Don't Call It "Voice Jail" Anymore | Page 2

I haven't used PhoneWire's service, but I have recently tried the ones from YouMail and SpinVox and was impressed with how well they worked.

There are a few things that can throw transcription technology a curve ball—homophones (mail, male) and initialisms (CEO, HTML) especially—but I never had a situation where I was left scratching my head wondering what the heck the caller was talking about.

Even if a transcribed message does turn out to be unintelligible, you can still call in when necessary to listen to the actual message. Many of the services will also give you the option of getting an MP3 of the message as an e-mail attachment.

The cost of getting voice-to-text service for your mobile phone can be anything from a couple of bucks a month to a couple of hundred, depending on the level of service. Some providers charge by the minute or by the message, and YouMail has a several under-$10 "Saver" plans that transcribe only the first 10 to 15 seconds of a message. (Perhaps unsurprisingly given the decision to employ real people rather than computers, PhoneWire's service is one of the priciest; it's high-end plan costs a whopping $199 a month.)

Aside from what you pay for voice-to-text service, there are other costs to consider like the price of a data plan if you don't already have one (otherwise you can only read your messages from a PC). You also need to factor in how much your carrier charges you for text messages—remember that they're limited to 160 characters, so verbose voice mails may require several texts to transcribe fully.

One of the big conveniences of voice-to-text is that once you've got a message in text form you can forward it on to say, a co-worker (or several). This may often be justified, but the flip side of the easy dissemination of voice mails is that it potentially allows for the wide distribution of messages to unintended recipients.

That's why the decision to forward a voice mail should always be made with discretion, and anyone leaving a voice mail these days should consider the possibility that their message may be heard or seen by people other than the person it was left for.

Cost and etiquette issues aside, voicemail-to-text service can be a real productivity enhancer, and one that any mobile professional should consider.

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