Last Monday, CURE’s new U Mobile service was officially launched. About 350 units of phones were given away to pre-approved U Mobile subscribers. Part of the monthly credits will be free and supported by ads. Anything beyond the Php100, you have to pay for yourself.
The free part will last for only 6 months. According to CURE, all approved applicants from June 1, 2008 to August 31, 2008 will receive P100 pre-paid load from Ã¼ mobile per month for the 1st 6 months. After that, you’ve just basically switched to a new number. I think Php600 is cheap enough for a telco to make a subscriber switch.
However, the free Php600 prepaid load for 6 months might increase — IF an advertiser is allowed to send your mobile phone any targeted advertisement. Targeted means they know your shopping habits, address, age, gender, etc. — the very long online survey form they make potential subscribers fill up makes sure of that. That another reason why I think their Php600 is well worth it — data mining. You also need to be 15 to 35 year old in the Philippines to be able to qualify.
U Mobile Philippines is purely a prepaid service and is not related in any way to U Mobile Malaysia, another telco founded in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur with the same name.
This service model first came out in Finland when a former Nokia president founded Blyk in 2006 to be the first ad-supported mobile service in the world. They, on the other hand, only cater to 16-24 year old consumers and have tied up with Orange to provide wholesale voice and data transmissions. U Mobile Philippines will be riding on Smart Communications’ existing network, for obvious reasons.
It is a bold move for CURE and a very interesting business model — you get targeted ads right into your phone but you get to use it for free. The only loop hole I see here is that since the SIM cards are prepaid, anybody can practically pass it around and that’s where the demographics can get skewed. They could end up sending napkin ads to 54 year old gramps.
Then again, it’s not totally copy-proof. Smart, Globe or Sun Cellular can easily run a promo to give away free e-loads in exchange for SMS ads — and you don’t need to change numbers too.
So, when I said the service is not entirely free, I meant you’ve actually given away your personal data and legitimately allowed them to annoy you with ads. There’s no such thing as free lunch. Still, I have to admit, it’s a brilliant idea.