One of the biggest dilemmas facing operators, as they seek to keep their brands foremost in users' minds despite the sparkle of Android and Apple, is where they can best achieve this.
Should they take on Nokia in branding the devices, create their own user interface to rival HTC Sense - or, and perhaps more realistically, draw their power from the capabilities of their networks and servers?
Some carriers are admitting defeat at the smartphone end and looking to attract customers and new revenues by harnessing network features like location, and the growing importance of the mobile cloud.
Vodafone seems to be going in this direction with a rethink of its 360 web services strategy, launched last year but delivering mixed results so far.
The cellco now plans to give up on own-branded handsets for 360, reports Total Telecom, and focus instead on expanding the mobile back-up and other cloud services under the brand.
Although own-brand cellphones remain important at the low end, Vodafone will look to entice handset vendors to preload 360 services on their devices, rather than competing with them.
It has already released a version of the 360 store for Android, as well as its launch operating system, LiMO - a Linux-based OS that is heavily driven by the operators, but has not achieved the market weight of its Google backed alternative. And it has even said it would like to see 360 apps on the iPhone.
True to its new approach, the carrier is to halt development of its second generation 360-branded smartphone, the LiMO-based H2 from Samsung.
The existing two 360 handsets, M1 and H1, are also from Samsung, although the services are supported across a wide variety of non-cellco phones too, numbering about 100 models and five platforms.
“From now on we will be focusing all efforts on expanding the range of handsets and platforms that support Vodafone 360 and in developing and enhancing the suite of Vodafone 360 services,” said the operator in a statement to Total Telecom.
“Consequently there will be no further development of bespoke Vodafone 360 handsets, and activity on the H2 ceases with immediate effect.”
The change of heart is a blow for LiMO, whose selling point is the way it supports carrier brands and business models. Outside its Japanese stronghold, Vodafone 360 had been its flagship alliance and Verizon Wireless was expected to launch a similar service with LiMO devices later in 2010.
This article originally appeared in Rethink Wireless