ümobile: ad-funded mobile network launches in Cebu

By Max Limpag
Published on June 4, 2008

I attended the Cebu launch last May 24 of ümobile, the first advertising-funded mobile phone network in the country, and boy was it the loudest telecoms-related launch I’ve ever covered. It was the sexiest, too.

The launching was held in Club Vudu and by the time it ended, I knew more about what “Vudulicious” was than the details of ümobile that I had wanted to find out during the launch.

umobile change of numbersCHANGING YOUR MOBILE NUMBER. Ümobile allows its subscribers to change their mobile numbers by themselves in the company’s website. The first change of numbers is free, succeeding ones will be charged P50. Click on photo to view larger image.

The time indicated in the invitation—9 p.m.—and the venue told me it was going to be a launch party, with emphasis on the “party.” I was there at 9 p.m. and found Club Vudu still deserted but for ümobile staff doing last minute preparations. I asked one of them whether they would be holding a press briefing and was told none was scheduled. She did say one ümobile official would look for me later and answer my questions.

Fast forward one hour and a half.
umobile launch
UMOBILE PARTY. Vudulicious in Club Vudu. The umobile launch was the loudest telecoms-related launch I’ve ever attended. Click on photo to view an even larger image.

Club Vudu was filled to the last square foot. Cigarette smoke fogged the bar and all around me people were drinking—the waiters barely able to meet the orders of free beer, vodka, tequila, scotch…and iced tea for me.

I have always been curious about this “Vudulicious” marketing pitch. I looked around at the people partying happily and asked myself, who’s “Vudulicious?” There was this sexy former newsroom intern (she had to remind me when we were introduced that she had once been assigned to my section) who danced in a sinuous manner and all over the dance floor, several guys ogled her. If you’re reading this, do e-mail me the photo you took of both of us.

And then there was this stunner undulating on the corner, her body saying: “come, dance with me.” Is this Vudulicious? If it is, then I ♥ Vudulicious.

And just as I was about to finish my fifth glass of iced tea, I spotted the ümobile staff member who promised to answer a couple of questions on their product.

This was how the interview went:

me: How’s the quality of Fring calls in your network???!!!!
Ümobile guy: What??? !!!

me: How’s the quality of Fring VOIP calls in your network????!!!!!
Ümobile guy: Yes, we have a partnership with Fring for VOIP calls!!!!!

Club Vudu marketing director Jaja Rama passes by and tells me: You’re still drinking iced tea????!!!!!
A group at our right started screaming in celebration. Apparently one of them won a cell phone in the raffle.

Ümobile guy: Let’s just talk about your questions over e-mail!!!!

It’s a good thing the ümobile website provides a lot of information. I didn’t have to e-mail questions for this post (a tamer version of which is printed as a column in Sun.Star Cebu).

Ümobile—treat the starting u as a smiley and not as the letter u with an umlaut—is a telecoms service provider that gives its users cellphone load credits every time they receive a mobile advertisement.

“That will be like earning money or credit by watching commercials on television or viewing print ads in newspapers and magazines, except that they do it through their ümobile phones,” chief marketing officer Ardie Balderrama said in a press statement.

It is a picky telecoms service provider, and for a good reason. It’s targeting the niche market of 15 to 35 year-olds—a demographic slice it describes as “early adapters and movers.”

The ümobile Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) isn’t something you can just buy from your neighborhood sari-sari store-cum-e-load center (although you can probably buy ümobile credits there).

You have to be invited to the service and the company is limiting new subscribers to just 10,000 a month. (If you want an invitation, leave a comment below. For those who left invitation requests in other posts and pages in this blog, please re-enter the request below.)

Before you get into the service, you have to answer on the ümobile website a detailed questionnaire on your lifestyle, from such things as the gadgets you own to whether you regularly go to the gym or the brand of cigarettes that you smoke.

Your answers to the question will guide the company on which ads to send you.

