Voicemail for cell phones has basically been the same since it was first released. Someone calls you and if you don’t answer or your phone is not available on the network, the call is forwarded to voicemail. A signal is then sent to your cell phone that there is one or more messages waiting and you dial in to pick up those messages.
What a 20th century solution!
Wouldn’t it be great if you could have your voice mail e-mailed to you or otherwise retrieve it without having to call back in to your number?
Enter YouMail – a free, ad supported service where you transfer your voicemail handling to an external provider. Right now it is only available in the US and works on AT&T, Nextel, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and more. In turn, they offer some killer features:
Customized voicemail greetings for people in your address book.
If you want your family to have a different voicemail greeting than your work people or your crazy friends then this is a great way to do it. Add their phone numbers to your address book and then assign them to a group. You can then assign a specific greeting to a caller or to a group.
You can record your own greeting of course via the web or by calling in to a number. However there are many free greetings available to choose from, and there are even some premium “cool” ones available for a fee.
You might think it is a great idea to have Mr. T saying “I pity the fool, leave a message” to your callers but I’m sure your boss won’t be impressed when he calls to see why you are late to work again! Now you can pick who gets what greeting.
Also a feature which is both funny and useful is the “ditch” function. If you really don’t want someone to call you any more, assign their number as a “ditch” number. A message which says your phone is disconnected will play for them, hopefully persuading them to stop calling you.
Voicemail Notification via e-mail, web, and text message
Pick your poison. I choose all three. When someone calls and leaves a message, I get SMS and e-mail notification that I missed the call. Since everything is connected these days, this works really well. If I don’t hear my phone ring or I leave it at home, I still get an instant e-mail notification.
Along with the web component, you can share your voicemail messages via email or by copying code to include it on your blog or website.
Beta Feature – Voicemail to Text transcription sent to your phone!
Just released is a feature that will take a voicemail and attempt to transcribe that voicemail to text. Through some testing I’ve done, I’ve discovered it works pretty well, usually enough to get the gist of the message. Basically, the clearer the line is and the slower the caller speaks, the better the transcription will be.
The transcription can be sent right to your cell phone, so you know what your messages are before you even need to listen to your voicemail. It’s great to see this if you are in a meeting or on the road, and you can tell if you need to call back right away or if it can wait (or even if you can ignore it).
YouMail is awesome and I recommend it for anyone with a cell phone to try out! Instructions for many cell phones and carriers are listed on their site. It is usually a combination key press that you send, just like a phone call. All of the features above then work, and you can still access your voicemail just like before by reassigning your voicemail key.
A concern of mine is how they stay sustainable — what is their revenue source? Their business plan calls for keeping their accounts free – and including ads on their notification and translation services. That is perfectly OK with me considering the services they provide. I used to use a service called– which I would recommend too but they recently left “beta” stage and all free accounts have been removed. Their cheapest plan is $14.95/mo, and in addition to a $80 phone bill, I just can’t justify the additional cost.
Really, the services that YouMail provides should be provided by your carrier. But until they get on the wagon and start offering new services like this (and it should be included in your account as a free, not a pay-for feature!), then YouMail is a great voicemail replacement.