, Credo, and T-Mobile because Aio is on the AT&T network, which has the best coverage of any US carrier in my part of the country, and it’s actually an AT&T subsidiary. Also, I wanted to get my hands on the Nokia Lumia 620 — only available in the US on Aio and for the low price of $100 (as opposed to $200 elsewhere) — because it’s an affordable introduction to the Windows Phone 8 operating system.

Phone Selection

Aio uses GSM wireless technology, so any unlocked GSM phone will do — that includes AT&T and T-Mobile phones. To make things easier, Aio sells a small selection of phones, including the high-end Apple iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S4 phones as well as a number of low and mid-range smartphones.

Data Plans

All data plans include unlimited talk, text and data. Where the plans differ is in the amount of high-speed data access offered. Once your allotment of high-speed access is reached, your data speed is throttled down to around 256Kbps. Heavy data users beware: Aio’s caps its fastest speed (4G LTE) at 8Mbps. So, even the fastest data speeds are reduced. The plans are as follows:

  • $40 for 250MB of high speed (for basic phones only)
  • $55 for 2GB of high speed
  • $70 for 7GB of high speed

Data Speeds

Aio Wireless Speed Test

I’m on the $55 plan, and I used about a quarter of my high-speed allotment in the first month. My Lumia 620 (I really dig this phone btw) doesn’t do 4G LTE, but it does have HSDPA technology. It clocked at about 4Mbps (download) the other day when I performed a speed test in my office building. Also, I seem to be getting better coverage in my office building and parking garage than I did on the Sprint network.

Customer Service

I contacted Aio’s customer service department four times — twice by chat and twice by phone.

The Good: I didn’t have to wait long, either by chat or by phone, to reach a customer service agent. All agents were friendly.

The Bad: The agents didn’t always offer the correct answers. Before ordering my phone, for instance, I contacted customer service to confirm the SIM card was included in the purchase of my Lumia 620; the first agent (via chat) told me I would have to pay $10 extra for the SIM card. I dealt with another agent an hour or so later (also via chat) who assured me SIM cards are included when purchasing phones through Aio, which is what I expected.

No International Roaming

Aio Wireless (along with most other prepaid carriers) doesn’t offer international roaming, which may be of concern to those who travel frequently and wish to keep the same phone number. One workaround is to use AT&T’s Go Phone service, offering roaming in Mexico and Canada, during the time of travel. Or, if you don’t mind getting a different number, you could bring your GSM phone wherever you travel and buy a SIM card from a local prepaid carrier.

Hello, Goodbye

Evidently, Aio was just a fun little AT&T experiment. They wanted learn the ins and outs of managing a network of independent prepaid dealers.

AT&T is acquiring Leap Wireless, the company that owns Cricket Communications. Once the merger is complete, Aio’s operations will be combined into Cricket’s. Personally, I prefer the Aio (which means ‘I say’) brand to Cricket. The sound of chirping crickets connotes silence, which in the world of wireless communications means dead zones and dropped calls. But Cricket is a firmly established brand, so AT&T is probably making the right decision. Aio recently addressed merger questions on its Facebook page.

I will hang on to Aio for as long as I’m satisfied with the service. We’ll see how Cricket works out. If it doesn’t, I there is money to be saved (while remaining on the AT&T network) with prepaid carriers like Net10 and Straight Talk.

Hello Aio. And fare thee well.

UPDATE 2/9/2014: Aio recently updated its pricing structure, making its plans much more competitive with StraightTalk and Net10. In addition to lower pricing, a couple of plans will see increases in high-speed data limits. Also, the $40 Basic plan is no longer restricted to smart phones. Furthermore, customers who enroll in auto pay will receive a $5 monthly credit. The new plans are as follows:

Plan Name Monthly Fee High-Speed Data Allowance
Aio Basic $40 500 MB
Aio Smart $50 2.5 GB
Aio Pro $60 5 GB

5 Obstacles to a Successful Midlife Career Change and How to Deal with Them

Mid-life Career Changers

Switching careers midway through life or well into an established first career can be a difficult but worthwhile journey. Just over four years ago, I decided to switch professions at 38 years old, after 12 years’ worth of toil in another line of work, and during the worst economic climate I hope to ever know. Not very far into my new career, my first child was born.

