After much huffing and puffing, Vodafone unveiled yesterday what everyone had been waiting for for months and months: its new Vodafone 360 concept, which will replace Vodafone Live! It launches on – drumroll – LiMo-OS Linux phones from Samsung with touchscreen and GPS and, for the H1, AMOLED display (yum!), WiFi, HSDPA, etc, etc, etc. and also supports a fairly big range of Nokia (not on the N97 though!) and Sony Ericsson devices (although, judging by the screenshots, it doesn’t look as sexy on those).
The 360 thing is, according to the press release
a brand new set of internet services for the mobile and PC which gathers all of a customer’s friends, communities, entertainment and personal favourites (like music, games, photos and video) in one place.
It has an address book with nodes into Facebook, IM (Windows and Google) and will “soon” also cover Twitter, Hyves and StudiVZ (the German Facebook clone). Two tailor-made (!) handsets that use a proprietary (!) interface based on LiMo’s release 2 mobile Linux OS. Users can create groups across different networks (which is very neat!), an app store with 1,000 apps at launch (no word so far what this comprises) and syncing with your computer.
So is this the big thing then? Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly:
- The service reaches out. It acknowledges (this is a big step for most carriers!) that users have a life outside their carrier. Facebook, Live Messenger and Google Talk are a bit thin, I’d say, but let’s cut them some slack; the others will follow.
- It has a couple of neat twists built-in: I mentioned a few above but there is also a feature that uses some spooky thing called the “Vodafone’s proximity algorythm” and which basically automatically favourites your most-loved people: the most frequently contacted people (like your mom?) come closer to the front.
- At least on the custom-built devices, it looks much better than previous attempts by carriers to make something look and feel a little more user-friendly.
- I hear that the whole widget-thing should be really neat. Now, I haven’t seen any of it as yet but the concept sounds good.
- It works across different operating systems (at least LiMo and Symbian).
As a funny side remark, the PR blurb points out that
The beauty of Vodafone 360 is that all the services work together and they are easy to use.
So they weren’t before, huh? 😉 — sorry, couldn’t resist…
Some commentators mentioned that the cloud-hosted address book and generally aggregation of contacts, networks etc through a provider rather than through the handset would tie people to the provider more closely (which might not actually be anything Vodafone would object to). I am not sure how tough it would really be (as you have your computer back-up), so easy on that.
It is still very much a closed-circuit affair: It is Vodafone and no one else. It is proprietary, tailor-made and not open. This is not good (and, yes, I know that the oft-cited iPhone is proprietary and tailor-made, too). Alas, its applications are not – unless your name is Spotify; then it takes a little longer… 😉
The underlying proprietary thinking is nothing I can see working longer term. In a world that is (Vodafone press speak)
a substantiator of Vodafone’s new brand expression – ‘power to you’ – which is focused on putting the customer in control and enabling simple and easy to manage communications, both mobile and fixed
this is also a little bit of a contradiction.
But I will say that it seems to be the nicest operator-built environment I have seen so far. And for this to come from the world’s largest operator is no mean feat and might actually yield some results. Go on, guys, tweak it, improve it, show us!