The Drift

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 9, 2006 (AFP) – A Helio mobile telephone service launched in the United States on Thursday lets users track friends and plot routes using satellite-mapping technology. Helio’s Drift model telephone, custom-built by South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, has a “Buddy Beacon” feature that maps the whereabouts of as many as 25 selected people with similar devices.

“Now, Helio members can spend less time searching and more time hanging out,” said the Los Angeles company’s chief executive Sky Dayton.

Buddy Beacon was billed as a way for Helio members to “synchronize their social lives” by broadcasting their locations to friends when they want to be found.

Helio members could “hide out” by leaving the Buddy Beacon off.

“We’re staying true to our mission of bringing advanced wireless technologies from Korea to the United States so Helio members can experience an entirely new wireless world,” said Helio president Wonhee Sull.

Drift telephones were pre-loaded with Google Maps mobile software that uses satellites to pinpoint where they are and more efficiently determine routes to destinations.

The Google software provided satellite images of locations and re