Helio, a cellphone venture targeted at affluent young people that is to launch this spring, plans to announce today an exclusive partnership with the popular social-networking site MySpace.com.
MySpace, which is owned by News Corp., has about 55 million users, many of them young people who visit the site to post their own pages and communicate with friends. Helio is a venture between Internet-service provider EarthLink Inc. of Atlanta and South Korean wireless operator SK Telecom Co., which say they plan invest $440 million in the company.
Helio users will be able to do such things as use their phones to take a photo of themselves at a club and post it to MySpace with an invitation to join them. Users will be able to use their phones to post blog entries on MySpace or access their MySpace contacts and photos.
Helio plans to debut its first phones today -- models with two megapixel cameras, big memories and extensive online capabilities. The phones are made by South Korea's Pantech Co.and VK Mobile, which cater to that nation's technologically advanced mobile market.
Helio hasn't announced prices for the phones or the service. Helio is betting that lifestyle-oriented services and souped-up phones will help it win in a crowded field.
Helio will face competition from large companies and from specialty carriers like Virgin Group's Virgin Mobile USA LLC. The premium-phone market is highly competitive with fashionable devices like Sprint Nextel's Samsung MM-A920 that double as movie screens, music players, game machines, Web surfers and email devices.
Unlike many youth-oriented, budget-conscious services, Helio is aiming at tech-savvy consumers age 18 to 34 who will pay for advanced phones and services.
"It's about being connected to your world, and the most powerful social network in the world right now is MySpace," said Sky Dayton, Helio's chief executive, in an interview. Mobile access to MySpace will be free to users of Helio, whose relationship with MySpace will be exclusive at launch time. He declined to comment on the arrangement, including how long it will remain exclusive.