Virgin Readies Ocean 2 Smartphone - InformationWeek

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02:37 PM

Virgin Readies Ocean 2 Smartphone

The updated Ocean has multimedia features and can get push e-mail on the go, but may have a hard time standing out in an increasingly crowded field.

Virgin Ocean 2 smartphone

Virgin Ocean 2 smartphone
(click for larger image)
When Virgin Mobile purchased Helio for $39 million last year, the company said it would continue to release handsets that utilize data-heavy services. Virgin is keeping its word with the upcoming release of the Ocean 2.

The Ocean 2 takes many of its design cues from its predecessor. It has a dual-sliding form factor that's slimmed down, the handset slides up to reveal a number pad, and a full QWERTY keyboard slides out horizontally. That keyboard does come with a price, though, as it's thicker than most of its competitors.

Users can stay connected with the integrated EV-DO 3G connection, and this can be used to send and receive e-mail, use instant messaging services, and surf the Web with the proprietary HTML browser. The handset can receive push e-mail from Web-based accounts like Yahoo and Gmail, as well as corporate accounts through Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. Virgin also has included a service called Helio Connect, which enables one-click access to social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube.

The Ocean 2 comes with an integrated GPS chip that can be used with services like Google Maps and Microsoft's Tellme. Like other Helio devices, the Ocean 2 can use the Buddy Beacon service for location-based friend finding, and there are widgets to find nearby restaurants, gas stations, and other venues.

The new Ocean ditches a d-pad for an optical sensor touch pad that can be used for navigation. It sports a 2.6-inch QVGA screen, has a 2-megapixel camera, and can play multiple audio and video codecs. The handset should be available in February for about $149.99 with a new two-year contract.

When the original Ocean was released, it targeted the space between enterprise and casual use, and the only real competitor it had was Apple's iPhone. But the Ocean 2 may have a hard time drawing new subscribers, as it's facing a crowded field of consumer-friendly, powerful smartphones, including the BlackBerry Storm, the T-Mobile G1, and the HTC Touch Diamond.

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