Helio logo with trademark

Helio is an imaginative niche player in the vigorously competitive wireless industry. Its populist business philosophy truly delivers on its promises of social networking and genuine innovation.

Consider their "All In" plans: a customer need only select their minutes and everything else is included and unlimited, including their latest offering of an optimized YouTube service where customers can view millions of videos instead of thousands and can interact on the service much as they would do from their computer. In fact, you can even shoot a video using their new Ocean (More on the Ocean in a moment), and then tag it and upload it directly to YouTube.

This free YouTube service is fundamentally juxtaposed to the profit-centric, highly controlled, fee-based a la carte offerings of the large carriers. (Breath, Scot, Breath) The comparison is stark.

Helio, which is owned by SK Telecom, has positioned itself as a friendly alternative to the major carriers. When you are a Helio customer, you are part of a community. Whether you own a Fin, or a Heat or an Ocean, it's a Helio! In many ways Helio is to cell phones what Apple was and continues to be to computers: the smaller company that just seems to get it right.

Helio made big news with its May 11th release of their breakout, breakthrough Ocean. In researching this article this writer found almost universal approval of this powerful device. Due to the truly innovative nature of the Ocean I am compelled to review it, because reviewing the Ocean is no less a review of the what Helio the company is all about.

First, it's important to be clear that words mean things, company mission statements are supposed to mean things and when a wireless provider claims to put the customer first - it's supposed to mean something.

But as a student of the wireless industry I have found numerous examples where the two major carriers ultimately act in their own best interest rather than the consumers, and veer from this only when they fear government regulation. The whole "we put the customer first" is market window dressing. They put profit first. I have nothing against profit. I'm quite fond of it. But call it profit!

The reason I mention this is because Helio really does put the customer first, and the Ocean embodies this philosophy by putting more functionality, more freedom and more ease of use in their customer's hands than the two big carriers are willing to match.

For example, with the major carriers, in order to have unlimited messaging, it will cost you an additional $19.99 per month. With Helio it is included. Adding a data plan with a major carrier is also an additional monthly charge, but with Helio you can surf honest to goodness rich HTML web pages all day long, at no additional charge.

Remember, when AT&T Wireless or Verizon Wireless innovates, is is to produce services that will increase revenue, but since Helio's "All In" plans already include a big, bold bundle of breathtaking apps and services, their goal appears to be to provide an experience their larger competitors cannot match.

To understand all this you need to understand just how truly innovative the Ocean is. So let me provide an overview.

The Helio Ocean features:

Idle Search: The ability to conduct a search immediately, right from your main screen, without having to launch any application, navigate to a particular URL, etc. You simply type what you want and you will receive default results from Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Amazon and Yelp.

True HTML web browsing: The Ocean provides a robust, graphically rich internet experience, just like the iPhone. For all the hype over Verizon's Voyager, in the end the Voyager still takes you to the same old uninspired, crunched-down, Verizon-controlled mobile 2.0.

2.0MP camera with flash, video record, even a mirror so you can center your face for self portraits.

An all-in-one seamless message centerthat allows you to run multiple IM apps simultaneously. Using Buddy Icons, you can even see if your fellow Helio friends are online, further adding depth to their notion of community communication! You can even send pictures in IM's!

GPS: Google Maps and Mapquest. Where Verizon charges me $9.99 per month, GPS is all part of the bundle. In fairness to Verizon, Helio offers free Google Maps, but to get the kind of GPS that competes with Verizon's VZNavigator, there is an additional charge. Still, they offer a functional, workable GPS at no additional charge.

Bluetooth 2.0: The Helio comes complete with stereo headphones in the box, and a USB cable, both of which are sold a la carte by Verizon.

File Viewer: Allows you to view Word documents.

Multiple email accounts with push-through technology. Where Verizon makes you wirelessly sync, the Ocean receives your emails as they are sent.

Ability to capture pictures and video content online, and save it as wallpaper.

All this and much more, wrapped up in an attractive, oval-shaped, rubberized dual-slider that just screams to be used.

Helio is NOT a carrier network. It uses the Sprint network and therefore Sprint's coverage area for it's service. Be careful to check coverage, as the Sprint network is not as pervasive as either Verizon or AT&T.

If you like having the latest in cell phone functionality, if you are a text monster, and if you live in an area well represented by Sprint, you may want to consider Helio.