“Sorry, I can’t come to the phone right now…”
When you can’t take a call, voicemail is your next best option. But while it’s a handy feature, it also has drawbacks for the average user. It’s not always a convenient time to retrieve your messages, they’re played only in the order they were received and you often have to listen to lengthy menus in between each one.
Voicemails can also be easy to forget – ignore the initial notification, and you likely won’t think to check again for a while. Visual voicemail has a distinct edge over traditional voicemail for convenience and ease of access. But what is it, and is it worth upgrading your plan to get it?
What is Visual Voicemail?
Visual voicemail, a feature offered on iPhone devices, is a function that displays your voicemail as a list of individual messages, which allows you to easily see what messages you have and their basic data. Having your messages in list format makes it much easier to sort – delete the voicemail that you don’t want, and hold onto the ones with important data. You can also pause and replay each message individually.
With visual voicemail, you can:
- See your voicemails individually
- Listen to each one separately
- Perform voicemail functions by touch instead of listening to a voice menu (Press 3 to delete…)
- Get your messages transcribed and sent as text (depending on your carrier)
- Send voice messages via email or text (depending on your carrier)
Visual voicemail needs to be both offered on your phone plan and set up on your device to work – but your iPhone should be automatically compatible. In Australia, visual voicemail is often offered as an additional perk, but some carriers don’t have it as an option at all.
How to Set Up Visual Voicemail on an iPhone
To set up your visual voicemail on the iPhone, go to the phone app (the white phone symbol on the green background). Down the bottom to the right is the “voicemail” option. Tap “set up now”. You will be prompted to set up and confirm a password. Choose the default greeting or record a custom greeting, and your visual voicemail should be good to go.
Advantages to Visual Voicemail
- Easily locate a specific message in a group of messages, instead of having to listen to all of them to get to the one you’re after
- You won’t need to specifically call up to retrieve your messages, and can just listen to the ones that might be important.
- Get a visual reminder of what messages you have pending – on a standard voicemail system it’s easy to delay listening to your message until a later date and then forget that you have messages waiting for you.
- Visual voicemail is an easy way to send voice reminders to yourself or others, and the transcription service can turn them to text.
- The transcription service makes it much easier to record data from your messages – details like names, dates, phone numbers and addresses can be difficult to catch on an audible message, and normally requires you to write it down yourself.
The Negative Side to Visual Voicemail
At the moment, not all Australian companies offer visual voicemail as an option. If your phone company is one of them, then having a phone capable of receiving visual voicemail won’t help. If you need to upgrade your plan or change companies in order to access this feature, it will need to be an individual judgement call on whether the feature is worth it.
When using the transcription feature, messages are electronically transcribed. That means there can be translation issues – particularly with names and other words the program might be unfamiliar with. That might mean that the visual voicemail that you receive has places where the information is incorrect or makes no sense. The chances of it causing serious misunderstandings are small, but it’s worth remembering.
Is Visual Voicemail Right For You?
This feature could be life-changing or hardly used – it really depends on how much voicemail you receive. For busy people who need to quickly and efficiently screen their voicemail, visual voicemail is a welcome inclusion in a good quality plan. Whether visual voicemail alone is a feature important enough to make an upgrade worthwhile is for you to decide.