Phone Services Tame Voice Mail

Phone Services Tame Voice Mail

Tired of wading through 5 minutes' worth of voice mail to hear a vital message from your boss? A gaggle of new services, including GotVoice, SimulScribe, and SpinVox, address the problem by turning voice recordings into digital audio or even text files you can access via the Web or e-mail. Using caller ID to identify the source, they let you process the most important messages first and the rest when it's convenient.

I tried some services and found that they can be useful for business people who typically wade through at least half a dozen messages several times a day. But there are a few drawbacks, and casual voice-mail users will probably find the most robust, fee-based offerings too pricey.

The latest wrinkle in this area is the use of speech-to-text technology to convert voice mail into text messages. SimulScribe leads the pack with a $US10-per-month service that transcribes up to 40 messages a month, after which you pay US25 cents per call.

That can get expensive if you have enough messages to benefit from the service. In my tests, however, call transcripts were quite good, meeting the company's claim of 90 to 95 percent or better accuracy. The transcripts arrive via e-mail (along with a digital audio file of the message) within moments; you can also access your messages and audio files over the Web.

SimulScribe forwards your unanswered calls to a phone number that it assigns to you. You can still access and manage your voice mail via cell phone (but not through your carrier's usual voice-mail key). You may not be able to use SimulScribe with carriers for which call forwarding is problematic, and you may be stuck with long-distance or call-forwarding fees. In addition, because your voice mail is no longer integrated with your cell phone service, you may not realize that you have new messages unless you opt to receive SMS notifications, which also could be costly.

Most of these problems go away, though, if your carrier partners with SimulScribe; Vonage, for example, now offers it as a premium service.

Simulscribe recently rolled out the free beta of a variant called SimulSays for BlackBerry Pearl and BlackBerry 8800 devices; a Windows Mobile version should be available by the time you read this. SimulSays allows you to manage digital audio recordings of your voice mail on your handset without having to call your voice-mail number; but you must subscribe to SimulScribe to receive text transcripts as well.

Other Services

United Kingdom-based SpinVox, a speech-to-text service that hasn't fully launched in the United States, claims to transcribe not just voice mail but also memos, blog entries, and SMS text messages that you dictate into your cell phone. However, it offers no Web interface - you get transcripts via e-mail or text message - and you don't get an audio file (you must access your voice mail as usual to hear it). We were unable to test the service's voice-mail capabilities.

GotVoice takes a simpler approach that has universal inbox appeal: It calls your usual voice-mail numbers, records the messages, and presents them to you (using caller ID to identify the senders) as digital audio files in a Web interface. The service automatically checks for voice mail three times a day on up to two phones and notifies you through e-mail when messages are waiting. You can also initiate up to 12 voice-mail checks daily.

On top of that, GotVoice lets you send up to 15 voice-mail messages a month to groups of up to five phones - useful for quickly notifying family of a schedule change, say.

Free Options

The free GotVoice service is supported by Google-like ads that appear when you play voice-mail files. A $1US0-a-month premium service eliminates ads, supports three phones, and ups usage limits.

Another free service, CallWave also generates digital audio files from voice mail. But like SimulScribe, CallWave works only if you can forward your unanswered calls, and it supports only one phone number. (The company recently announced a speech-to-text service called Vtxt that promises to transcribe only enough of a message to help you decide whether it's important.)

Services like these that depend on voice input are just getting into high gear; they can be pricey, and you may find that they take longer to tell you about new messages than the traditional system does. But if your voice-mail inbox is chronically overstuffed, one of these services might help you dig through it.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Yardena Arar

PC World (US online)
Show Comments


Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >


Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >


Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >


Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?