Vodafone announces Vodafone 360

Vodafone has announced the launch of Vodafone 360, a new suite of innovative internet services for the mobile and PC.

All of a customer’s contacts, status updates and messaging services are brought together in one place enhancing the customer’s experience and use of social media. Customers will have integrated contacts, music, photos and mapping services and can share their favourite music choices and even their physical location, how and when they choose, with their chosen groups of friends.

The service is automatically backed up and synchronised, regularly and wirelessly, between the mobile and PC or Mac. All contacts updates, emails, photos and conversation history or settings changes made either at home or when on the move are saved, keeping all the content up to date.

“Vodafone 360 is the first service of its kind to offer customers the benefits of a truly integrated mobile internet experience that gathers all their contacts and content, all around them, in one place,” said Pieter Knook, director of internet services at Vodafone Group.

IDC analysts John Delaney and Jonathan Arber commented on the announcement: “You could be forgiven for feeling a nagging sense of déjà vu upon hearing this announcement, as superficially it recalls Nokia’ first Ovi announcement in 2007. However, there are some key differences here, the key one being that social networking is being firmly positioned as the core of Vodafone 360.

“Indeed, for many Vodafone customers, Vodafone People is the only portion of the new service they will be able to access at launch. Given the speed with which consumers are realising the potential of the mobile handset as a social networking platform, Vodafone has clearly seen an opportunity to use its network assets to offer its customers an enhanced experience.”

With Vodafone 360, IDC believes Vodafone is right to position itself as an aggregator as well as a service provider. Rather than attempting to position this as an entirely new social network, as Nokia did with Share on Ovi, it is instead focusing on allowing users to bring together contacts and content from their existing social networks, and to share content to these networks.

This focus on enhancing, rather than replacing, customers’ social networks and services is something IDC expects to see more of from other operators in the coming months.

The Vodafone 360 suite of services has been designed and developed by Vodafone. At launch the full Vodafone 360 experience will be available on two exclusive handsets built to Vodafone’s specification by Samsung.

Delaney and Arber continued, noting that Vodafone has stated it will be focusing on LiMo-based devices. “While this fits with the open platforms strategy announced at Mobile World Congress, it does seem somewhat of a limitation, given that only a handful of manufacturers are currently deploying LiMo,” they said. “The question is whether consumers will consider the enhanced Vodafone 360 experience enough reason to choose a Vodafone handset over the current ‘hot’ devices. Given the increasingly fierce competition in the mid-to-high end touchscreen space, we think Vodafone will have something of a fight on its hands.”

The Vodafone 360 H1 by Samsung boasts a 3.5″ multitouch, high definition OLED screen, 16GB memory, WiFi, a maximum talk time of over 400 minutes (3G) and a 5 megapixel camera. It will be followed shortly by a second Samsung handset, offering customers a range of colours and price points.

At launch four Nokia Symbian smartphones will come pre-loaded with Vodafone 360 and part or all of the service will be downloadable to over one hundred popular phones. In the coming months Vodafone will be making the service available through as wide a selection of handsets and operating systems from multiple manufacturers as possible.

The 2009 launch in Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK will be followed by launches in a number of other countries in 2010, including India, Turkey, South Africa, New Zealand and Romania and in France through SFR, through MTS in Russia, and through Vodafone Hutchison Australia.

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