O2’s TU Go released ‘TU’ early?

Recently, the UK mobile operator O2 released a new mobile and desktop app for iOS, Android and Windows Phone smartphones and tablets, as well as Windows PCs.

The idea behind the “TU Go” app is simple — using your data connection (WiFi/broadband or 3G [and probably Edge]) to make and receive calls and texts, from your O2 number, billed to your O2 account (or inclusive allowance where applicable).

Why would you want such a thing?  Well with mobile phone reception in the UK still many years behind other countries (my area has literally only just been upgraded to Edge!) making and receiving calls and texts can be difficult in rural areas.  With the TU Go app, customers are able to send and receive calls and texts using their home WiFi for example.

Vodafone’s Sure Signal had previously your only option in this situation, however there are a few down-sides to this (except for only being available on Vodafone as far as I’m aware) that the device will only provide coverage to registered SIM cards, can only handle a maximum of eight of these, and in my experience  the range seems to be less extensive than WiFi.

And the brilliance of the app means you can make and receive calls and texts from devices you wouldn’t usually be able to, such as a PC, iPod Touch and iPad1.

Other services such as iMessage for iOS (Apple) devices, and WhatsApp and Skype 1 (available on many platforms) is that the receiving user has to also be using the same system.  TU Go breaks out into the ‘real’ mobile network, allowing you to or text any number that you would normally call or text from your handset.

So why do I feel it has been released too early?

Well, I have found numerous problems.  O2’s Twitter team asked me what problems I was having, and being unable to list them all in 140 characters, I decided to write this article.

Firstly, let me state that I have tried the TU Go app on my iPhone 4S, iPad 3 and Windows 7 PC.  Also, without wanting to sound big-headed, I want to add that I’d consider myself to be fairly-highly computer literate, with a degree in Computing Science and running an Web-development and IT support company, specialising in Web-application development.

iPhone

The most major problem I have with TU Go for iPhone, is that it seems to be in competition with the iPhone itself when receiving a call.  If the iPhone wins (assuming you have decent signal) then great — you can receive the call as usual, no problem.  But if the app gets there first and rings, it blocks the iPhone from ringing, so you have to answer the call though the app.  Here begins the problem.

Firstly, before you can answer the call, you will have to very quickly swipe and unlock your iPhone, then wait for the app to open.  This takes much longer than usual when answering a call, so be sure to be very quick before the call is grabbed by your voicemail!

Assuming you were quick enough to grab the call, you place your iPhone to your ear.  The iPhone’s proximity sensor detects this, and whereas usually it means it will turn off the display, it activates Siri’s “Raise to Speak” feature, cutting out the call.  I am yet to successfully answer a call using the app on my iPhone.

When receiving a text message, you will receive the message twice.  I suppose this cannot be helped, but it’s an annoyance nonetheless, as you will need to go through the app and mark each one as read — on every device you use as it does not appear to sync across devices like iMessage for example.

iPad

On the iPad I’ve had issues where, despite receiving a push notification of a text message, the app does not show it, even when killed and reopened.  I’m also yet to receive a phone call on my iPad.

As of yesterday, the iPad version seems to have entirely lost sync with the TU Go service altogether   It is currently only showing two test calls to voicemail (from my Windows PC), which were made the day before the screenshot was taken, not the same day as shown in the app! And again, no trace of the many text messages I have subsequently received (and correctly displayed) on the iPhone version.

O2 TU Go iPad app screenshot shown to be out-of-sync with the service

O2 TU Go iPad app screenshot shown to be out-of-sync with the service

PC

As with the iPad version, the PC program did not ring when I tested it.  Also, the PC program does not come as a simple, single .exe installer file.  I think this would baffle most average PC users.  Installation was a very slow and painful experience, requiring me to restart my PC halfway though after downloading and installing various bulky dependencies.

Another problem with the PC version is, unless you know your contacts’ numbers, you’re not going to be able to text or call them! Where are your contacts?  As I use Google Sync (and many Apple users will of-course use iCloud) to sync contacts across devices, this isn’t so much of a problem with my iPad, but certainly is with my PC.

In summary the entire platform to me seems far from finished (and yes I’m aware the PC version is in beta, but I would argue the system still feels more like it ought to be in the alpha stage of development!), with numerous problems.  A great idea, but not very well thought out, executed and tested.

1. Of course services like Skype exist which will allow you to make calls and send texts, however you will need to purchase separate credit


4 thoughts on “O2’s TU Go released ‘TU’ early?

  • Jamie

    Hi

    The app has some major flaws as you point out and although we did test it for many months the reality is until we were live with tens of thousands of customers we did not find a lot of the issues you outline. We are breaking new ground in tents of software and so we have all sorts of fun problems like you outline above.

    That said we are working on a new version of both the apps and back end services which are being QAed as we speak and if they pass that phase we will roll them out. This should happen in the next 30 days.

    I can tell you that this will be as bad as it gets and we are only improving it so stuck with us and soon you will have a much more reliable service that is more enjoyable to use.

    Btw in the iPhone if you let the app ring for 15 seconds then it will go to gsm and assuming you have coverage you can answer via that like a normal call. The pin code thing is an apple limitation which we can’t resolve. Android app sucks and we are working up a whole new version. Sorry about that.

    Reply
    • David Claxton

      Hi Jamie,

      I love the idea behind the service, and I look forward to seeing the new app release.

      I want to be clear that I’m not attempting to ‘slag-off’ the service in any way. Really I wanted to make two points: Firstly, I’d advise people to hold-off on downloading the app for a while until it’s a little more refined, but secondly to provide feedback. As a developer myself, I have seen numerous examples of times where people found something unintuitive or annoying, where to me it made sense. It’s easy to moan about something, but unless feedback is given, the team behind the service won’t necessarily know, and so couldn’t refine the product.

      What would be awesome is an option to turn on or off the feature of calls coming though via the app. I’m sure most people using it on a phone would prefer to receive calls though the phone (not the app) whenever possible. Perhaps even to only spring into life when GSM signal is very low or non-existant?

      I personally see the app on my iPhone as a backup (when I have no signal, but I’m connected to WiFi), the app on my iPad in the same way I use iMessage and FaceTime on my iPad, and the app on my PC (and eventually Mac I’m told) again in the same way that iMessage and FaceTime work on my MacBook, only with greater flexibility to call or text anyone, regardless of what device they’re using.

      If I can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

      Dave

      Reply
  • Jamie Finn

    Hi David

    It’s all good. We love the ideas and push back on what we have done. As I said its all new and we were testing a bunch of theories. We have a great foundation though so while we won’t be able to provide the experience that each person wants hopefully we will get to the 80%.

    The on/off idea is definitively popular and while it seems like an easy thing to do its actually requires orchestrating a bunch of “not quite” real time systems. So we are looking at it but likely the best option for now is to just switch to GSM priority on your phone and then calls should only come in when you have no coverage. That said I appreciate that it would be nice to know how much coverage and then route accordingly but on iOS it’s not possible and on android it’s not easy due to the breadth of phones and operating system versions.

    You are helping already with your use of the apps and feedback. We may start a beta program but it will be run through the O2 support site so you would need to be on there to join.

    Also we recently put up some design ideas for the next release for consideration so you may want to check that out.

    We are listening though.

    Jamie

    Reply
  • Andrew

    After a good start with the app working fine it now won’t open at all on my iphone. Am I alone? Any help much appreciated as we have no signal where we live and TuGo proved the ideal answer ……until now.
    Cheers
    Andrew

    Reply

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