SK Telecom may buy out Blockbuster
Korean cell carrier SK Telecom said Thursday that it was contemplating making a bid for the struggling video chain Blockbuster. An official didn't explain the motivations, but it's suspected the deal would be an attempt to diversify away from its Korea-only network, where it leads but has a tough fight with KT and LG Telecom. Daewoo Securities analyst Byun Sung-jae told the WSJ that SK Telecom might feel oversaturated but could thrive in Internet video, where Blockbuster's content rights would be advantages.
SK Telecom wants own mobile platform
SK Telecom today signaled its plans to get into the mobile platform business. Company chief Jung Man-Won directly billed it as a strategy to "eventually compete against Google, Apple and Nokia" and set aside one trillion Won (about $897 million) over three years to develop the project. Aside from a platform to support third-party apps, it would expand existing services like T Map and T Store into services others could build on. The platform would be available in the US along with China and southeast Asia.
Stillborn Helio Ocean 3 handset leaks out
A final Helio phone that's not likely to be released at all has been leaked out thanks to MobileCrunch. The Ocean 3 would have been a product of Helio, which was bought by Virgin Mobile and closed down on Wednesday. The Helio 3 could have been the first Android-powered handsets, as the Android team met with Helio long before the first Android phone was released in September of 2008.
HP buyout of Palm costs it webOS UI designer
Palm may have been dealt a significant wound this morning as its key user interface designer Matias Duarte said this morning that he was leaving the company. The Senior Director of Human Interface and User Experience didn't say where he would go next, but sources for AllThingsD said he was leaving to join Google and develop the Android interface. Google hasn't confirmed the new hire.
Sprint Buys Virgin Mobile
Sprint this morning said it would buy out Virgin Mobile's US division for an equity value of $483 million. The deal cancels out Virgin's $248 million in outstanding debts and is intended to bolster Sprint's efforts in the arena of prepaid phones. Although Sprint already had a 13.1 percent stake in Virgin, the company now says it will use the takeover to unite its entirely self-run Boost Mobile service with Virgin under a single roof.
Helio Ocean 2 Official
Helio today formalized the launch of the Ocean 2. The handset closely fits its description from an early hands-on and adds 2GB of built-in storage, an optical navigation pad and improved messaging that involves Google Talk and threaded SMS. It continues to offer a 2-megapixel camera and built-in GPS for navigation and location-based social features. It can also serve as a media player with a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Helio Ocean 2 Feb 12th
Helio's long-delayed Ocean 2 is due to ship in just two weeks, MobileCrunch says in a pre-announcement hands-on. Supported in part by Helio parent company Virgin Mobile's own mention of the phone for a concert promo, the slip confirms that the phone will be available on February 12th. The phone continues to share the original's two-way QWERTY and number pad sliders but adds a new optical pad for navigation, 2GB of built-in storage, and improved software that includes a tabbed web browser, threaded SMS and Google Talk messaging.
Helio Ocean 2 in Feb.?
MVNO carrier Helio may ship its second Ocean smartphone as early as February, according to a company representative. The phone is at least due this quarter, which would put a release date no further than the end of March. The current Ocean is Helio's signature phone, a messaging device with many iPhone-like features such as a YouTube client and a built-in GPS receiver. The Ocean 2 is expected to have similar features, such as a microSD slot and a two-megapixel camera with flash.
Helio Ocean 2 at FCC
The long-rumored Helio Ocean 2 has finally shown in concrete form courtesy of an FCC filing made public today. Appearing under the codename OZII, the Pantech-made dual slider matches earlier leaks and appears to primarily change the looks of the original Ocean as well as improve the software; aside from chromed trim, the device would chiefly improve by adding a full HTML web browser.
Ocean 2 on Virgin in 2009
Virgin Mobile plans to carry Helio's planned Ocean sequel but doesn't have plans for it until next year, says company spokesperson Jayne Wallace. Although confirming that the device has been built and that Virgin will take over releasing the device to market, Wallace says the new Ocean isn't yet ready and that it should be launched in early 2009, when it will perform as "best" as possible. Little is known about the Pantech-made device other than that it should continue to use a dual slider and that it will have a cosmetic makeover.
PCD Shuttle at Virgin
Virgin Mobile today bore the first fruits of its takeover of Helio by introducing the Personal Communication Devices (formerly UTStarCom) Shuttle. The device is Virgin's first 3G phone and uses the faster EVDO network for several features that are either borrowed from Helio or were previously inaccessible to Virgin's phones, including quick access to multiple social networks as well as Buddy Beacon for finding friends and YouTube for web video.
Helio by Virgin USA news
The purchase of the Helio mobile network provider by Virgin Mobile, which concluded on August 22, has resulted in Helio by Virgin Mobile, and the new company announced some changes on Tuesday. Contrary to previous reports, however, the Helios brand will continue to operate. The integration of the two have resulted in Virgin launching the Shuttle, its first handset that will support Helio's data-intensive services, including the Buddy Beacon that uses the integrated GPS to locate other users via a chat-like program. At the same time, the company announced that existing and new Helio subscriptions to the $80 A La Carte program will be upgraded to include unlimited minutes instead of the current 1,500 minutes.
