When I first saw the answering machine, I thought it was possibly one of the coolest inventions that I've ever laid my eyes on. It could save messages from people who tried to reach you when you weren't at your phone. Before mobile phone usage, it was almost essential to have an answering machine with a land line phone.
With the advent of mobile phone, the answering machine took a more virtual form - the voice mail. It was given a fair chance by its users, but lets admit it, it's a pain to use. Dialing into an IVR and waiting to listen each message, followed by a robotic voice is quite a waste of time. It is particularly frustrating on a smartphone - a communication device where you're only about 2 or 3 steps from sending a message, still needed at least 7 or 8 steps to access a voice mail. Totally not cool.
Of course, there was visual voicemail which Apple introduced, which would allow you to access your voicemail from a visual user interface and consequently, other's like Samsung and BlackBerry adopted it as well. But if you can bring access to voicemail on a UI, there is so much more that can be done with it, given a smartphone's capabilities. Unfortunately, the smart voicemail apps so far haven't made the cut, yet.
Ramaprasanna Chellamuthu shares my frustration. But this ex-Microsoft exec has decided to do something about it. His company, Gotopal's first app - Smart Voicemail is an app that is going to make voice mail's smart and easy to use.The reason -
While the truth remains that accessing voicemail is quite a long process, Rama's aim is was to not only to shorten it. It was was to make voicemail smart. Here's why -
Even at Microsoft, he was a hacker by nature. His multiple hacks on robotics has earned him a lot of recognition in main stream media (check this out). His attempt with Smart Voicemail is also along the same lines - making processes easier using artificial intelligence. So does Smart Voicemail make the cut?
Check this video out first -
In hindsight, integrating voicemail as an app is the perfect solution on a smartphone. In the age of Whatsapp, most internet enabled smartphone users are very used to communicating using an app. Of course, in the case of voicemail, there is a mobile carrier component in play. Rama shared that they've partnered with 8 mobile operators across US and Canada, where they're about to launch the iOS app in a few days.
Smart Voicemail itself is robust, well designed and very 2013. The process of replying to a voicemail is great, the calendar integration and automatic customization of responses is delightful and the to do is smart. But will this see the app through in this turbulent app ecosystem?
Reviving a dying industry is not easy
Given the number of ways in which you can contact another person instantly using a smartphone, is a lot more than what we had when voicemail first came. Furthermore, mobile IM applications like WeChat, Line, Hike and now even WhatsApp has got an inbuilt voice recording capabilities. While people make fun of this feature for being a "wannabe walkie talkie", it has the potential to kill voicemail because of how easy it is to use.The organizer capabilities of the Smart Voicemail is it's USP along with it's ease of use. But is it enough to revive this dying voicemail industry? Time will tell.
iOS users in the US or Canada, the app is launching in a few days, and you should definitely give it shot. The Android version is coming soon