Is Voicemail Dead?

According to data prepared for USA TODAY by Internet phone company, Vonage, the core feature of mobile phones, voice usage, is declining. As of July 2012, Vonage reported that its volume of voicemail messaging dropped, year-over-year, by eight percent and the number of users even checking their messages fell by 14 percent. It doesn’t seem like much, but when you apply that percentage to the six billion mobile cellular subscribers around the world, operators are potentially facing a dramatic loss of voice-related revenue.

vvm two screenshots in phone large

From a consumer point-of-view, this isn’t surprising. Compared to apps such as, Skype, Go SMS, and WhatsApp, traditional voicemail services have remained out of touch with evolving messaging technologies. The process of dialing into a system, listening through instructions, going through messages one-by-one … all seems obsolete when compared to the delay-free expectations of today’s consumers.

Of course, voicemail is still offered; according to a survey by uSamp, it’s still checked at least once a day by mostsmartphone users, but it’s in dramatic need of a facelift that could stimulate what was once the most used mobile service.

Voice at the speed of text

The most needed improvement for voice usage is convenience, which is something Apple introduced with its visual voicemail client on the iPhone. Plus, various OTT apps have been connecting voicemail to everything from social networks to web interfaces.

Perhaps the most convenient aspect of many visual voicemail platforms is the ability to convert voice messages to text messages (often called voice-to-text). This is no surprise, considering the use of text-based messaging on mobile devices has dramatically exploded in recent years. Analytics firm Portio Research highlighted the following messaging usage numbers as of February 2012:

OTT Messaging vs SMS Messaging Chart   VVM Blog

Chart via mobiThinking

  • SMS: 7.8 trillion messages sent
  • MMS: 207 billion messages sent
  • OTT: 3.5 trillion messages sent
  • Mobile email: 670 million users

All of this combined totaled a global market value of about $202 billion in 2011, and is projected to reach $310 billion in 2016. Why? Because reading text-based messages is quicker, quieter, and generally accepted as more convenient than listening to audio messages.

Of course, voice-to-text isn’t the be-all-and-end-all solution to revitalizing revenue from voice services, but it has proven to command a premium price for several large operators in North America. Further, with all the social messaging, email, and video-based messaging apps on the market, the opportunity to integrate various visual and text-based messaging tools can provide consumers with the best of all worlds.

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