Pal David "Mr. Blog" Beckemeyer just put Helio under the bus, and considering David's former company, the company he co-founded, Earthlink, is a significant investor in Helio, this is big talk from someone who knows.
Aside from their beautiful and bubbly PR person Brooke Hammerling, Helio has never done a thing for me. Beyond that Helio has pretty much been a nothing player in my book, and not even a pretty face like Brooke.
In many ways Helio reminds me of "Great Expectations," the dating service. Lots of promise, but in reality, for those who tried the service, less than anticipated results. No love. No fun times. Just a lot of money spent. I say this because Earthlink's partner SK Telecom has a wicked cool and fast service over in South Korea. That was the promise of Helio when Sky Dayton and his team shopped a video around to some of us who thought Helio was going to change the world of mobile phones in the USA. Well, that didn't happen and with Earthlink cutting burn everywhere, its cloudy skies these days at Helio, with SK wondering how much longer they have to love Helio.
Basically all Helio became was a way for Sprint to move customers over to someone else's balance sheet, while giving the customers a beta tester experience for what would come next. This is made very apparent by David's point about lack of differentiation, something I've been saying since 2005 or so with the "Me Too, Me Also, Me Different" line I like to use. Clients and peers have heard me say that to be better means not just doing what everyone else does with some improvement. It means really doing something that no one else is doing or can be doing.
What Helio didn't do was protect their turf. If they wanted to be unlimited data and sell on it, they should have taken an exclusive with Sprint for many, many years, even with limits and caps on users. This will bare out as the concept of Sending Party Pays Data (thanks Martin Geddes for the lesson on this at dinner last week in London) where content companies cover the overages by paying part of your bill, just like calling party pays is happening everywhere but in the USA.
At the end of the day, Helio is a great example of "woulda, shoulda, coulda" and never did.