Helio, the “virtual” wireless carrier purchased by Virgin Mobile USA (VM) last year, plans to start selling the second edition of its flagship “Ocean” mobile phone sometime this quarter, a company rep tells us. The phone could go on sale as soon as next month.
(According to Web reports, this is what it looks like — photo from FCC documents. We’ve asked Virgin to confirm that this is the phone.)
The question: Will Ocean 2 be able to compete with smartphones like Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone, Google (GOOG) Android-powered phones like the T-Mobile G1, RIM (RIMM) BlackBerry gadgets, or Palm’s (PALM) forthcoming Pre?
When Helio launched the first Ocean in 2007, the iPhone wasn’t even on sale yet — Ocean was mostly competing with the T-Mobile Sidekick. But now you can get an iPhone for $200, including a Web browser and software platform that Helio probably can’t match.
That might not matter if Helio were a cheap service. But until now, at least, Helio has tried to go after the same big spenders as the iPhone, with monthly service starting at $65 per month, going up to $99 per month. (Virgin Mobile re-sells access to Sprint Nextel’s (S) network.)
And we can’t imagine Helio trying to charge less than $100 for the Ocean 2 — the almost two-year-old Ocean is still going for $80.
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