Why Apple’s Voicemail Transcription Feature Won’t Matter Much

July 11, 2016

3:00 pm

It’s become cliché to say we hate voicemails, yet we still leave and receive them. Whether or not we actually listen to voicemails is another story. I currently have 56 unlistened-to voicemails on my phone, and I know I’m not alone. No one has time to listen to voicemails anymore. They’re a relic from a bygone era that was markedly less efficient. Voicemails are the signature of miscommunication, phone tag, schedule mix-ups, and poor planning.

So, when Apple announced the new iOS 10 would offer voicemail transcription, techies and busy entrepreneurs rejoiced and surmised the new feature would “fix” voicemail once and for all. But I think (and hope) that voicemail transcription will actually kill voicemail for good. Because, as annoying as voicemails are to listen to, they’ll be even more annoying to read (even without all the inevitable, maddening typos and mistranslations).

This is because, for all the talking people do over voicemail, they don’t say very much – even the shortest voicemails ramble. They lack order and cohesion and belabor the same simple points for emphasis. Sure, people might think leaving voicemails saves time and kills two birds while driving (or when texting or emailing are otherwise not viable options). But, the fact remains that text is and will always be the more efficient form of communication. And the time you’ll save yourself (and your contacts) by writing a clearly thought out text or email (versus sending a careless voice recording or transcription) will ultimately pay huge dividends for both your productivity and your sanity.

As the founder a PR agency for startups, I can easily interact with 15-20 clients a day. Because my work is extremely fast-paced and time sensitive, I need to be in contact with many clients all day long. My preferred method is over email, with scheduled phone calls, as necessary. If I notice a missed call from a client when we haven’t scheduled a time to talk, I’ll send them an email response, to see if I can accomplish what they need over email. Usually, I can. If not, I’ll send a meeting link to schedule a time to talk on the phone. Voicemail simply serves no purpose in my daily workflow.

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I’ve made the conscious decision not to advertise my phone number; I don’t want to be contacted unreferred or unsolicited. Voicemail is an endless pit of unsolicited contact. If you’re running a business, or even if you simply have a scrupulous personal life, it’s completely unnecessary.

Many people mistakenly believe that if something is urgent, it requires a voicemail. But I believe the more urgent a message, the more concisely and accurately it should be conveyed over text. Voicemail transcription, especially early iterations, simply won’t be able to offer that concise accuracy. It’s a novel adaption, but it’s not enough to facilitate voicemail’s survival in our text-centric future. And that’s a good thing.

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Chris Barrett is Founder of PRServe, a PR agency for startups. Since 2011, PRServe has helped launch over 500 of the world's most successful startups and crowdfunding campaigns. Chris co-authored Direct Your Own Life, a motivational success book for teens and young adults, and is cofounder of The Rap Test. He is featured in the documentaries Maxed Out and The Corporation.

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