It's Time to End Voicemail

From: Evan Verworn
I really hate voicemail.

I don't hate the ability to leave a voice message to a person. Sometimes it's more human than a text. No, what I really hate is the delivery of that voice message to my ears. Because it is buried behind a incomprehensibly difficult usability wall.

Let me show you the conversation that I have to go through every time someone calls me and I don't pick up.

  1. Missed Call from George.
  2. Tap voicemail icon that refuses to disappear unless my messages are either "saved"[1] or "deleted"
  3. "Please enter your pin"
  4. "You have... 1... new message... Press 1 to listen to your messages... Press 4 to cha~" Press 1
  5. "Press 1 to listen to new messages, Press 4 to listen to saved messages" Press 1
  6. "New Message from 9...0...5...5...5...5...1...2...3...4... on... Monday... December 5th at... ten... eleven... pm...

I'm now waiting with baited breath for what I am sure is going to be a life changing communique for me to have gone through so many hoops.

...Hey Evan it's George, call me back."

Arrr, in a fury derived from wasting a minute and a half of my time I hang up. Only to look at my notifications and see that I still have a voicemail.

"What? I have another one?" I think to myself for a fraction of a second. Then I remember that I didn't hit 7 after my call, thus I will continue to have that notification until I go back into my voicemail sit through that computerized woman saying the information extremely slow until it finally reaches that message again giving me the option to fucking delete it.

I refuse to think we can't do better.

what the problem is

Our phone companies haven't needed to innovate. Your phone company controls what happens if someone rings you and you don't pick up. If you pay your $7-9 dollars per month, they'll forward you to that infernal helpful computerized woman prompting the caller to leave a message. (that will never be heard)

If not, they'll be redirected to her anyways but told that "you are unavailable"

Solutions to this problem are beginning to exist. Lately, people like Slack, Facebook and iOS/Android's Messengers have now allowed sending recorded voice. Which is better! But not great, because a) they're silos of data that can't talk to other silos b) people with landlines still exist c) if you already have to open the texting app, why not just text...

You call someone to make their phone ring.

You are issuing a "I need to talk to you right now" request. And for the recipient to have to spend 90 seconds to receive that "urgent" message, makes that message not urgent.

my solution

Now with smartphones we have easy control for what happens when someone rings you and you're not there.

some desperately needed features:

Full control of the recorded message.

Just play an mp3 that I give you. Make it stupid simple to change it or record it on the fly, and don't put anything after it. We don't need a "You can now leave a message after the beep. When done you can hang up or press pound for more options."


If I'm in a meeting and I get a voicemail that the server room is on fire. I'm not going to know that until after the meeting. But if I'm sent a text right after with a transcription of a message saying "Holy duck Evan the server room is on fire." I"ll know to leave the meeting.

Voice to Text still sucks but we've reached the point where you can read the message and get the gist of it, 90% of the time. Which means that leaving an urgent voicemail is now better than a text. You've made that phone ring, AND upon the user returning to their phone you've told them that this was important enough for a call, and provided a summary of the recording. All without unlocking their phone!


We have the technology to store hours of the human voice on a phone, without impacting their free space. With codecs like Speex we can put years of voicemails on a phone without the user caring.

30 days then it's gone forever? No More! If you want to keep that awkward first date request, or grandpa's last voicemail to you forever, you should be able to.

Cheaper than Netflix

Paying $7 (or even $6 for iOS voicemail) in 2014 is ridiculous. It should be costing closer to half that.

If I can stream unlimited amounts of movies from a server in New York for about the same price as their ancient crappy voicemail. Then either Netflix is under valuing themselves or phone companies are milking users for as much as they can.

It costs a buck to reserve a voicemail number, two if you want people to be able to call it nationwide. 5 cents per message to transcribe it, and basically a penny a month to store it with 10 cents a month for connecting costs.

For me, I get about 15 voicemails a month, so we're talking 2 bucks and change. Why the hell am I paying 7?

Available in the "desolate" country known as CANADA

Google Voice, would be perfect for me. I'm pretty sure, everyone I know would want it.

But like their Wallet and Fiber services legal/partnership reasons make it unviable outside of the US.

We are not Zimbabwe, we are literally touching your border. I sometimes get a stronger signal from the USA than my own cell provider. COME ON Google, you're suppose to be the one with deep pockets that we can rely on. Well, you're taking too long.

It's time for me to do something about it.

[1] I don't know if everyone else has this misunderstanding, but I don't know the difference between "unread", "read" and "saved". All three of them get deleted after 30 days.