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Voicemail: Why it's Evil and How to Avoid It

Updated on May 9, 2011

You walk out of a movie, a class, a meeting, or anywhere else where your phone is on silent (or at least should be). A quick look at the cell tells you that you have four new voicemails, but you're not sitting at your desk with a pen in hand, and you don't really feel like listening to four people say "call me back" while interacting with that boring voicemail voice.

But don't worry, you don't have to hold up a finger to your friends while trying to hear your brother-in-law's number over the noise around you.  Thanks to technology, you don't have to listen to voicemail ever again unless you want to!

What's so bad about voicemail anyway?

If you're a busy person who receives multiple messages a day, this question has not occurred to you; it is obvious how difficult voicemail can make your life.

But if you only receive a few messages a week, why worry about it? I just want you lower-volume voicemail users to know that I was one of you, and now I can't imagine having to go back to regular voicemail again.

What if your caller is giving you a new phone number or an address?  Sometimes you might have to listen to a message several times just to get the digits right.  Even if you do have the time to do that, do you really want to?  Wouldn't it be easier if someone else could just write that stuff down for you?

The Solution

Now, several companies have launched services that eliminate the painful process of voicemail-checking once and for all. In the interest of full disclosure, I am involved in the industry I'm about to advocate, but I'm talking strictly as a consumer here. Voicemail sucks.

With PhoneTag, you can receive transcriptions of your voicemails as an email, a text message, or both. Everything you need is right there in front of you: the name, the number, and the words of the message, all delivered within minutes by a computerized transcription system.

Of course, you can still listen to your voicemail if your toddler leaves you a cute message or your new boyfriend sings you happy birthday. But now you don't have to weed through all the "call me back"s before you get to the good stuff.

Several other companies have muscled in on PhoneTag's original idea (the company was founded under its original name, SimulScribe, in 2002), but the original voicemail transcriber still reportedly has the best and most reliable transcription power.

They have pricing plans for people who receive several messages a month, hundreds of voicemails a week, and the people in between.  For anyone who finds themselves multitasking on a regular basis, voicemail transcription can save hours in improved efficiency.

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What You Need

You don't need a fancy smartphone like a Blackberry or iPhone, and you don't even need to be technologically inclined. As long as you live in the United States or Canada, you can sign up and start reading your voicemail as soon as you activate PhoneTag on your phone. You can even use it with a landline!

There are some drawbacks, mostly related to mobile carriers. A couple of them (most notably Sprint) charge for call forwarding, which is the function that allows most of these services to function. While many people choose to pay the fee and use the service anyway, that also makes the transcription service prohibitively expensive for others.

But all the other major American mobile carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Alltel, T-Mobile, etc) allow integration for free, as do most of the major Canadian carriers. When you sign up, you receive an email with full instructions for getting your new PhoneTag account linked to your phone(s), and customer support is always helpful if you have questions.  Setup for most carriers just requires dialing a code into your phone and pressing send, even if you have an ancient, brick-like mobile phone!

Signing Up

The website offers the first seven days of your service for free. This way you can get PhoneTag set up on your phone, try it out for a few days, and have plenty of time to decide whether you actually find it worth paying for or not.

I really encourage you to try it out; if you cancel within the trial time, you really have nothing to lose. You might even gain a great deal of efficiency in your everyday life. Technology is taking off... Run with it!!


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    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis

      What a great idea! I'm sure it will become as common as voicemail itself!

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thanks for the tip. I'll do that.

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan

      RGraf, make sure that you sign up through your husband's referral link! You will get a free 30 day trial, and he will get a free month of service for referring you!

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      My husband has that and loves it. I'm hoping to get it soon.

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan

      Hi 2patricias, thanks for writing. You're right; my main goal in this hub was to tell people about this technology in case they hadn't heard of it. I believe a company called SpinVox operates does voicemail transcription in the UK, so you can check them out.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This may be a clever way to advertise, but I have read it and learnt about a piece of technology that I didn't know about. Will have to find out if there is a UK equivilent. This could save a lot of ear ache, trying to make out mumbled phone numbers.

    • elfear profile image

      elfear 8 years ago

      A clever way to advertise

    • einron profile image

      einron 8 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA


      I had voicemail, but it is caput and I did not get it fixed. It is convenient to have voicemail because you may miss calls. Have a nice day>