Looking for a cool place to hang out and maybe buy a phone? Helio, a mobile operator targeting tech-savvy hipsters, hopes people will do both when they stop by its retail stores, the first of which opened today in Santa Monica, Calif.
A cross between an Ikea furniture showroom and a nightclub lounge, the new Helio stores are supposed to be a place where users can casually test Helio services, browse the Web or watch programming on a 60-inch plasma display. Helio Stores also feature pods that take the place of rows of regular phone displays found at other carriers' stores where customers can sample devices and even sign-up for a service plan without having to wait in line at a cash register.
Taking a cue from another hip and fashionable tech retailer (think Apple, but not different this time), Helio also plans to use its stores to offer workshops, tutorials and special after hours events like musical performances and art shows.
The 4,000-square-foot Santa Monica store is the first of five the operator plans to open by early 2007. The company also plans to open stores in Denver, Palo Alto, and New York.
The maiden store is opening with an exhibit of underground artists, including Tim Biskup, Luke Chueh, and Suragluxe. Helio customers or "members", as the company calls them, can download digital versions of the art as wallpaper for their Helio device or purchase original pieces from the store.