Think about how you traditionally receive and listen to voice mail. Someone calls and you’re away from your phone. You receive the notification and now you stop what you’re doing to call your voice mail inbox. There might be other unheard messages that you must act upon before listening to the message you just missed. Once you’ve finally heard the voice mail that was just received, it might be your friend saying “Hey, call me back.” How annoying! If only you could have known your friend left such a short message, you could have 5 minutes of your life back. YouMail is a visual voice mail service which can eliminate wasted voice mail checking.
Visual Voice Mail
Visual voice mail is feature that allows users to view caller and voice mail information and listen to voice mail messages in any order on their wireless device. Scroll through your messages, pick the ones you want to listen to, and erase or archive them right from your wireless device. You can call back, text and add to contacts directly from the visual voice mail screen. YouMail has been one of the pioneers in the visual voice mail space, beginning their journey circa 2007. I have been a faithful user of YouMail ever since 2008 and would like to explain its many advantages over regular voice mail.
Once you sign up for YouMail, you’ll be given instructions (specific to your carrier and phone) to switch your voice mail settings. For Verizon, you only need to enter an access code into your phone and hit “send.” Once your settings are changed, if you don’t answer your call within a certain number of rings, the call is forwarded to YouMail’s access number rather than your default carrier’s voice mail system.
Keep in mind that YouMail doesn’t know anything about your old greeting or your old voicemail. So after you switch, you will need to record a new greeting for YouMail if you want people to hear your voice. Also, if you need an old voicemail that is saved on your carrier’s system – e.g. Verizon, T-Mobile, etc. – you need to call their access number to retrieve it.
If you’ve switched to YouMail, you have multiple options as to how you are notified of voice mail and how you can listen (or read) voice mail.YouMail offers awesome flexibility for accessing voice mail:
- SMS message
- On the web (via YouMail.com control panel)
- On any BlackBerry, iPhone, Android or Palm device via apps
- On any web-enabled phone (http://m.youmail.com)
- By dialing the YouMail voice mail phone number (so retro!)
The most important aspect of YouMail is the ability to receive transcriptions of the voice mails sent in e-mail or text messages. In my experience, the transcriptions are of good quality; no worse than the transcriptions from Google Voice. Most of these transcription services are outsourced to other countries and there are certain phrases and slang that will not be transcribed properly. However, names and numbers are accurately transcribed almost all of the time. Additionally, even if a couple of words are incorrectly translated, you will be able to understand the context of the message. This means that after missing a call, you can open the subsequent text or email from YouMail, read the transcription and have a good idea of what the caller wants you to know. There is definite time savings associated with reading transcriptions rather than fumbling through voice mail menus and listening to rambling voice mails on your phone.
YouMail encourages users to treat voice mails as digital content that you own. The online interface allows you to easily save them forever and effortlessly share them across sites like Facebook, Digg, and Del.icio.us, at your discretion.
If you’re not very creative, but want a funny greeting for your voice mail, YouMail allows you to choose from a large library of user-generated greetings and away messages. Alternatively, you can use the “Smart Greetings” feature which automatically personalizes the greeting to the caller. I prefer to play a shorter message for people that I know so they don’t have to listen to a long-winded formal greeting each time they call me. Everyone else gets the formal greeting.
YouMail’s visual voice mail service is available on nearly all smartphones including devices manufactured by RIM, Motorola, Palm, Sony Ericsson, HTC, Samsung, and Nokia. The service can even be used on iPhones and iPod Touch devices.
YouMail does not charge any fee to create an account, to use free greetings, or to access your voice mail. However, the free service does not provide transcriptions. YouMail offers four different voice mail packages which include various transcribed message limits.
The packages range from $4.99 to $34.99 per month. As shown by the pricing chart above, the “Saver” plan will give you up to 20 transcribed voice mails per month. However, only the first thirty seconds of those voice mails will be transcribed. If you want more of your message transcribed, you need to move up to the next plan. There is also an option to pay for a year in bulk. Purchasing the annual package will provide 25-30% savings over paying by month.
YouMail for BlackBerry
On the YouMail app for BlackBerry, you can view all of your voice mails listed in the main screen of the app. Click on one of the voice mails, and you can read the message transcription along with an option to play the message.
This functionality could be improved because it takes 30-60 seconds to download a 60 second message with a strong 3G connection. I would expect that YouMail could compress the audio files or use a buffer to stream the audio to reduce the loading delay. It is much more efficient to simply call the YouMail number or go to your YouMail online interface and listen to your voice mail if you’re using the free version and don’t get the transcriptions.
YouMail for iPhone or iPod
I downloaded the YouMail app for the iPod touch and it installed in a matter of seconds. I started the app and it presented me with a screen to enter my account details. YouMail requires a PIN rather than a password. I entered my information on the following screen and my voice mails were retrieved in a matter of seconds.
I was able to click on my messages and they played almost instantaneously. The speed of the YouMail iPhone app is equal to the online interface in terms of listening to voice mails. The rest of the YouMail app interface is very intuitive. There are two options besides retrieving messages: “Greetings” and “Settings.” I opened the greetings section (shown below) and had full access to modify my greetings for callers.
Next, I opened the settings tab which provided every available functional setting. The screenshot below doesn’t include every setting. You can also modify account information, adjust for Bluetooth connectivity, and adjust autoplay options for the app. As shown by the screenshot below, there is an option to upload your iPod or iPhone contacts directly to YouMail.
Overall, YouMail is a fantastic product and I hope this post helped you learn more about it. As a side-note, Google has extended the free use of Google Voice through 2011, however, it’s fair to assume Google will begin charging in 2012. If you don’t like Google to own all of your data, YouMail is a great alternative for voice mail transcription. Look for an upcoming post about Google Voice to help you decide for yourself!