By Tony Henning
MVNO Helio, the partnership between Earthlink and SK Telecom, has released some more details about its impending launch this spring that include an exclusive deal with MySpace and some nifty Korean handsets. The partnership with MySpace brings the popular social networking service to mobiles. The “MySpace Mobile On Helio” will leverage the advanced capabilities of Helio mobiles to keep MySpace members connected to their network through mail, bulletins, profiles, blogs and photo galleries, Helio said. Photos can be posted directly from Helio devices and photos viewed will be optimized for the devices as well.
While the market is crowded with MVNOs targeting the youth demographic (Virgin, Amp’d, Boost, to name a few), Helio seems to have scored a major coup by incorporating MySpace. The site is the second-most-viewed-website in the U.S. behind only Yahoo and has an estimated 55 million users. It also accounts for 12 percent of online advertising, which may be an interesting value proposition in itself for Helio.
On the handset side, we’ve already reported on the VK Mobile 650c, a swivel-style handset with a 2MP camera, MP3 player, VOD/MOD and TV out. The 650c, a variant of the VK600C offered in Korea by SK, will be known as the Helio Kickflip, because you just have to give it a nudge to flip it open in either direction. The other handset exclusive to Helio will be a slider model from Pantech, known as the Hero. While the Kickflip is ‘pearlescent’ (AKA white) and features a day-themed interface, the jet-black Hero has a night-themed interface. Both “elegant, luminescent” user interfaces are designed by, and exclusive to, Helio. The Hero also has a 2MP camera with digital zoom and flash, a 2.2-inch, QVGA, 262,144-color LCD display, full duplex stereo speakers, 70 MB of memory and miniSD removable memory. Measuring 4.3 x 1.9 x 1 inch and 4.7 oz, the Hero supports streaming video on-demand and mobile Flash content. No prices have been announced.
We’re particularly interested in Helio because it’s the first MVNO to put an emphasis on bringing otherwise unavailable advanced Korean handsets to the U.S. market. “For years, we’ve waited patiently for real wireless innovation to make its way from places like Korea to the U.S. In the meantime, we’ve lived with low-end devices, uninspired service and yesterday’s technology,” said Sky Dayton, founder of Earthlink and chief executive officer of Helio, Inc. “So we created a brand just for us, with innovation directly from the most advanced wireless market in the world, to give young, tech-savvy consumers what we’ve all been waiting for.” We’re still waiting for a truly imaging-centric MVNO — with the devices and services to really deliver on the promise of Mobile Imaging — but in the meantime we’ll settle for at least the snazzy Koran camera-phones.