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GotVoice? I Do, So Should You.

A couple of weeks ago, I got contacted by a PR company that represents GotVoice, which provides a service that essentially downloads your voicemail from your various voice mailboxes and puts it in your email. This allows you to listen to your voicemail from the computer anywhere, anytime. You can archive the email, forward it, do whatever you want. with it.

The service, which only works in the US right now, supports the voicemail services offered by most local telephone companies, the major mobile phone operators, and a couple of VoIP providers. You can use this with up to two different voicemails (I used both my Cingular and T-Mobile phones as a test). GotVoice will periodically call your system's voicemail retrieval number, which you must configure into your GotVoice account. The voicemail retrieval number allows GotVoice to retrieve the messages without calling your telephone number directly, thus it happens entirely "behind the scenes." You will notice your message waiting indicator light "go off" if you happen to be watching the phone at the time. One exception to this rule is Verizon Wireless, which does not have a separate voicemail retrieval number. GotVoice is nice enough to provide instructions on how to configure your phone to "silent ring" when GotVoice calls to pick up your messages.

There is a basic service that is free that will retrieve your messages up to 3 times a day. Voice messages can be heard through a flash-based player. The paid service levels will allow more retrievals per day (Plus gives you 10, Premium gives you 24) and will emails your voice messages as MP3s. The "Premium" level also provides an RSS feed of your voicemail messages.

When you log into the GotVoice website, you will be able to see all of the voicemails the system has retrieved for you. From that inbox, you are able to manage your retrieved voicemails, set custom schedules for retrieval and modify your phone settings.

The initial challenge with the service was getting both of my voicemail services to be recognized by the GotVoice system. I contacted the support folks via email. Within a day or so, both my numbers were jacked into the GotVoice system. My guess is that if you live in a major metro area, it should work okay. If you live in the quasi-boonies like I do, they might need to apply some magic to make it work.

Once that was sorted, I set a schedule for retrieval. I was gifted a premium account, so I got to set a rather elaborate schedule. One of my phones is primary and the other is secondary. The primary doesn't get a ton of calls, the secondary gets almost no calls. I set the schedule for the primary phone to retrieve my voicemails at midnight, 7am and every half hour from 8am until 6pm during the weekdays, and seven nights a week at 9pm. On the secondary phone, I have it retrieve at 9am and 9pm daily.

Sure enough, their system retrieves the messages and emails them to me when I've told it to. The voice messages contain the time/date stamp of the message. GotVoice also captures the "envelope" information which lets you know who called as well.

Upon retrieving a message, GotVoice will put the message in the "saved" folder of the voicemail system. This allows you to pick it up on your mobile phone if you're not near your computer. GotVoice can be configured to periodically clean out the retrieved messages. The free service permits this cleaning weekly, the paid service lets you do it daily.

Of course, I have some suggestions to improve the service. They are relatively minor and would enhance the overall quality of the service.

  1. When voicemails are retrieved from my mobile phone, I would like to receive an SMS telling me that voicemails were retrieved. Since the voicemail indicator gets cleared when GotVoice retrieves the messages, I don't have a good way of knowing whether or not I actually have voicemail. An SMS telling me GotVoice has messages for me would be good.
  2. The display on the website that shows you who called assumes US-only numbers. While I was in Baltimore last week, one of my co-workers from the UK called me. GotVoice correctly retrieved the message, but only displayed the first 10 digits of their CallerID, which did come through in the voicemail envelope. GotVoice said they will correct this issue in the future.
  3. The RSS feed for voice messages should not require authentication. The vast majority of RSS readers do not support authenticated feeds. They might have to do some work to come up with an "obscured" URL for the RSS feed so that the majority of RSS readers can actually use the feed.

Meanwhile, I think this is an insantely useful service. I have to wonder how they are able to offer the free service for free. Some advtertising accompanies each email sent by GotVoice, but I have to wonder if that is enough to sustain the operation.


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