TU me: Telefonica’s integrated, smart over-the-top (“OTT”) messaging service

First, let me say kudos to the Telefonica Digital team behind TU Me.

Second, let me say: Yah-boo-sucks to the rest of the mobile operator community that’s been standing still, watching paint dry for the last few years doing absolutely nothing to innovate anything more exciting than a slightly modified price plan.

TU Me is a single communications hub — think What’s App, but on steroids. It’s a smartphone app — iPhone initially — that enables you to send text messages, voice messages, photos, location information and even make calls. You don’t need to be a Telefonica customer to use it — it’ll work on any iPhone, anywhere, on any communications platform (cellular data or WiFi).


I very much like the Telefonica Digital approach with TU Me? They’ve actually got out of bed and made something worthy of the new economy, the new world — this connected reality that we’re all beginning to inhabit. Put simply, TU Me really does make Apple’s current iteration of iMessage look like a highly limited rubbish first iteration. The Telefonica Digital team have done the Crocodile Dundee equivalent of “that’s not a knife, THIS is knife!” with TU Me.

To build, it took the team 6 months from zero to live. That is excellent. More of this please. If TU Me is a reflection of what we should expect from Telefonica Digital, I reckon we’ve got some very exciting times coming soon. And that’s not all. In the press release below, the company points out it’s got a lot more of this coming, including some “enhanced communications services” (also using the TU brand). Further, these new services will be made available to Telefonica customers “as part of their bundles”.

… interesting. Very interesting.

Bring it on.

So it’s iPhone-only today, but you’ll be able to pick it up for Android shortly. I really do encourage Telefonica to go the extra mile in this case and NOT favour any particular platform. I’d like to see them make TU Me available for:

– Windows Phone
– Symbian (YES! FOLK still use it!)
– BlackBerry 5-7, PlayBook & BB10
– And, er, maybe even Bada

The key, I think, is to remove every single possible excuse for folk not to bother using TU Me. iPhone, Android and RIM will cover a huge part of the company’s smartphone ecosystem. It’s important that families and friend groups that are all using different platforms aren’t put off and don’t just either stay with What’s App (or similar) or avoid even bothering to look at TU Me because of limited platform support.

Remove all the barriers.

I wonder if I could use TU Me on multiple handsets? So even if I had different phone numbers, I’d always get the same messages everywhere? I’ll need to check that out.

Spare a thought for the other mobile operator groups today. They must be having kittens over at the other operator HQs. (Vodafone Xone, anybody?). Deutsche Telecom? Heh. France Telecom are better positioned to respond swiftly with their Life Is Better On team who could certainly deliver similar.

Will we actively see TU Me marketed as a Telefonica / O2 / Movistar / Vivo properly via their standard mass-market, mass-media channels? That would really, really start to shake things up with the standard service proposition that hasn’t seen significant change for a long time.

Will we see TU Me included into international roaming bundles for Telefonica customers?

Can you imagine the potential value of being able to offer customers unlimited fair-use TU Me access for £5/week whilst abroad roaming? Folk would be insisting their families installed the service so that when they were abroad, they could stay in touch easily. It might even be worth Telefonica running a roaming ‘balance of payments’ debt to other operators to promote this and to gain loyalty, customers and additional revenues. If they did this, I think it’d be the bait I’d need to actually got off my arse and swap primary providers to O2 in the UK.

Wouldn’t it be great if they integrated something like Onavo compression or Mailsuite compression into the app so that when you’re abroad roaming, it automatically does it best to limit data use? Or perhaps it could go into ‘roaming mode’ whereby it only allows you to send/receive 200 characters per message and only allows the transmission of text to limit data use?

Yes, I can feel the sound of a thousand mobile strategy executives working through the night speculating on just what the launch of TU Me could herald for their particular customer segments or divisions. (I know: I’ve had a few calls on this today already!)

We shall see. Let’s see where this goes.

Nice work Telefonica.

The branding is excellent as well — TU Me (“too me”)? Love it.

Here’s the full release FYI:

Telefónica Digital today announces the launch of TU Me, a mobile app that enables communication and sharing via smartphones, keeping a record of every interaction through a simple, searchable timeline. TU Me offers one of the best integrated communications experiences on a smartphone and is now available to download from the Apple App Store. Free to use at launch, the service will continue to be developed with added value functionality.

TU Me is the first service from Telefónica Digital to launch directly to consumers and the first time Telefónica has launched a product worldwide, regardless of its operating markets.

Telefónica is committed to innovating in its core business of communications. Over the coming months, it will also use the TU brand to launch a number of enhanced communications services which its O2, movistar and Vivo businesses will make available to customers as part of their bundles.

