Hello Helio

from the first-impressions? dept

It’s been a little over a year since Earthlink and SK Telecom announced plans to team up and build a mobile operator in the US, using existing networks (originally thought to be Verizon Wireless’, but now thought to be Sprint’s) that would bring some of the leading edge mobile devices and services from South Korea to the US. It was a great idea, designed to appeal to the early adopters who lament how South Korea seems so far ahead of the US when it comes to mobile service. The team at Helio has said a lot of the right things about treating customers right and not trying to limit them, but it’s still quite difficult to build up a new mobile operator brand from scratch (something that it appears some of the other new MVNO upstart competitors are discovering). A few months ago when the venture, renamed Helio, finally revealed some info about its plans, it was disappointing to see the main focus on integreating Helio with MySpace — what seemed like a very limited offering (and one where it made no sense to be tied to a single mobile provider). Helio has now officially launched and there are a few more details — some that look good and some that will raise some eyebrows.

First, while it’s still talking about the MySpace connection, it appears that the integration is being played down a bit. This may make a lot of sense, as the MySpace generation seems to be more targeted at teens, and Helio claims to be going after a slightly (just slightly) older demographic. The issue that’s going to raise the most questions is the pricing — which looks high when starting at $85/month. Helio accurately points out that you get a lot included for that price (perhaps more than a comparable plan from other providers), but even those who understand that fact may still balk at seeing a price that looks so high compared to other mobile operators. It’s going to take quite a marketing job to convince people the fees are worth it — especially with a brand name no one is familiar with. Some of the pitch from Helio appears to be that the pricing plans are simple and there are no tricks involved — but potential subscribers will still need to be sold on that (and, if it’s not true, they’re going to be even angrier). Many mobile subscribers aren’t happy with the eventual bills they get… but it’s not clear if it’s such a big pain point that people will immediately jump to another provider who’s just as expensive — but more upfront about it.

Also, for all the hype about bringing the cool South Korean mobile services to the US, the initial offerings are fairly mundane. There’s a Helio on Top service that will update various feeds of info on your screen. These kinds of push services make a lot of sense in the mobile space, but by kicking it off with just a few preset partners, it’s fairly limiting. This is a perfect spot for Helio to just put RSS in place — opening up a ton of interesting possibilities. Someone at Helio claims that the next version will support RSS — so they’re clearly moving in that direction, though it’s not clear why they didn’t launch with it working (that would have generated additional interest in some of the circles they’re clearly targeting). The other idea that’s going to get a lot of attention is the “gifting” and “begging” features that will let people send content to others or ask others for content they’ve bought. It’s a nice feature in theory — but it’s not clear how compelling it really will be. It still seems like Helio has a lot of promise, but the initial launch still seems a bit short on the immediate “wow” factor many were hoping to see. Hopefully, that will change over time.

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Comments on “Hello Helio”

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Akhsar Kharebov says:

MySpace on your cell phone for everyone

Dear Mike,

I further support your view that to an average consumer Helio is a hard sell. Unlike Helio, my company VCEL at http://www.vcellvibes.com — offers MySpace mobile agnostic of the carrier and handset. We use a J2ME phone client, which works on Sprint, Cingular, Tmobile networks and handsets(40+ tested); as well as any other java supporting hand set sold today both in US and other wise.

Here is how, users can use it:

If you have a myspace account and your handset supports J2ME (midp 2.0), you can: download our client from pub.vcel.net to your phone, run our application out of games and log into YOUR MySpace acount from your phone. In our opinion that is a lot more useful for the average consumer because it does not require spend money switching carriers or handsets (usually at least).
We also support our service with text message interface for all carriers and web 2.0 features on our website.

We would like to tell more people about our stuff. If you would like to find out more about VCEL, which stands for Virtual Communication Expression and Lifestyle, Inc; please contact me via email or phone 805-680-3673.

Best Regards,

Akhsar Kharebov

me or wii?(i cant resist being immature with that says:

1 minute a month

you can text Wii a few times =p as a trial

internet….hmm i guess “naughty wibbling dot com” is good(close browser close browser close browser: http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=20010317)

ringtones, you can get the Annoy a coffeeshop in the morning package or the Annoyathon 2000 package, your everyday way to piss tired people off =D

as for world domination, 1% proceeds do to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation

also personal opinion, does anyone else see this being a big flop but me, for south korea the market is matured, as well as customs different, in the US, id more likely let my dog have it for an expensive chewtoy for as much “wow” factor id get out of it, for one we dont have interest in it, really im supposedly in the myspace generation, but in persobnal opinion that site blows and is a waste of human life. for two we have EXTREMELY greedy executives, in korea they get this play for like 19.99 when you think about it, here i can see the top rate plan being over a hundred a month, and who the fuck average consumer would buy that, what people are losing sight of is simply that 99.99999999999999% of people are teh average consumer not the tech god.

Griffon (profile) says:

Well interesting if not compelling

I don’t know they might have something. It’s actually hard to tell the web site is so locked into looking trendy there is very little detailed information. However it looks like for the $85 (and if that includes all the taxes and shit they need to say so, I’m guessing not), you get 1k minutes (not bad), plus unlimited net access and SMS. The unlimited data is what makes that a value, if it’s truly unlimited that is. It also mentions nights and weekends but never clarifies what they mean (free? how about defining what your selling just a little so people don’t have to make assumptions?).

You can go ALaCarte as well for $50@500minutes then pay for data etc. Not a great deal though.

My biggest thing is that I find the phones totally uninteresting, there is very little detail on the site about what the OS is so all the features they are claiming is pretty meaningless without something to relate it back too. No blue tooth :(. If they want the tech crowd they need blue tooth, un mangled. Some more open platforms like the treo650 or more generic win5 devices for folks to compare to would be good as well.

I’m not seeing any coverage maps so I wonder who they are partnered with… kind of makes me wonder if they think people are a lot dumber about cel service then they are…

Maybe I’m just missing somthing…but if I am, then so is Helio because I’m right smack in the middle of their demographic and I hate verizon, particularly the ripp off data plan. Less hip more data would be the right place to start.

Valor says:

Re: Well interesting if not compelling

I agree. They need to provide a bit more information. I’d sign up right now if:

1) taxes were included

2) the phones have Bluetooth

3) I could surf the net from my laptop (even USB is fine with me)

4) they told me on which network(s) the phones work. I’m not paying $85 for a Sprint-only network.

Breakdown of $85/mo plan:

1000 anytime minutes

unlimited SMS

unlimited MMS

unlimited Videos

unlimited Data

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