Vodafone 360 goes live, with focus on social networking

Vodafone will either be widely praised or ridiculed depending on the success of the gamble it is taking with the launch of its new 360 service. The company, which switched on the service last Friday, said that two Samsung handsets - the H1 and M1, have been tailored to support 360 with access to an app store containing around 1000 products.

However, Vodafone is betting on the new 360 service attracting enough people that want to join its community - which will require an easily understood marketing message from the company.

The main element of the new service is called Vodafone People, a connected address book. The service is automatically backed up and synchronised, regularly and wirelessly, between the mobile and PC or Mac. All contact updates, e-mails, photos and conversation history or settings changes made either at home or when on the move are saved.

However, Facebook and Google Talk will be integrated before Twitter - driven by the sheer number of users that the leading social networking website has, although users will be able share things like photos, music and their location with others that have signed up to 360.

Vodafone has also confirmed that 360 will be downloadable before the end of 2009 as client for Symbian handsets, which could mean that over 100 phones form Nokia and Sony Ericsson should be compatible with the Vodafone 360 service.

Interestingly, to help grow its apps base, Vodafone has said that it will make its APIs freely available, including those which cover its LBS and billing apps. The company is also promising SDKs to become available in the near term.

While Vodafone has spent almost two years developing its 360 service in-house, it is likely to take much less time for others to catch up, using external service providers. Platforms, such as Android, are seen as being much better placed to innovate and deploy new services, and, unless managed in the right way, Vodafone might struggle to cope with this pace of innovation.

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Check out the Vodafone 360 H1 and M1 from Samsung