Friday, July 31, 2009

About iPhone Voicemail Messages ...

This past week David Pogue initiated a campaign against lengthy (and redundant) carrier voicemail messages.

In this blog piece he states:

"Last week, in The Times and on my blog, I’ve been ranting about one particularly blatant money-grab by U.S. cellphone carriers: the mandatory 15-second voicemail instructions."

It's estimated that this nets the cellphone industry an additional $620 million in revenue.

What I found interesting was this little factoid:

"iPhone owners’ voicemail doesn’t have these instructions — Apple insisted that AT&T remove them."

And now that I think about it ... my best friend asked me a few days after getting my iPhone why it goes straight to my voice message. I told him I didn't know and the topic never came up again.

What's even more interesting to me ... it seems this may be the first time there is concrete evidence of a handset maker (Apple) dictating a term and condition to a cellular carrier.

It's also interesting that Apple noticed this "overcharge/redundancy" and it ends up being a major money saving feature of the iPhone that people just take for granted.

By owning an iPhone ... I'm saving my friends who leave me messages from T-Mobile and Verizon.


Anonymous said...

While I appreciate David Pogue's article and his point, I don't see this as some kind of diabolical plot by the cellphone companies to screw people out of money. Ultimately, the cell phone companies are businesses that need to make money to stay afloat and competitive. There are a number of services you receive from cell phone companies that are very valuable, high quality, and free of charge. The most significant of these is tech support. This costs the cellphone companies a TON of money and at least so far is free and not farmed out to a foreign country.

Do you seriously want to complain about fifteen seconds? Prepare for lower-quality services and start expecting to talk to someone named Patel when you call in. This same kind of nitpicking on price is what sent tech support for computers abroad. You can't have it both ways; if cellphone companies cannot make enough of a profit to support these free services they will have to make it up some way and this will be one of them.

Voice mail is a very valuable and useful service that is given free with every account. It is not free to the cell phone companies, however, because when your call is routed to voicemail it is routed to a system that is not owned by the carrier. The carrier has little or no control over the options given with that particular voicemail system. Voicemail systems are often regional in nature, connected to the phone system via local trunks, networks, etc and as a consequence are not all the same even in the same cellphone company. A cellphone user is California may have a very different voicemail experience than one in South Carolina because of this. This is something that cellphone companies cannot control.

People that are going to get all up in arms about this issue can use the shortcut commands to get directly to the beep. Verizon is *, AT&T and TMobile is #, and Sprint is 1.

Keep in mind that (industry-wide) time is typically rounded to the next minute anyway, so those ten or fifteen seconds may not make a difference at all.

Finally, calling your own voicemail is treated as a peak call with all carriers and you are charged for calling your voicemail the same way you would be for calling a landline or an out-of-network carrier. You can save money by either retrieving your voicemail during non-peak times or by dialing your own number from a landline and hitting # (on Verizon) as soon as you hear the message; this allows you to handle voicemail as you would on the cellular phone.

On a related but unrelated topic, remember that voicemail is not an archival service; while you can keep saving certain special or sentimental messages over and over the cell phone company is not obligated to preserve those messages and the service is not intended for anything beyond temporary retrieval. Archival services are available from third party companies that record messages for a fee and send them to you either in mp3 format through email or on a cd. Problems with voicemail can often only be resolved by rebuilding the feature on the account which will erase the messages; kind of like reformatting a hard drive.

If you need to preserve a message for sentimental or legal reasons use one of these services or you could risk losing that message and the cell phone company is not responsible for that.

FYT said...

Obviously there's some bias in your comment ...

It's apparent to me that Apple recognized the "15 second redundancy" and asked AT&T to remove it. What you forget is that APPLE IS DOING THE MAJORITY OF iPHONE SERVICE NOT AT&T.

Who knows ... maybe this was the trade off AT&T made.

Either way, if AT&T and Verizon (and Sprint) know that this message is intentionally costing customers so as to make their bills higher and their minutes used - then it's a scam no matter how you want to hash it.

It's like the "undercoating scam" on automobiles in the 80's - dealers were offering a protective coating under cars - trick was - this was already applied at the factory to all cars and they charged $250 extra like it was a feature. They were KNOWINGLY scamming extra $$ out of the public.

Anonymous said...

buzmania, you're a little off base.

NONE of the services you get with your phone are free. You pay for all of them, that's what the bill you get is -- a demand from your phone company for money for ALL the services you have.

Some carriers let you disable the instructions:

I also don't believe companies have so little control over voicemail systems. Carriers have networks, servers, lots of hardware. To outsource something so trivial makes little sense.

And last, I don't use minutes to check my own voicemail with T-mobile. I'd be surprised if ANY carriers deduct minutes for checking VM but I suppose it is possible.

And unrelated, voicemail security is weak, it's based on caller ID. Everyone should turn on password prompting. If I spoof my caller ID as your number and call you, you won't even see the call, it'll go straight to your voicemail system where I'll have unrestricted access to change your settings and listen to your messages.