London: Vodafone announced a new Internet service on Thursday, offering access to a host of integrated social networks and applications, in its fight to grow data revenues and compete with smartphones like the iPhone.
Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile phone operator by revenue, said its new Vodafone 360 service would use the open source Limo operating system to allow users to store contacts from the phone and social networks all in one place.
Vodafone users will be able to download the service and choose a suitable data plan.
As part of the launch, the operator will also offer two Vodafone 360 mobile handsets made by Samsung Electronics with a touchscreen user interface.
The service hopes to capitalise on the growing demand by customers for mobile access to the Internet, to surf the Web, share photos, update social networks and read emails.
The service will also allow Vodafone to compete with the likes of Apple and its iPhone, Google and the Android operating system and RIM’s Blackberry, in its bid to retain a direct link with customers.
That relationship with customers has been tested in the last year as handset makers such as Apple offer application services including games and music to users, threatening to leave the operators as just a ‘pipe´ carrying traffic.
In its response, Vodafone has announced its own applications store and says its existing billing relationship with customers means it is easier to buy services through an operator than a third part, like Apple.
“Customers can stay in touch and share experiences through social networks, instant messaging, email, apps, maps, music and buying digital content on their mobile bill, with the personalised address book at its heart,” said Pieter Knook, director of Internet Services at Vodafone Group.