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Vodafone discontinues bespoke 360 handsets; H2 cancelled


If you recall a few weeks ago I posted an exclusive from the Vodafone 360 team announcing the upcoming arrival of the Vodafone 360 Samsung H2. I’d taken a look at the H2 and found it a rather nice improvement on the Samsung H1 (the original top-end 360 handset).

Well, I’ve got some news straight from the lion’s den at the 360 team: No more H2.

In fact, no more bespoke 360 handsets.

Henceforth Vodafone is going to focus on enhancing the 360 services rather than worrying about it’s own bespoke handsets.

Here is the formal statement from the company:

Vodafone’s core strategy remains to offer the best range of smartphones in all markets in which we compete. We have decided to accelerate our Vodafone 360 services strategy, making 360 services available on as many devices as we can as soon as we can. From now 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. Consequently there will be no further development of bespoke Vodafone 360 handsets, and activity on the H2 ceases with immediate effect.

We have always been clear that Vodafone 360 is about a suite of services, not just about bespoke devices. Our intent was always to provide services across as many handsets as possible on as many platforms. Today Vodafone 360 is available across a wide range of over 100 handsets and on 5 platforms and this will continue to expand going forward.

On one hand I feel this is quite a shame, because I did identify with the broader strategy (if not necessarily the precise implementation along the way). I liked the vertical concept of owning the hardware, the services, the network and of course, the customer experience. But, as I have pointed out many a time, if you’re going to do this, you need to do it properly and with full conviction — and the necessary resources.

I think it’s a good step for the company. I think it makes sense to ship the responsibility for hardware design back to the OEMs rather than have the Vodafone teams obsessing over it. The H2 was always going to be compared to the rest of the company’s range — and goodness me, it must have been a challenge deciding over handsets to push in a given month. Do you push the company’s own H1/M1 360 phones? Or do you push the latest Sony or Nokia? Lots of questions and lots of problems.

So services is the way ahead. They’ve already been doing a lot of work spreading 360 across all the major platforms they support. Here’s an example:

That’s the Vodafone 360 implementation on the Sony Ericisson X10 Mini-pro (as I saw it, pre-release, a few weeks ago). As you can see, you’ve got the 360 shop, updates, music shop, apps and so on all available at a touch of a button.

In the coming months, expect to see almost every capable Vodafone ranged handset to come preinstalled with an array of 360 services such as those above.

The challenge now Vodafone? Get it right. I don’t mean half-right. I don’t mean almost-there. I don’t mean ‘leave at 4.30pm’ and do a sort-of-ok job. Let’s see best-in-class. You’ve got the right people, good resources and a phenomenal brand to work with. Brilliance and nothing but, please.

Push the boat out.

Show us what you can do. And really, really augment the OEM efforts. I want to see consumers purchasing a Vodafone Nokia N8, for example, rather than an o2 Nokia N8, *because* of all the cool stuff offered by the Vodafone 360 services.

It’s a big ask. You can do it.

(Read: You’ve got no excuse now.)

[ Excuse me whilst I go and stick my head in a bucket of cold water now. I’m not used to exhibiting positivity when it comes to Vodafone 360. Give it 6 months and I hope we’ll see some seriously good results. Otherwise I’ll need a job lot of sleeping pills. ]

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