SpinVox Saves Voicemail from Extinction

Of all the whiz-bang features on my Nokia E71, the one I probably use the least is… What’s that thing when your phone rings and you have to drop everything and put it up to your ear and have a conversation with someone you may or may not know? Oh yeah, voice calling.

It’s not that I’m anti-social or anything (honest!) — Symbian Guru Ricky Cadden says it best on his personal blog:

When I call someone via voice, I’m basically telling them: I need to talk to you RIGHT NOW. Whatever you might be doing at the moment is irrelevant; my need is more important. Stop what you’re doing, immediately, and talk to me. The result is when someone calls me on the phone, they seldom get my full attention, because I am seldom not doing anything, just waiting on the edge of my seat for their phone call.

As such, a lot of the voice calls I get go straight to voicemail. And that’s almost as bad. So bad, in fact, that folks around the world are simply giving up on voicemail altogether. Here’s a quote from a recent New York Times piece on the subject:

“Once upon a time, voice mail was useful,” said Yen Cheong, 32, a book publicist in New York who has transitioned almost entirely to e-mail and text messaging. According to her calculation, it takes 7 to 10 steps to check a voice mail message versus zero to 3 for an e-mail.

Apple’s Visual Voicemail for the iPhone is somewhat innovative in that you can play back messages in a non-linear fashion (i.e. not necessarily in the order that they were received), but you’re still listening to audio files. If only someone would offer some kind of service where voicemails could be converted to text and sent to your phone via email or SMS…

Well someone has, and it’s called SpinVox.

Available through select carriers worldwide, and in Canada on Rogers, SaskTel and Telus Mobility, SpinVox gives you a new local voicemail number and (somehow) converts your messages into text for delivery to your handset, desktop computer or both.

Rather than telling you how well it works, I’ll just show you. Here’s the very first message I sent to myself using SpinVox. First, the original voicemail:

And for comparison, the text I received on my Nokia:

From: Andrew Currie
Date: 04-29-2009
Time: 4:10 PM

“Hi this is testing voicemail to text. Testing, testing 1 2 3. Abracadabra. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. End transmission.”
– spoken through SpinVox

Now Vox to:
Listen: +1905xxxxxxx

Sorry I don’t have a screen grab for you; I backed up my texts over the weekend — you’ll just have to trust me on this.

Of course, if you’re like me you’ll have the odd smart-ass friend who’ll want to test the limits of the technology. Here’s how that plays out…

The voicemail:

And the text:

From: Albert Howell
Date: 04-30-2009
Time: 11:31 AM

Just left you a voice message that you need to listen to. Thank you
– SpinVox

Listen: +1905xxxxxxx

So if all else fails you’ve still got an olde tyme analog voicemail message to fall back on — and as seen above you can access it directly from the message you receive on your phone.

But the voice-to-text translation works so well that SpinVox is worth every penny of its monthly fee. And you’re already paying for olde tyme analog voicemail on your phone line anyway, right? So why not put that money to better use?

By Andrew

Mobile phones, Linux and copyright reform. Those go together, right?

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