Virgin Helio Deal Approved
Virgin Mobile today said the US government has greenlit its buyout of Helio. The approval comes without having to change the original terms of the deal, which hands over all of Helio's 170,000 customers and actually improves the rates Virgin pays Sprint to use its network for calls and data. It also significantly reduces Helio's debt and gives the partly Korean-owned company two seats on Virgin's board of directors.
SKT Wants Sprint Stake
SK Telecom isn't interested in a direct takeover of Sprint but is nonetheless interested in gaining a clear stake in the American wireless carrier, according to reports. The Korean company now denies that it has any plans to completely buy out Sprint but is now said by sources of BusinessWeek to be mulling a "major stake" in the cellular provider that would require seats on Sprint's board of directors, handing a significant amount of influence to SK Telecom over larger decisions.
SK Telecom May Buy Sprint
Korean communications giant SK Telecom is discussing buying out third-largest American cell carrier Sprint, CNBC claims. Although technically smaller than Sprint, sources say SKT hopes to bring a private equity group into the deal that would give it enough financial clout to complete the deal. The Korean company allegedly wants any takeover to occur on friendly terms and is proceeding slowly, with any possible agreement still uncertain and weeks away at the earliest.
Duarte Reworking Palm UI
One of the most prominent phone interface designers is now working for Palm for its next operating system, Engadget confirms in a hunt for new information. Matias Duarte, who designed much of the interface behind the Danger Sidekick and later moved on to Helio's custom interface, is now known through checks with sources and Palm itself to be a Senior Director in Palm's Human Interface and User Experience design group. The new executive quietly left his former post at Helio for the new position nearly two years ago in September 2007.
Virgin Mobile Buys Helio
Virgin Mobile today shook up the American wireless business with news that it would acquire Helio for $39 million in share equity, merging the latter into Virgin's mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) business. The deal also has Virgin absorbing some of Helio's debt and also gives the carrier Helio's 170,000 customers in the US, with the latter ending its brand in the US. The deal should be completed during the summer pending US government approval, according to the two companies.
Virgin Mobile Unlimited
Virgin Mobile today is next up in the US to offer an unlimited calling plan that it promises should beat other, larger carriers. The Totally Unlimited service removes the caps on the number of minutes but also eliminates some of the restrictions that affect rival plans. Subscribers don't need to sign a contract locking them into service or to pay roaming fees when they venture outside of Virgin's official coverage area. Virgin users also don't require a credit or debit card and can pay the bill using the carrier's own Top-Up cards.
Helio Ocean 2 images
Images of a new Helio phone have leaked online, accounts say. Visitors to YouTube report having seen a number of clips of someone demonstrating an alleged "Ocean 2," an upgraded version of its popular messaging and multimedia phone. Although the clips have since disappeared, a lone still from a video remains, showing a device with substantial cosmetic differences. Among these are a new metallic rim and navigation pad.
Helio May Close Stores
The mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) market in the US may be on the verge of collapse with Helio about to scale back or shut down entirely, according to a rumor circulated by Engadget. The provider is allegedly telling store managers that it will shut down at least some of its retail shops in possible preparation for a takeover by Virgin Mobile. No information has yet appeared to suggest that Helio is withdrawing support for the service itself.
Virgin Confirms Helio Talk
Virgin Mobile USA today confirmed that it was in the early stages of talks with SK Telecom to investigate "strategic opportunities" between the two companies. The revelation partly rebuffs denials by SKT of involvement with Virgin but doesn't provide more details as to the nature of the talks beyond the statement. There are no guarantees that anything will result from negotiations, Virgin claims. The company adds that it has no plans to add more detail unless any deal is struck.
SK Denies Helio Virgin Buy
SK Telecom has no plans to merge Helio with Virgin Mobile to create a major new carrier, the Korean company says. SKT spokeswoman Mina Ryu rejects reports of discussions and claims there aren't "any sort of talks" to either merge its Helio brand with Virgin or else buy out Virgin directly. The rumors are "groundless," Ryu says.
Virgin Mobile Helio Rumor
SK Telecom may create a new, large carrier in the US by folding Virgin Mobile and Helio together, according to an alleged source for mocoNews. Earthlink's withdrawal from Helio is said to have pushed Helio's Korean parent, SK Telecom, towards a buyout of Helio's larger competitor Virgin Mobile to ensure it has a larger presence in the US. Such a takeover would give SK Telecom enough clout to merge both Helio and Virgin together.
Helio Ocean Opera Mini
Helio today revealed that the Ocean would be the first cellphone to have free access to Opera Mini. The update gives the dual-mode slider phone browsing that more closely resembles desktops rather than the basic WAP browsing it had used before; as with Apple's mobile Safari, users can see a zoomed-out version of the full, accurately rendered page and then zoom in to focus on specific articles. Opera's unique remote caching approach also helps make the most of the Ocean's 3G connection by cutting down on load times.
