Monday, May 08, 2006

Helio First Impressions

I wanted to clarify something that I hadn't said before. Our company is an application developer and it's our goal to get the widest distribution possible. From that perspective, all carriers are good. I am not writing about Helio as it relates to that at all. I am writing about Helio because I think I am in their target demographic. Ok, maybe at the high end of the target demographic in terms of age, but nonetheless, when I heard the original Helio announcement, I thought, "Here is an MVNO for me, high end phones, 3G networks, etc." This should be my carrier.

So whether or not that assumption was flawed, I have proceeded to get a phone and have gone through some of the processes that I described earlier that I will describe as opening week jitters. That sort of stuff happens and it was neither my intent or desire to say, "hey I keep having problems." I will say that there was one other thing that popped up that I wont go into but I want to say that their VP of Operations called me to give me a hand with some of the issues I had been experiencing. I was impressed with the outreach.

My requirements for a carrier are pretty straightforward. I want a lot of minutes for talking. I average 2000-3000 a month. I have a 5000 minute plan with T-Mobile to cover that. I want to have a feature rich phone or at least flexibility to bring my own phone if I don't see anything that excites me. My current phone is the Sony Ericsson P910. I love it and have gushed about it frequently. It is a slight bit big and slightly underpowered in the media department and lack of hi-speed network capability. I also want to be able to use my phone to read my email, surf the web and act as a modem for my laptop in a pinch. This means unlimited data or cheap data. At it's core I want a cool phone without a lot of restrictions.

The Hero phone is amazing. All of the specs are great. The sound is great. The gameplay is stunning. The UI is out of this world, truly a big improvement over most phones. As an FYI, my phone UI bias is Sony Ericsson and Samsung. I am not a Nokia convert. I think that the Hero UI is close to what I am used to.

The EVDO network is solid. Actually, let me say, that I expect it to be solid as the Sprint Ambassador Samsung A920 phone that just kicks ass in terms of speed. I haven't really been able to properly put the phone through it's steps to see how it performs under some serious load, but the Samsung has been a champ and I expect that when I get the chance to work the Hero, it will be similar.

I plan to spend more time with the phone later but there were several things that made me pause or scratch my head. First off, the HOT or Helio On Top application. It is a nifty feature that sends alerts to the screen of my phone. Like Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo etc. It also has Myspace news and IGN news. Great. Let me go in and customize this for the stuff that I use or the blogs that I read. Not so much. Or at least not now. I imagine they will change that but for now my ability to customize or personalize the experience is fairly constrained. I guess Bloglines on my Sidekick II is staying for a bit longer. The HOT application also made my phone occasionally non-responsive. Again, I am sure this will get fixed.

The next issue, that to me is currently the biggest issue is the open/walled garden setup of the phone browser. This certainly has to be an oversight. The ability to go to the WAP sites of choice or even to view non WAP sites is pretty limited. I think this is probably a network configuration issue. I am not sure if it is intentional or not. After realizing that the installed browser is not HTML friendly, or doesn't come installed with a real browser like Opera was on my Sony. I cruise through the Opera site and get to the download and then get a permissions error from the phone. Sorry bucko, no can do. Ok, this has got to be wrong. I haven't had the chance to install any software yet and maybe that is by design. I am loading the software for my PC in the next day or two when my actual phone gets here and will see how the PC integrates with the phone and see if I can do some software installs that way.

The other big glaring thing for me, and it's not something I would expect to be there, but the Sprint Ambassador phone has actually gotten me fascinated more than I expected, was the lack of a music store to load tracks onto my sweet new phone. The only music available are music videos. Huh? This might be a user error issue but I am not sure.

Anyway, like I said these are first impressions. I certainly hope the phone/network are a bit more open than I see at first glance. If that is the case I would say I am heading down the path to really liking where they are taking this. If it's more locked down then it's probably not for me.

I am not going to comment on the Myspace integration for obvious reasons but will say that I have used it a lot and would like to see someone else review that functionality soon.


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Anonymous said...

This is really a lovely .. ahem, let me start again. Would love to hear if your experience with the Helio phone has improved since then. If it hasn't Sky Dayton should hear about it.

Anonymous said...

I am also interested in this phone, especially because of the speed of the network and the prices of their plans. Before taking the plunge though, I contacted Helio and asked some questions. They told me that they dont allow users to use the phone as a modem for your laptop, so that feature won't work. Sad to hear about the browser and the fact that you can't just browse the web however you feel. It definitely seems locked down as far as what you can do online. That is not for me.