I’m bombarded with information all the time. It comes from email to blogs, and news headlines to stock tickers.
All this information fits neatly into my life and I use tools to help me triage it effectively. My work email gets pushed to my smartphone through Cingular where I can process it in between meetings, or even while I’m standing in line at the grocery store. I use Yahoo webmail for my personal mail so I’m able to access it from any machine, including pocketIE on my smartphone.
With blogs, I use the excellent Google Reader to aggregate all the blogs I follow through RSS. I can flag things for later review and even publicly share specific blog posts through their cool “share” feature.
The exception to all of this is voicemail. Voicemail has such an arcane method for accessing it. I have to press and hold “1” on my cell phone, and listen to all the prompts including the timestamp of the message. I then chose to save or delete the message using the numeric keypad. I’m a big fan of SMS, but there are lots of people in my life that will never send me an SMS message (hi mom!). Generally, I think voicemail is a pain in the butt because:
- Not easy to access
- Inefficient when you do access it
- No way to easily share a voicemail
- Delayed notification — often times when I have bad cell reception, I don’t get my voicemail indicator from Cingular until much, much later.
- If I’m traveling, getting access to my voicemail is so much of a pain that I always change my greeting to tell callers I won’t get their messages until I return.
A friend of mine just sent me a link to Callwave, which replaces your cell provider’s voicemail and gives you the following features:
- Email your voicemail message as a WAV file
- Notify you by SMS when you have a message with the caller ID of the caller
- You still have traditional voicemail access by dialing your own phone #. No PIN is needed as long as you’re calling from your own cell.
Because you get notification by email (with the voicemail messsage attached), it alleviates every single problem I mentioned above. I had to try this thing out.
I signed up for the service a few hours ago, and am very impressed so far. You go through a brain-dead simple sign-up process through which you select your carrier and provide your cell #. I specified “Cingular” as my carrier and they gave me sequence of numbers, # and * to enter which re-programmed my service to route my voicemail to Callwave. Cool.
After doing this, you then call Callwave from your cell phone which proves you own the number (they utilize Caller ID). The last thing left to do is call yourself to record your voicemail greeting, and TADA! Your registration is complete.
Optionally, they have some features you can tweak in your account settings. By default, “Deliver voice mail messages as email attachments” is not enabled, so make sure you toggle this on.
I did a simple test and left a voicemail for myself. It received an email from Callwave in my exchange inbox literally 5 seconds after I hung up and that same email was pushed to my smartphone about 5 seconds after that. Very cool. I was able to open the message on my smartphone, click on the WAV file and Windows Media Player was playing the voicemail back. No need to listen to assinine menu prompts!
Down-sides of the service:
- My voicemail key (pressing and holding “1”) doesn’t work anymore. I have to see if I can change that speedial to dial my own cell # to access CallWave Thanks to a tip from Mike, I figured out how to remap the “1” key to dial myself. On my smartphone, you go to Settings–>Phone–>All Calls–>Call Options. My smartphone downloaded the settings from Cingular, where I could then change my voicemail number to my own cell phone number. Bingo, now pressing and holding #1 dials myself and thus CallWave.
- Audio quality wasn’t as good as “regular” voicemail.
- This service is completely free — will it survive? In reality, this isn’t too big of a deal for me because if the service does start charging or goes under, I can just re-enable my Cingular voicemail. There is no stickiness with this service.
The ideal service to me would be one that could convert speech-to-text send me the translation. I’ve seen a few services promise this, but their reported accuracy is something left to be desired or charged too much.