Samsung Miniskirt Season 2
Turning its updates into a yearly refresh, Samsung on Monday released the Miniskirt Season 2, also known as the C225. The slider phone replaces the original C220 and adds a handful of features in addition to a suite of new colors. The 2-megapixel camera is one of the few to provide a smile detection for portraits; also new to the phone is haptic (vibration) feedback from the touch-sensitive buttons and a feature that finds meet-ups in SMS messages and adds them as calendar events.
HTC Dual Mode Slider
HTC has developed a technology for slider phones that could make them both more useful and more elegant, according to a new US patent filing. Rather than rely on either dual sliders (as with the Helio Ocean) or other complicated designs, the prototype would include a unique keyboard plate and slider track that would allow users to shift the LCD from calling to text modes without significantly impacting the size of the phone.
Helio loses $326 million
MVNO carrier Helio has posted a net loss of $326 million for 2007, an official announcement reveals. Although the carrier's revenue grew to $171 million last year from $46 million in 2006, the company has also been facing mounting costs, such as an advertising budget that rose from $21.6 to $47.5 million. Recent losses are notably out of proportion to those from 2006, which were only $192 million.
Buddy Beacon Expands
Buddy Beacon's creator uLocate today said its service was expanding to include several carriers and web services. Previously limited to Helio phones with a GPS device, the service willl soon let Alltel, Boost Mobile, MetroPCS, and Sprint users both update their positions and their current activities. The service should now also be available through the web: users can add an iPhone application as well as a Facebook tool for updating information across the popular social network.
EarthLink sells muni Wi-Fi
Marking a low point for efforts at public Internet, EarthLink has announced the closure of all its operations related to municipal Wi-Fi access, which are now on sale. The Internet service provider's venture effectively stalled in the summer, and will cost its budget $20.7 million. CEO Rolla Huff blames the stoppage on expenses; analysts note that EarthLink asked cities such as San Francisco to help pay for some upfront costs, but they were unwilling, leaving the burden solely on the corporation.
Helio this morning added to its shortlist of carrier-specific features with BuzzD. The new service depends heavily on the GPS location feature built into Helio's current phone lineup to provide information about events and other entertainment near the the device; subscribers can find out about concerts, pubs, restaurants, or other gatherings even when they roam to other US cities, Helio says. The service is also review-driven to help users pick out better places to visit, and permits user-submitted reviews that give a sense for the experience for recent visitors down to just minutes ahead of the BuzzD users themselves.
YouTube Mobile Video
YouTube's mobile video service will soon work with far more device s than currently available, the Google-owned company said today. A code change for the website should allow some phones from LG, Motorola, Nokia, and Sony-Ericsson to have largely the same playback features as the desktop page: this includes the ability to rate and search for videos as well as visit particular users' channels, YouTube says.
Helio Mysto Ships
Helio this morning announced the widespread availability of the Mysto. Previously only available in a Korean version for those willing to get the device early, this conversion of Samsung's Ultra U600 slider continues to revolve around Helio's signature GPS features but adds a pair of crucial software features. Called Tellme, the first feature lets users find nearby locations through simple speech: holding a button and mentioning the name of a store will find the nearest location and provide directions. Equally new to Helio is WHERE, a set of GPS-connected web widgets that adds geotagging to Twitter posts, finds nearby gas stations, or checks local weather without the need for entering information by hand.
Helio Mysto Korean Version
Helio on Friday took the unusual step of launching the Samsung Mysto first for Korean-language users of its US-based service, taking advantage of the company's roots in Korea's SK Telecom. Believed to have its roots in the U600, the thin slider shares the features of Helio's more recent phones, including its 2-megapixel camera, true GPS with a Buddy Beacon feature to locate Helio-using friends, and a heavy emphasis on its 3G Internet access. Users can both stream videos and upload them through YouTube, though the device is not believed to run the same YouTube app as the Pantech-made Ocean.
Helio debyts Player app
In a first for the US, MVNO carrier Helio has released the Helio Player, a piece of Windows software dedicated solely to its own phones. The app was developed by RealNetworks, and is meant to simplify the process of shuttling media between phones and PCs. It is divided into three tabs, one each for Music, Pictures and Video; the highlight is Music, which not only lets users copy MP3, M3A and WMA files to a phone, but import anything bought on Helio's 3G service, or export tracks bought at a reduced rate from within Player.
Helio Ocean YouTube
Helio this morning announced it would add a dedicated YouTube program for the Ocean, becoming one of the few outside of Apple to receive a customized YouTube client. The Pantech-made, dual slider phone receives the ability to not just browse videos either in landscape or portrait view but also to contribute; users can rate videos and add comments but also upload contributions taken using the Ocean's built-in camera. Uploaders can customize the title and tags for a video but also take advantage of the Ocean's GPS unit to geotag videos, pinpointing the location for later use at a site such as Google Maps.