CallWave: Visual Voicemail without an iPhone


I admit that like many, I longed for an iPhone immediately after watching Steve Jobs introduce it last January. Apple has the uncanny knack of introducing features that until demo’ed by Steve Jobs, you never heard of, but from that moment on you realize that you can’t be productive again without it. Then reality sets in.

One of those “now that I know I want it, I must have it” features on the iPhone is visual voicemail. See all of your messages in an email-like list that you can browse through, instead of listening to messages in the order they were saved. I still want it. Like many web workers, I like to use my cell phone as my primary business phone number. It’s incredibly annoying to have to listen and skip through messages to find just the message you really want to hear. Or how about when you miss writing down the phone number and you have to listen to the whole message again? There is a better way, iPhone or not.

CallWave recently introduced a simple and free visual voicemail solution that works quite nicely.

CallWave visual voicemail replaces your wireless carrier’s voice mail system, instead forwarding those calls to its service. Setup is as easy as signing up for an account, and then entering a code in your phone as if you were dialing a contact’s phone number. A few minutes later, you receive a text message letting you know that the service is good to go. To cancel the service and return to your carrier’s voicemail, you need to enter additional codes.

Using a widget (versions available for Apple Dashboard, Yahoo or Vista Sidebar) or visiting the CallWave page, you can see a concise list of all callers, with the option of playing back their message right in the window (instead of requiring the file to be opened in another media player, as Vonage and others do). The service uses CallerID or the name you provide in its contact list to display the name of the caller. If you view the message list at the CallWave site, you can replay just the section of the message containing the information you need, for those callers that have to give you long winded chatter before getting to why they called.

When a caller leaves a voice message, you receive a text message. You are giving up the voicemail indicator provided by your carrier, so this is the only way to know that you have a message if you are away from your computer. You can also receive an email with the message as an attachment. To listen to your messages if you’re not near your computer, you simply dial your own cell phone number from your cell phone.

Yesterday, I received a call on my cell that I didn’t hear because my phone was in another room. I was at my desk working and received an email with the message. Thanks to CallWave, I was able to quickly return an important call that otherwise I wouldn’t have known about until hours too late. Handy. The only cost to the basic service is the airtime from your carrier for the forwarded calls, and for the text messages if you have a pay-per-use plan for them. A $9.95/month premium service is available that allows you to screen voicemail and transfer calls to a landline (similar to features offered by GrandCentral).

CallWave is beta testing a new service called Vtxt which will transcribe messages for review. This can be very helpful to see if a voicemail is worth listening to before you step out of the meeting.

CallWave is not going to turn your cell phone into an iPhone. But if visual voicemail was one of the iPhone’s features that made you drool, this may be an acceptable substitute.



cool app and good post

along these lines be sure to check out very similar app called that comes with an additional and ( i think ) better twist on the whole notion of voicemail — having fun with it again. you leave different greetings for different callers and you can “ditchmail” callers you don’t want to hear from anymore with your own or uploaded greetings. pretty neat

They were in Makezine recently…

Judi Sohn

Joel: Not currently, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re thinking about it, especially as the iPhone nears launch. For now, I’m fine with getting an email since I can just search/filter to see all those messages together on my Blackberry.

Josh: That looks like a great service. Thanks for mentioning it. I really like CallWave’s widget, rather than having to load a page to view messages all the time. GrandCentral has that customized greeting feature, and it can be quite handy.

I’d really love a service that worked with both my landline and cell phone so I can get all messages in one place.

Josh C

This service sounds like a lesser version of YouMail ( YouMail also gives you this visual aspect of e-mail. In addition, it lets you create custom outgoing messages. So when my friend Joe calls, the outgoing message can say “Hey Joe, leave a message” which is fun for the callers.

Joel Strellner

How is this like the iPhone? Do they have any plans for a downloadable app in Windows Mobile that will allow you to see your messages like the iPhone has?

It is nice in theory, but that is the one thing that sets the iPhone apart. Now if CallWave added that feature I’d be sold on it.


Time Management: You said it only works on cingular – the website says most carriers and I was able to get it to work with my verizon phone. The sound quality is a little grainy, but hey, can’t beat the price. Now if I could just get a widget that would let me check my vonage voicemails….


Visual voice is the way of the future. I am sure every cellphone now will have it. It also depends on whether your cellphone provider supports it. I am sure all cellphone providers will be rushing to offer this to their customers.

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