TU Me is designed to make it as easy as possible for people to communicate with their friends and family using their smartphone. Users of TU Me can exchange text messages, make calls, leave voice messages, share photos and location information. Interactions are stored in a timeline format, making it easy to view, scroll through and keep a history of conversations.

TU Me has been developed to offer the best communications experience in an app and is built to rigorous phone industry standards. It is the only app of its kind that stores your content in the Cloud so that it is always available whenever you log into the app, even if you lose your device. It is also the only app that lets you make calls, send voice messages, instant messages, photos and location from one control within one screen, with no need to switch apps or tabs.

TU Me is initially available for iOS users with the Android version to follow shortly. The service is available for free to anyone with an iPhone worldwide, regardless of their network operator, and works via their mobile data plan or over Wi-Fi.

TU Me is the first product from Telefónica Digital to launch under the new TU brand and reached the market less than six months from the formation of the unit.

“We’ve seen the growing popularity of communications apps on smartphones but we believe we’ve gone one better with TU Me using our knowledge and insights of how people use their devices,” said Stephen Shurrock, Chief Commercial Officer at Telefónica Digital. “TU Me puts all your communications needs into one place, for free, and is a great way for people to stay in touch with those close to them. It’s also a testament to the innovation, speed and agility within Telefónica Digital.”

TU Me is available as a free download in Apple’s AppStore or visit www.tumeapp.com for more information or to sign up to receive information about upcoming releases for other operating systems.

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11 Responses to TU me: Telefonica’s integrated, smart over-the-top (“OTT”) messaging service

  1. AndersOlesen May 10, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    Perhaps there is something here I don’t understand, but how is it innovative for an operator to launch a Skype copy? Cheap/free VOIP roaming is pretty much what made Skype huge all those years ago?
    I realize that perhaps Skype has not executed to well on the mobile side so far, but on the other hand they have a worldwide brand and 100’s of millions of users.

    Or is there something about this that I am missing?

  2. Ewan May 10, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    It’s considered “brave” within the industry — because of the apparent revenue risks associated with it.
    I think it’s a late move. We should have seen this years ago. Other apps and services have been allowed to flourish and dominate OTT. But it’s good to see one operator group actually doing something about it!

  3. Nick Davies May 10, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    I’m with Anders – maybe I just don’t get it. So all users need to be on iPhone (for now) and use the TuMe App? It can’t send actual text messages to people on other devices? At least iMessage differentiates the two and will SMS where it can. And no PC / MAC version of it seems a significant oversight also? Good luck Telefonica, but where’s the customer insight behind this, or was it driven entirely by beancounters?

  4. AndersOlesen May 10, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    hmm, I still don’t think I get it. How are they supposed to generate revenue from this? Adds? If they ever start charging for it, won’t people just defect to the many free solutions?

  5. Ewan May 10, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    I think it’s about enhancing the basic offering rather than charging for the standard stuff.

  6. Giff Gfroerer, i2SMS May 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    I believe the OTT messaging platforms have a strong place moving forward in the P2P space.  Makes a good deal of sense.  But now, here in the U.S. where 62% of all Smartphone owners have an unlimited text package, the need for OTT messaging apps may not be as great as say India.  For companies wishing to connect to their consumers via text, the OTT platforms don’t make much sense as there are just too many of them out there thus making a sign up page extremely difficult for length.

    But let’s just take a quick example.  Here in the states a teenager can get a feature phone with unlimited texts with 250 minutes per month for $25 US (15 UK Pounds).  That’s not too shabby.  Now, what he would have to do is get his friends to all get the same OTT messaging app.  Possible, if their was a cost differential.  But if they go this route now they have to pay for a data package that starts at $30/month, plus the monthly fees for text and calls…  I’m  not sure where this fits in right now in the states???


    Giff Gfroerer

  7. Nick Davies May 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    It’ll also allow the operator to see the inter-customer traffic that they wouldn’t otherwise see (e.g. through Skype), which allows them to understand a customer’s social network (in the classic sense), how many people they regularly contact, their frequency of communication, etc. all of which can be very useful in attempting to sell in other products and services (especially if they can use a “loyal” O2 / Movistar customer to “pull” customers of other networks over to their own…)

  8. Sérgio Oliveira May 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    This. Or get scaled down to just a pipeline network for others to do it.

  9. Ewan May 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    There we go!

  10. James Whatley May 12, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    So tell me this, how come no one has made the connection between TU, and the Telefonica-owned Spanish social network Tuenti?


  11. Ewan May 12, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    You know what I didn’t know it existed!

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