- Visual voicemail offers a free and straightforward method of translating voicemail messages into written documents.
- Basic visual voicemail services are baked into smartphone operating systems, while others are available from third-party providers.
- Some visual voicemail apps include additional services, such as out-of-office messages and personalized responses.
- This article is for professionals interested in using visual voicemail to save time and streamline communication.
It’s been 15 years since the first visual voicemail services reached the market. The speech-to-text translation space has evolved considerably since then. Today, products offer more accurate transcriptions, and there’s a broad selection of service providers.
Several free third-party apps can professionally translate your voicemail messages into text, while iOS and Android mobile devices have built-in visual voicemail options.
We’ll explore visual voicemail and how it can benefit organizations and busy professionals and then examine seven of the best visual voicemail tools.
What is visual voicemail?
Visual voicemail is a service that transcribes voicemail messages into text. In the olden days, if someone left you a voicemail, you would receive a notification that you’d missed a call and that a message was waiting for you. If you received more than one voicemail, you had to listen to them in reverse chronological order.
With visual voicemail, all the key information is provided in text form. You don’t need to dial in to find out who called, how long each message is, and what it contains. You can view messages in any order, clicking through to hear the recording at any point.
Visual voicemail platforms typically provide the following crucial information:
- The caller’s name and number
- When they called and how long the voicemail message lasted
- The date and time of the call
- What was said in the message
Did you know? The word “voicemail” was first used in 1980 as a trademarked term by Televoice International, though it has since become a generic term for answering machine services.
Benefits of visual voicemail
Visual voicemail has various benefits for business. You can do all of the following when you use a visual voicemail app:
- Study messages at a glance. If you’re standing in an airport arrivals lounge with eight voicemails and a suitcase to track down, glancing at who called and what they said helps prioritize responses and maximize productivity. As a bonus, you don’t have to listen to lengthy pocket-dialed messages from people who didn’t know they called you.
- Access messages no matter your signal strength. With visual voicemail, you don’t need a strong phone signal to hear the message without distortion or momentary dropouts. Voicemails often arrive while you’re in areas of low or no signal, preventing you from dialing in to retrieve the message. If you’re in a noisy environment, you don’t have to struggle to hear what’s being said.
- Share information easily. Once voicemails are transcribed, you can easily share information with colleagues and clients by copying and pasting parts of the transcription into an email. Some services are even pre-programmed to let you forward voicemail transcriptions to an email account. A written record of a message is often invaluable later.
- Enjoy more discretion, privacy and calm. Reading a written message can be easier and less stressful than listening to an audio recording in many circumstances. Hearing an angry voice can be disconcerting and stressful, while reading their comments can help you feel more composed and detached.
- Gain additional services. Visual voicemail apps often come with additional services, including the ability to record individual greetings for specific contacts, broadcast an out-of-office message, or prevent unwanted callers from leaving a message.
7 best visual voicemail solutions
Here’s a look at seven of the best visual voicemail packages and their platforms. Except for the Android- or iOS-specific services (which we’ve noted in parentheses), these solutions should work on multiple networks and devices.
1. iPhone voicemail (iOS only)
One of the original iPhone innovations in 2007 was an app offering speech-to-text voicemail transcription. Today, to access your iPhone’s built-in visual voicemail, open the dialer app and tap the voicemail icon in the bottom right-hand corner. You’ll be prompted to set up your visual voicemail inbox if you haven’t already.
If you’re connected to an audio-only automated voicemail system, your carrier won’t provide visual voicemail. If you want to access visual voicemail, your best bet is downloading a third-party option.
Tip: If you’re debating iOS vs. Android for your business, consider how deeply you rely on Apple or Google products – such as iCloud and Google Docs – in your day-to-day operations.
2. Android voicemail (Android only)
Where Apple leads, Google’s Android operating system tends to follow – though this often happens in reverse as well. Android’s built-in visual voicemail service lets you view voicemail messages in text form.
To view voicemails, go into the dialer and select or swipe over to voicemails. When you open each logged voicemail, you should see a Play button (for listening to the message) and transcribed message text.
If you have an older Android phone or if your service provider doesn’t offer visual voicemail, try downloading a third-party app.
Tip: The best Android email apps include Outlook for Android, Gmail, Email by Edison and Newton Mail.
As the original third-party multi-platform visual voicemail service, YouMail has been operating for 15 years. It claims to stop annoying spam calls and telemarketers with smart caller ID, giving your visual voicemail a junk mail folder.
Other features include the ability to access your voicemail from any device through the cloud and hold conference calls. A Professional account has additional business-centric features, including unified voicemail for multiple phones, auto-reply, call routing, and the ability to record greetings.
YouMail’s basic package is free, but its Professional service starts at $17.99 per month or just under $180 per year. Subscriptions can include other services such as call blocking, virtual phone numbers, and even virtual receptionists.
4. Google Voice (Android only)
The Google Voice service gives you a phone number for calls, texts and voicemails. To sign up for Google Voice, you need a Google account and a U.S. landline or mobile phone number. Text messaging isn’t supported in all geographical locations.
A key aspect of the Google Voice system is that it transcribes reasonably well. You can even have transcriptions emailed to you via Gmail. Google Voice is particularly useful for people who make many international calls or for anyone already embedded in Google’s ecosystem (such as Chromebook users).
Download the Google Voice app from the Google Play Store.
Tip: If your business’s communication needs are more extensive, consider employing one of the best call center and answering services to ensure that your critical calls are being answered and handled professionally.
While rival platforms have introduced minimum charges, InstaVoice continues to offer free and unlimited visual voicemail, alongside missed-call alerts and voice SMS.
The InstaVoice voicemail management system allows you to organize, view and reply to messages in various ways. The chat interface organizes your most important conversations for you, allowing you to review your missed calls, text messages and visual voicemail transcriptions.
You can use the app to send voice messages to your recipient through SMS. Your account can store unlimited messages, and you can access your voicemail through any device, as well as through your email.
Premium features (including transcription and voice messages) cost credits, with the app charging 99 cents for 100 credits and $4.99 for 500 credits.
Although it’s not available in all territories, Voxist is a free visual voicemail service that allows 10 monthly transcriptions for one number. Transcripts and audio recordings are also available via email.
With the premium service ($4.99 per month), you get 30 monthly transcriptions and even bilingual transcriptions – which is ideal if you regularly field calls from people who speak other languages.
7. Hi Voicemail (iOS only)
Offering unlimited free visual voicemails, Hi Voicemail is an iOS-only service that offers free voicemail personalization and preset greetings alongside cloud storage and spam protection.
Customers willing to upgrade to the PRO version ($5.99 per month) receive an ad-free interface with multiple greetings (including location-specific ones) and the ability to automatically forward voicemails to email.
Download Hi Voicemail for iOS from the App Store.
Did you know? The best iPhone business contact management apps have artificial intelligence functionality to gather contact information from social media accounts, contact managers and the cloud.
Mobile carrier offerings
Several mobile networks, such as AT&T and Cricket, offer their own proprietary visual voicemail apps. These might be of interest to loyal customers, but bear in mind that embedding yourself further in a specific network’s infrastructure makes it harder to switch providers at a later date.
Anna Attkisson, Mona Bushnell and Andreas Rivera contributed to the writing and research in this article.