Ümobile uses what is the coolest cellphone prefix in the country—0999. But what sets it apart is that its users can change their phone numbers by themselves, by going to the website at www.umobile.com.ph.

The first time you change you number is free. You’ll be charged P50 for each succeeding change in phone numbers.

I tried changing mine to all 9s and, as expected, found it to have been taken already. All 7s is also gone. By the time I was ready to try other combinations, the website took down the number-changing facility with a notice that they are still updating it and that it will be back up soon.

Ümobile rides on the extensive nationwide network of Smart so you are assured of getting a signal—not only for messaging and calling but also for mobile Internet— throughout the country.

I’ve tested the mobile Internet connection on the LG phone that I won in the event (one of the more than a hundred units they raffled off during the launch) and found it relatively fast and dependable. And like Smart, ümobile charges just P10 for every 30-minute mobile Internet connection block.
The company also has a partnership with Fring, a great piece of software that allows users to do instant messaging, post Twitter updates, and call via VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) on their phone.

Fring is really a good software, one that I use almost everyday for IM and Twitter. I tried VOIP calling, via a wi-fi connection, to my sole Fring contact and found the quality of call good. I was able to use Fring with Smart mobile Internet but not the latest version for the Sony Ericsson P1i. The previous version worked flawlessly with the Smart network, somehow the current version in my phone only runs on wi-fi connections.

Ümobile is still building up its array of services, which would include a “virtual phone” in August, and I still haven’t received a mobile ad. I also haven’t tried loading credits to my account albeit the website said you can buy credits online.

More photos of the party (click on thumbnails to enlarge):
Umobile launch umobile launch umobile launch umobile launch

Max Limpag

Max is a journalist and blogger based in Cebu. He has written and edited for such publications as The Freeman, The Independent Post, Today, Sun.Star Cebu, and Cebu Daily News. He is also a mobile app and web developer and co-founded InnoPub Media with his wife Marlen, who is also a journalist.


P.S. I thought that since I saw the article at night a lot of people would’ve beat me to it, but it looks like a lot of Cebuanos read the paper in the evening. I could be wrong.

Very entertaining article by the way. 🙂

hi, do you still have the invites? i would really appreciate it if you give me one…ur articles rock, big time. keep it up.

count me in. 🙂

I read your reply from the previous thread. hehehe.. Yeah, I’m interested of meeting you one of these days. Actually, it was Kuya Blogie Robillo who referred you. 🙂

Thanks for the invitation. 🙂

Apart from the business section, your column is also my favorite in sunstar cebu. I rushed to open your blog yesterday after reading your column but I can’t find umobile, thank God it’s here now Please send me an invitation.

More power MAX!!!

Hi, Max! Are you sure they’re really serious about the age bracket? I’m 43 years old and a Twitterer, sure would like to try out this one…

hey maxi . . .
keep us informed bout the cool stuff. . .
could you spare me one of those umobile invites? thanks daan . . .
cheers . . .

hi its me leizl, i already posted a comment yesterday, and im here again coz obviously, i want the invite badly..hehe..im 19 years old by the way…

Hi! Excellent review!
Do you happen to have an inviation code for ümobile?I want to give one to my lola. It would be great if u can help me out.

salamat poh.

hey sir,

Im an avid lurker here in ur website and a reader of ur column at sunstar and would it be possible or pahabol sa ümobile invite code?tnx very much

Sir Maxxxxxxx!!!! 🙂

Now this blog entry is what I call VUDULicious! :-p

Loooved it! Thank you so much for gracing us with your presence that night and thank you for featuring Vudu along with ümobile. We hope you had a Vudulicious time!

I hope to see more of you in Vudu, Formo or Paseo. I’ll have your Iced Tea ready. 🙂

In the meantime, sing with me now:

She’s so Dangerooooous.
She’s so Dangerooooous.
She’s so Scandaloooous. hahaha

Best regards 🙂

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