Despite much hype and investment, video on mobile phones hasn’t taken off yet: Research firm M:Metrics estimates only about 4.2% of U.S. wireless subscribers are watching video on their phones. What’s the holdup? Most blame lousy devices, wireless networks, and mobile-video software.
“Virtual” wireless carrier Helio has never had to worry about the first two problems: it sells high-end phones to its free-spending, early-adopter-type subscribers, running on Sprint Nextel’s speedy “3G” network. And now it is making headway with software, too, with a new, home-brewed YouTube app launching today for its “Ocean” phone…
Helio’s (free) YouTube app beats the pants off Google’s (GOOG) YouTube mobile site at m.youtube.com, with a much bigger video library and many more features, like the ability to log in to rate/comment videos, watch playlists you’ve set up on your account, and easily watch videos you’ve uploaded. You can upload videos on the fly that you’ve shot with your phone — something you can’t do with the iPhone YouTube app. It also looks/works great, thanks to the advanced “WIPI” programming environment Helio inherits from co-parent SK Telecom (SKM). While trying to watch mobile YouTube on my Treo is a joke, using the new Helio YouTube app is a pleasure.
The biggest problem: few can use the service. In October, the MVNO had just 140,000 subscribers, and only a subset of those have the Ocean, which Helio introduced this summer. We also don’t know how long Helio will be around — the company is still burning cash at an alarming rate. During Q3, Helio lost $92.3 million on sales of $51.7 million.