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November 09, 2006

Helio Launches Buddy Beacon Location Service with Samsung Drift Mobile Phone

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Associate Editor

Mobile telephony company Helio today announced a new GPS-based location and tracking service called Buddy Beacon. The service, which uses Google (News - Alert) mapping technology, is available on the Drift co-branded phone from Samsung.

The Drift phone, in combination with Buddy Beacon, lets customers exchange information about their current location with nearby friends, Associated Press said in a report.
“Rather than calling or texting, Helio members can switch on their Buddy Beacon and use satellite technology to broadcast their location to the friends they add to their Buddy List,” Helio explained in its announcement. “When they turn on Buddy Beacon, their Buddy List friends can see their location on a map along with a nearby address.”
The AP report noted that a service similar to Buddy Beacon previously was available from AT&T (News - Alert) Wireless, but was discontinued when the company was acquired by Cingular.
Instead of GPS, AT&T’s Find Friends service “relied on triangulation to locate a subscriber, measuring the distances a signal was traveling between the person's phone and the closest network antennas,” AP said.
The AP report added that mobile companies including Sprint (News - Alert), Nextel, and Disney Mobile recently began offering phones that let parents track the location of their children. Tracking services for business use also are gaining momentum.

Helio President and COO Wonhee Sull said in a statement that Buddy Beacon is just the latest service the company offers as a way to bring advanced wireless technologies from Korea to the U.S.
“Exceptional collaborators like Samsung (News - Alert) and Google combined with Helio’s focus on constant innovation are making first-to-market devices like Drift and our specialized services a reality,” Sull said.
Buddy Beacon is included on Drift with Helio’s All-In membership plan; also included is a GPS-enabled version of Google Maps, which provides real-time traffic data, detailed directions, integrated search results (map with info about local businesses), and satellite imagery.
Some of Drift’s features are listed below.
  • Two colors: gunmetal black and frost white
  • 2.12-inch display
  • Stereo Bluetooth
  • 128MB internal memory (expandable using microSD)
  • 2.0 megapixel camera for still photos and video
  • MP3, MPEG-4 and VOD support
The phone retails for $225.
Mae Kowalke previously wrote for Cleveland Magazine in Ohio and The Burlington Free Press in Vermont. To see more of her articles, please visit Mae Kowalke’s columnist page. Also check out her Wireless Mobility blog.

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