How did an MVNO start-up with only 100,000 subscribers pass up the big boys such as Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile at CTIA Wireless? By announcing the only truly innovative product at show, the Helio Ocean. The unofficial "Best of CTIA 2007 Award" definitely goes to Helio.There's no gentle way to say it. Sorry, Verizon, Cingular, Sprint and T-Mobile, you're just not hip. I don't mean to offend, but the trend-setting crowd, the real forward thinkers and early adopters, are not using the general devices that come off the rack at Radio Shack. While some carriers have better device portfolios than others, there are very few hip products in the vast line-ups of the major players that have any real street cred.
Internet guru and pioneer Sky Dayton's latest project, the mobile virtual network operator Helio, announced the only device at CTIA Wireless that could be termed hip. The dual-sliding Helio Ocean is the rock-star of cell phones at the moment. It almost goes far enough to dampen the ever-rampant iPhone buzz. The form factor includes a large screen, and the dual-slide design reveals a numeric keypad when slid up, and a full qwerty keyboard for messaging when slid sideways. The software innovations that go with the hardware innovations are truly unique (such as GPS and Google Maps, the buddy beacon, and full HTML browser with MiniMap viewing), and features I'd like to see carried to other wireless network operators' offerings.
Helio itself has been around for just about a year. Launched last May as a joint venture between SK Telekom and EarthLink (Dayton's other pioneering company), it caters to the trend-setting crowd and provides cellular coverage over Sprint's EV-DO network.
The device will sell for about $295 and will be available later this year. I encourage you to check it out. You may not deploy it at your enterprise, but your teenager will drool over it.