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Summary:

It’s no secret Helio has been burning through money, trying to boost its subscriber base and spark interest in its youth-oriented tech-savvy phone service and devices. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that Helio could go out of business if it doesn’t bring in more funding this year […]

It’s no secret Helio has been burning through money, trying to boost its subscriber base and spark interest in its youth-oriented tech-savvy phone service and devices. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that Helio could go out of business if it doesn’t bring in more funding this year from parent companies SK Telecom, Earthlink, or outside investors. That’s not something customers really want to hear when considering signing up for an expensive phone service.

oceanhelio.jpgBut Helio’s Ocean messaging device, which we checked out at CTIA last week, could come in as an unlikely savior, though, it is too soon to count on that. The company has spent considerable time on developing the design — and started working on Ocean before Helio was officially a company. The Ocean is the startup carrier’s first breakthrough phone, with its slick dual slider form and messaging interface, and it could catch fire with the young professional set. A big “if” of course, but a chance nonetheless. Here’s 5 ways the Ocean could help turn around Helio:

1). Devices are king: More and more the phones themselves are the reason subscribers are signing up for service. It’s a hits-driven business with the iPhone causing customers to considering switching to Cingular. With no followup hit to the RAZR in site, Moto is learning the hard way. Nokia and Motorola are opening stores in key locations looking to strengthen the handset brand and control the experience. If the Ocean gets enough buzz, it could be the tipping point to get subscribers to sign up for an already quality phone service.

2). Young professionals want the next Sidekick: Time after time, friends in Silicon Valley say when it comes to phone options for personal and business use, they want a better designed Blackberry or Treo, or a more business friendly next gen Sidekick. Moto has the Q, and Samsung has the Blackjack. The next generation of Sidekick (hiptop) devices was more of a basic upgrade, and missed out on this latest opportunity. If Helio stays around long enough, the Ocean could fill this void. It’s $295 and is expensive for the youth market, but the young professional could pony up the dollars for a nice design.

3). Mobile UI: With the iPhone and LG Prada pushing the fluid user interface, consumers — especially the early-adopter young professionals — are tired of the poor consumer experience of phones like the Treo. Ocean is Helio’s way to show off a lot of its nice mobile software details that could win over a lot of loyalty (once you have a chance to use the phone). For example if you start typing while the device is in idle mode, it automatically starts a web search (Yahoo is the default) or a contact list search. For web browsing Helio is using its own slick browser, and the device uses its standard menu layout.

4.) Supports Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync: This is a feature that would actually make the device work with corporate networks, a necessity for some of the big-spending young executive.

5). All messaging is created equal: The young professional demographic is young enough to be avid text messagers, while relying on email for much of the day, and also in need of connecting with corporate exchange servers. Helio’s messaging interface doesn’t relegate SMS to a seperate inbox. The device merges all these messaging options together into one place and makes all equally important.

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  1. Good article, but a few places where I disagree —
    4) Exchange Sync : While exchange sync is important for the corporate croud (and I’m one of them), getting push email sync with gmail/yahoo/hotmail would probably reach a wider audiance. Especially in the youth segment.
    5)All messaging is not created equal!: I like having seperate TEXT and email boxes…and I prioritize TEXT over email. If they were all in the same mbox, I’d probably lose a few TEXTs. Further, why would I use TEXT?

    I would add 6)
    Integrate devices into social networks. Helio is doing this already with myspace et al, but take this up one notch.

    –SP

  2. Jesse Kopelman Monday, April 2, 2007

    I think one problem is that at the price it goes head to head with the similar form factor Windows Mobile phones (PPC/XV6700 and Cingular 8525). Now WM is crap, but it does get you Word and Excel support. What good is Exchange synchronization if you can’t work with the attachments?

  3. Helio’s Last Chance: the Ocean Monday, April 2, 2007

    [...] Helio’s Last Chance: the Ocean [...]

  4. The end is near as now everyone will come out with cooler handsets than Helio (iPhone effect).

    Nice try………but it was never going to work.

  5. dr chadblog Monday, April 2, 2007

    what I don’t get is why this kind of sidekick-knockoff device can’t be sold as a wifi-only with optional cell service? a lot of people would pay 2-3 hundred bucks for a nice web/email terminal that doesn’t require breaking out of their existing cell contract and doesn’t require a new cell contract.

  6. I’m not at all into gadgets and things and I read this site every once in a while because this is my techie husbands universe and I’m willing to visit it a couple times a week.
    It’s pretty known that the guy that started this thing is a big Scientologist and that totally creeps me out. So I would not buy this because I know that. I’m not alone in my feelings either because my gilfriends know this too and they wouldn’t buy it because of that fact either. Just bringing it up..

  7. If they do not have WiFi it is a non starter.

  8. EarthLink won’t be able to afford to pony up more than once more. SKT on the other hand can and will continue to do so. Who will be owning and running Helio in a year’s time?

    No WiFi because Sprint doesn’t want them to have it and ultimately when you ride on Sprint’s network, Sprint gets what Sprint wants. Helio would love to use Boingo and EarthLink Municipal Wireless and in-home routers running over EarthLink Broadband.

  9. @Meg: just bringing it up, or just being a hate-mongerer. other people in your direct social group agree with you? that’s astounding; your concerns must be legitimate.

    it’s unfortunate that helio had to spend so much capital to compete with the lumbering, stagnating giant companies like motorola and nokia for handset supremacy and also established providers like sprint, cingular and alltel for service contracts. it’s pretty steep competition on either side; something of an ant-lion’s den, if you will.
    if helio makes it out of the next few years on top, then we’ll probably have something to really be excited about. they seem to have their minds set on bringing truly useful features to customers, instead of the same nerfed IM clients and vanilla crap the competition is vending.

  10. Jesse – WM isn’t so crap…see how nicely Didiom use it.

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