We went to a bus in Hanover Square today to get a demo of Vodafone's new social network, 360.
Announced last month, Vodafone 360 is actually a social network aggregator (though also a social network in its own right, once people actually start signing up for it). At the moment, users can sync their Facebook and Hotmail contacts to their phones, with Facebook or Hotmail photos viewable. From a 360-enabled phone, you'll be able to view and write Facebook and Vodafone 360 status updates.
The contacts you communicate with the most show up in a 3D homescreen, with less-contacted friends visible in the background. Tap a contact and you have the option to text, call, email or instant message them. You can also view his friends (the ones on Vodafone 360, that is), and add them to your own friends list.
We also liked this feature: you can send your location to a contact for it show up on a map (powered by a Vodafone acquisition, Wayfinder) allowing your friend to get directions to you from their present location.
A music recommendation feature gives 360 a little something extra - when listening to a tune, you'll see a toolbar with the option to share the track with a friend, who'll then receive a music rec notification. Tapping it takes them to the Vodafone music shop where they can hear a preview. In an ideal world, some kind of link to Spotify and being actually able to hear the whole song would be cool - maybe if/when Voda follows 3's lead and links up with Spoti?
Probably the most fleshed out and useful feature is the backup service offered - not only do you get a Vodafone 360 profile and email account, contacts and any photos you take are automatically backed up online at the 360 website. This means if you lose phones or switch phones, all your data is protected and can be transferred to your next (360-enabled) phone. For security purposes, you'll also be able to freeze your account, so a would-be thief will not be able to use your phone or access your data without knowing the password.
Non-Vodafone customers can also use 360 from a PC, which basically lets them chat or receive location updates from Vodafone 360 users on mobile.
Vodafone 360 is currently only available on high-end handsets the Samsung H1 and M1, with plans to roll it out on more basic Symbian S60 handsets, and across more phones later on. More social networks, including 'all the major ones', according to Vodafone, will also be added, but they didn't have a timeline for this.
There are a number of companies releasing programs that aggregate social network accounts, and phones like the HTC Hero and INQ Mini 3G already do it, so Vodafone is definitely hopping on something that's bound to explode. 360 would stream social network feeds to handsets in a wide range of price brackets, which could be its biggest ace.
Vodafone 360 Samsung H1 is available on Friday 31 October, free on a £35, 24-month contract including 600 minutes plus unlimited texts, data, push email and backup storage.