The latest round of “innovation” for the iPhone is a service that will one day convert those time-eating audio voicemails into convenient, ready-to-read text. That’s right, listening to your boss’s irritating voice drone on and on in long-winded monologues through your voicemail will be a thing of the past. Sounds nice, but is this feature really anything to get excited about, or is Apple just grasping at straws at this point in an attempt to remain competitive?
This proposed “iCloud Voicemail” is a straight-forward idea. In the case of a missed call, the caller is directed to a system in which they can receive a custom response as to why the phone owner cannot take the call. The caller can then choose to leave a standard audio message that Siri will convert to a text message for the voicemail recipient. Apple shows great enthusiasm for this service, but is not expected to make it available to the public until well into 2016.
The perceived benefits of a service like this are obvious. In 2015, people don’t like listening to voicemail messages anymore. In fact, there is a growing demographic out there who are likely not to bother with voicemail at all. It is much quicker and less invasive to simply scan a text for the information we want or need. Yet, on the other end, it is generally easier to dictate our messages through voice rather than typing them out. This service will bring the ease-of-use from both sides together. Text-adverse grandmaw will still be able to leave you the traditional voice messages she prefers, and you will be able to quickly scan the message without missing a beat (unless, of course, you enjoy hearing grandmaw’s sweet voice).
Convenient yes, but there is something to be said for traditional voice messages. Listening to voicemail is obviously the better choice if you are, say, driving. Also, we know that text can sometimes be ambiguous at best when it comes to determining someone’s tone or use of sarcasm. And then there is that big question of Siri’s ability to accurately transcribe our spoken word at this stage in the game. How often have iPhone users been frustrated with Siri’s ability to decipher a simple query? Accuracy of speech recognition software will surely improve in the coming years, but until then we may be wise not to discredit plain, old-fashioned, speak-after-the-beep voicemail.
Whether the service is hot or not, some of you are undoubtedly thinking: Hasn’t this been done already? And the answer is yes. Google voice has had a similar feature for years now. There have also been a few third-party apps offering the same voice transcription feature. It seems that Apple is, in many ways, playing catch up on this one. So will iCloud Voicemail be able to separate itself from the competition and wow users like years past? Just like everything else that sees the light of day in the Smartphone world, that will be up to the consumer to decide.