Despite imperfect personal and financial conditions, I felt I had no choice but to try something new and interesting. Call it career fatigue or a midlife crisis, it was time to switch gears.

The following are obstacles I have either faced or currently confront as I progress in my new profession:


Expect to make less of it and plan appropriately. My wife and I had to drastically cut back on our discretionary spending after I left my well-paying IT job. I’m sure this is one of the biggest reasons people decide against changing careers.

Save as much money as you can before leaving your current job, then prepare to live on less for a while.


So what exactly do you want to do with your life? I’m still not sure the answer to that question, but I feel like I’m on the right track. When the opportunity to change directions presented itself, I had a few interests I wanted to pursue: writing, internet marketing, and web design.

I wrote pieces for internet content sites. I took a low-paying contract gig managing pay-per-click campaigns. I designed a website for a friend. I took an editing class. I worked as a copywriter for a web design agency. I started an internet marketing business. Now I work full-time for a large hospitality company.

Explore your interests and see where they lead you.

Finding Work

This is tough. A polished resume (hire a professional if necessary) that makes your past skills relevant to a new industry is important. One thing that worked for me was accepting low-paying jobs and/or free assignments to help build my credentials.

Check out some local Meetup groups related to your new line of work and consider joining professional associations. This way, you can learn new things and network at the same time.

Learning and Acceptance

It takes several years to become good at something. You may suck at first, but eventually you’ll gain competence and confidence.

Accept that you are a neophyte, try not to get too flustered when you make mistakes, and ask lots of questions. Enjoy the learning process.

Change of Status

I don’t command the salary or respect I used to. I went straight from being a Cisco network administrator, responsible for the communication equipment of an entire toll road system, to a web content writer. I now work for a large hotel chain as a content editor and copywriter, and nobody there gives a crap about my past … and why should they?

Don’t let your change in rank get you frustrated. If you’re learning new things, having fun in your new profession, and making money, then you’re doing fine. You may miss certain things about your last career, but keep in mind the reasons that made you leave it behind in the first place.

TaxACT vs TurboTax®: Federal Tax Preparation Software Review

TaxACT vs TurboTAX

The deadline for filing your 2011 federal tax return is fast approaching, and many people will rely on online tax preparation software to complete the task. Choosing a online tax software is easy because, in most cases, you can complete your return for free and pay only when you file.

TurboTax®, still the dominator of the tax preparation software market, faces increasing competition from H&R Block At Home™, TaxACT, and other lesser-known programs. For my 2011 tax return, I decided to compare/contrast the online versions TurboTax® and TaxACT.

My wife and I have a slightly more complex tax situation than we had the previous year. In addition to the regular year-end statements, I have a K-1 form (prepared with a TaxACT business product) for a partnership I started in 2011. Happily, I don’t have any 1099-MISC statements (from contract work) to contend with this season.


It’s hard to find a better price than free, and that’s exactly what you get with TaxACT. Any form you need to complete your personal taxes is available in TaxACT’s free edition. It’s what I’ve used the past couple of years.

For this comparison, I looked at TaxACT Deluxe Federal Edition ($9.95) and TurboTax® ($34.95) Basic because I thought they were comparable editions. Both offer the ability to import tax statements from certain employers and financial institutions, and both offer free phone support. When it came to entering the information from my K-1 statement, however, TurboTax prompted me to upgrade to the Deluxe version ($49.95).


TaxACT’s interface was comfortable enough for me. Like TurboTax®, TaxACT will either guide you with questions or allow you to fill in information without much prompting — the choice is yours. Though I chose the guided approach, I somehow missed the option for importing statements. Poor design or operator error? Probably the latter.

I felt like TurboTax® prompted me more thoroughly than TaxACT during the interview process. It also allowed me to enter more information from my K-1 statement than TaxACT did; however, the end result — a welcomed refund — was exactly the same with both, which is how it should be.


If two tax softwares provide the same results, I say go with the less expensive one. TaxACT Deluxe Federal Edition is the winner here. Ten bucks doesn’t go as far as it used to, but it will allow you to file an accurate tax return. And if the import and phone support features of TaxACT Deluxe don’t seem worth it to you, there is always TaxACT Free.