Surely one of the most annoying aspects of everyday cell phone usage is simply retrieving your voicemail. David Pogue of the New York Times captures the experience in his usual good humor:
â€¦the carriers make you listen to a woman who has evidently overdosed on Ambien. â€œYou have. Seven. New. Messages. You have. Two. Saved messages. To listen to your messages, press 1. When you are finished, you may hang up, or press 5 for more options. I will now read the Manhattan White Pages.â€
Random access voicemail, also called visual voicemail, is one application that is long overdue. For those who donâ€™t know what this is, visual voicemail displays your voicemails in a fashion similar to your emails. At a glance you see a list of who has left you voice messages, and you click to hear the voicemail. If it sounds simple, it is, and thatâ€™s why itâ€™s long overdue.
Technology designer Bruce “Tog” Tognazzini sums it up nicely when he writes:
..Itâ€™s also speaks to the limited vision of the cell phone industry. Exactly why have we never had random-access voicemail on cell phones? Weâ€™re talking about hand-held devices with more computer power than the Apollo spacecraft that took us to the moon. Weâ€™re talking about devices with screens of more than sufficient resolution. Could nobody think of displaying the messages?
Visual voicemail is an application that is ideally suited for BlackBerry users. Many BlackBerry users are busy professionals who are inundated with voice mails. The BlackBerry is a device known for its email, and so creating an email-like interface for voicemails would seem to be a natural match.
This is why itâ€™s a shame that it will be Apple that drives this feature to the mass market. I donâ€™t know what patents Apple or AT&T have on this application, or if there are good third party providers that RIM could partner with, but it seems to me that RIM should not allow Apple to have this application all to themselves, and come out with its own version native on all BlackBerrys.
An interesting point is that RIM had thought of this as early as 2005 and came out with this press release announcing a partnership with a company called Comverse to introduce visual voicemail into the BlackBerry platform. Perhaps some of our thoughtful readers out there can offer some insight as to what exactly happened with this idea.
Voicemail as it exists on cell phones these days is a relic from the past, and deserves a serious upgrade in visual voicemail. The technology is readily available, and RIM should be a leader in bringing this to the market.