It's not often you see a wireless carrier launch an app that directly competes with its core services, but that seems to be just what the Madrid-based Telefónica is doing with Tu Me, a new integrated communications app for the iPhone. This jack-of-all-trades communication and social networking app works over Wi-Fi as well as your carrier's network and offers free VoIP calling, integrated text and audio messaging, and photo and location sharing. Of course, you'll only be able to communicate or share with other Tu Me users — the app can search your address book for other users, or you can invite friends via SMS or email.
In the few screenshots we've seen, this app looks better designed than we expected — there's a definite Path vibe to the overall layout and iconography, and all of your various communications are threaded by contact. It appears to have a nice feature set as well, though the VoIP and third-party messaging market is already fairly crowded; the text messaging component seems especially needless when you consider Apple's iMessage already allows for free texting between iPhone users. That said, Telefónica says that Tu Me will be launching on Android soon, and while there are already cross-platform messaging apps available (like Skype, Kik, ChatOn, and of course Facebook's dedicated messaging app), Tu Me has a nice level of polish that might make it worth investigating. That's assuming that visual polish makes its way to the user experience, as well — and even then, we imagine it'll have a tough time against the entrenched competition.
As for how Telefónica will make up for potential revenue lost through the use of its app, the carrier notes that Tu Me is just one part of a number of "enhanced communication services" the company plans to roll out under the Tu brand in the coming months. Telefônica-owned carriers O2, Vivo, and Movistar will all be part of this rollout, though it isn't clear yet what else the company has planned. And while the app is "free to use at launch," the carrier also notes that "the service will continue to be developed with added value functionality," so it wouldn't surprise us to see a cost associated with some future features.