Apple Users to Get This Freebie

Spain’s largest wireless provider, Telefónica Digital (NYSE:TEF), is hoping its new app will help beat the growing threat of free applications WhatsApp, Viber, and even Research In Motion’s (NASDAQ:RIMM) Blackberry Messenger. Telefónica’s first-ever app is an integrated messaging service that will be available for free to users of Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS software worldwide regardless of the phone operator starting Wednesday.

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The TU Me app will allow free calls, free text messages, share photos and locations with friends who use the same app, and store data for users online. The messages will appear in a threaded timeline.

A Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android version has been promised “shortly,” and a Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone version is also being developed.

OTT, or “over the top” services, such as WhatsApp have been eating into carriers’ profits and are estimated to have cost billions in lost revenue for Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone Group (NASDAQ:VOD), and Telefonica in Europe, as well as AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon (NYSE:VZ), and Sprint (NYSE:S) in the U.S.

“We have seen OTT services developing and what we wanted to do was to bring our product into this space,” said Telefónica chief commercial officer Stephen Shurrock. “TU Me is an umbrella brand. We will bring a whole range of new products to customers. We see customer trends changing, and it is important that we change with them.”

Shurrock said the app was first in line of several such products the carrier had planned and that the application could eventually generate revenue. “We certainly see ways to monetize this app with a business model along the lines of Skype,” he said.

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