I’m constantly on the go. If there was an eighth day to the week, I’d be on the go then too; that’s how much I tend to be mobile. As a result, I rely on my “7 x 24” EV-DO connection for Internet service on my mobile devices. I always have my cell phone with me, since I use the XV6700 Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC Edition phone, but oddly enough, I get calls on my home phone too. Imagine that!
I haven’t dumped the land-line just yet and although I’ve investigated VoIP services like Vonage’s offerings, I haven’t taken that plunge yet either because I use DSL at home. So what happens to those voicemails I get at home? Like so many others, I tend to call in to the Home Voice Mail service that I pay for through Verizon. You might have a different phone provider, but you know what I mean: every few hours you call in to a special number to check for messages; you might call in more frequently if you’re expecting a call. Either way, I find it a very unproductive use of my time. Think about it: you’re calling in for messages that might not even exist! This is a “pull” system in the worst way…what if there was a “push” system that sent your voicemail to you whenever needed, similar to that direct push e-mail I’m so addicted to? Turns out there is a solution and I’ve been testing it for a few weeks now. It’s a service appropriately named GotVoice; read on for the full
hands on ears on review.
GotVoice offers three levels of service: Standard, Plus and Premium. For my review, I tested the Premium service which costs $9.95 per month. Standard is free, while Plus will cost you $4.95 a month. There are no set up fees involved and the price differences are due to the amount of messages, number of daily retrievals and special services as shown below:
If you don’t expect that many messages or just want to try the service, the free version might be the ticket. If you prefer several additional options to listen to your voicemails, like MP3 attachments or an RSS feed, the Plus or Premium is geared for you.
Setting up your account is quick and painless. The GotVoice website walks you through the process, which I found to be very simple. I should note a few things right up front:
1. Not every phone service is supported at this time. GotVoice will prompt you for your voicemail provider and area to tell you if support is available.
2. If you have a standalone home answering machine, you won’t be able to use the service. GotVoice works with carrier provided voice mail providers, such as local phone companies or VoIP providers.
3. In order to use the service, you must provide the ID and password of your voicemail account with your carrier. Some folks may not be comfortable with this, although I have no personal issue with it. However, this could be a deal breaker for some.
For my test, I set up two phones: my Verizon Wireless phone and my Verizon Residential home phone. Each phone was set up to send any voicemails directly to my e-mail account since I’m always in Outlook, regardless of which device I’m using during the day.
The voicemails are sent to my e-mail with an attached MP3 file, which contains the message. If I want to listen, I simply play the attached file, just like I would with any other MP3 attachment. Another option is to click a link in the e-mail notification that takes opens a Flash based player to play your message. The e-mail has all of the necessary information; it tells me which phone has a message, the date, time and length of the message and the phone number of the caller.
I did notice ads in the e-mail messages, even with the Premium plan. I didn’t find these bothersome and I assume this is to help offset the costs of the service.
One thing that was a little tricky was receiving the e-mail notifications on my XV6700 in Outlook. I can’t be sure if the mail is modified by my hosted Exchange service or not, but I wasn’t able to download and play the attached MP3 files. Another minor issue is that there were many links in the e-mail message and it took a few tries to decipher which one actually played the incoming voicemails. Clicking one link brought Internet Explorer Mobile to my GotVoice account page, but clicking “Play” resulted in no action. It appears that the site uses AJAX or some Java which isn’t supported natively in Windows Mobile 5.0. As an example, here’s a sequence of actions needed to get around this on a Windows Mobile device:
1. View your e-mail and scroll down (the attachment wasn’t an MP3 for some reason; again, could have been my Exchange provider or settings):
2. Click the first link which takes you to the GotVoice website:
3. Click the Download Message button:
4. The download doesn’t start automatically, so click Download Message.
5. Save and listen to your message saved as an MP3:
Granted, this is several clicks but bear in mind that retrieving and listening to voicemails on a handheld device is not how most folks would use the service. I do think that the GotVoice folks should consider this in the future and perhaps code a mobile friendly version of their web page to reduce the number of clicks for mobile users.
If at any time, you don’t want to listen to attachments in e-mail or the Flash-based GotVoice player, you can always go directly to your account page where a full history of your voicemails is waiting:
In this web-based “control panel” you can listen to and manage messages as well as retrieve any new messages for any phones you have registered. At any point, you can change the schedule for message retrieval or even turn it off, which comes in handy if you plan to be at home for a few days.
The real question is: how do the messages sound? I find them surprisingly good through the service and to give you a frame of reference for my expectations: I’ve produced the sound for over 100 podcast episodes in the last year and half. My production goal is to maintain the highest level of sound quality possible, so I think my expectations are relatively high. Don’t take my word for it: here’s a recent call I received via GotVoice’s service from my cellular account.
Hmmm….maybe giving my cell number to James wasn’t such a good idea. Anyway, you get the idea. For the record: James called my cell via Skype, so any call quality issues were likely on the part of the Skype connection. Or it could be that Treo 700w he uses…shoulda got the 6700 James!
Oh, I almost forgot. Remember the GotVoice account page shown above? See the purple Podcast logo? If you click that, you’ll be taken to a web page where you can subscribe to your own voicemail RSS feed. Here’s a screencap of it in the Internet Explorer 7 default feed viewer:
If you’re looking for a voicemail retrieval service while you’re on the go, I recommend you look at GotVoice and its many options. I’ve found it to be a real time saver with the push-like technology as opposed to pulling messages that might not exist! Using the e-mail option will allow you to set up rules, folders or labels to help you better manage your messages as well. If you’re not sure, give the free version a try for a few messages and see if it saves you any time.