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Helio, the US content-centric mobile phone service, has gone on sale today, pitching two 3G handsets, a messaging-oriented airtime package and online blogging tools to young, tech-savvy consumers. It hopes to sign up 3m of them in the next three years.

Backed by South Korea Telecom and US ISP EarthLink, Helio piggybacks on Sprint Nextel's network. Its two handsets, Hero and Kickflip, are designed to appeal to the iPod generation and deliver access to youth-friendly messaging features like a mobile client for the MySpace photo blogging system and MMS.

The service also offers video streams and downloads, a raft of handset personalisation options and RSS feed-friendly screensavers. Such content can be shared with other users, while paid-for downloads can be gifted to other Helio owners.

The company's two handsets, Hero and Kickflip, both sport 2.2in, 262,144-colour, 240 x 320 displays, two-megapixel cameras with digital zoom and flash facilities, and dedicated media processing chips. Hero is made by Pantech, Kickflip by VK Mobile, Helio said. Hero is a slider phone, while Kickflip has a swivel-out keypad.

helio hero and kickflip

Helio's handsets cost $275 and $250, respectively. On top that, there's a choice of $85, $100 or $135 a month tariffs bundling respectively 1,000, 1,500 and 2,500 minutes' talk and data time. The company is also offering a $40-a-month package that bundles 500 minutes' talk time but bills for multimedia services on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Helio is now available through its website www.helio.com and a growing number of retail outlets - just under 1,000 by the end of May, rising to more than 3,000 by the end of the year. ®

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