Helio’s Last Chance: the Ocean

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.