Using MMS to Bypass Your Mobile Operator's Outdated Voice Mail System

by Brian McConnell

While the rest of the technology industry has marched along, fixed line and mobile operators have not updated their voice mail systems in well over a decade. These systems force you to call into an IVR system to listen to your messages in sequential order. A better way to do this is to push the voice message onto the destination device so the recipient does not need to phone in to fetch it.

A little known way to do this is MMS (multimedia messaging service), now widely supported on most carrier networks, especially GSM networks such as T-Mobile. If your device supports MMS, you can go to the messaging menu (sometimes the same menu as the SMS/text messages menu), create a SMS, and attach an audio clip. This is usually easier to do on smartphones such as Palm and Symbian devices.

When you send the message, the recipient's phone will typically receive the message in its entirely and cache it for offline playback. This is a handy feature when you need to send a voice message to someone who you know uses text messaging a lot, or to someone who wanders in and out of coverage range. If you have a decent phone, it's easy to use, and easier to deal with than typing. The phone manufacturers could do a little more work to make this a one-button operation, but this is already an improvement.

NOTE TO MOBILE OPERATORS: your IVR voice mail systems are very, very tired. You need to update these to push voice messages onto subscribers' phones using MMS or email if they want this option. I know you want to capture another billable minute every time someone dials into the IVR, but it is a bad user experience, and besides you charge for MMS on a per message basis, so who cares what method the subscriber uses to fetch his or her voice messages.


2006-03-06 09:34:56
Anyone using CallWave Mobile?
"CallWave for your Cell Phone 2.0 is a FREE service that enhances your existing cell phone, allowing you to screen live voicemail messages, transfer calls to your home/office phone, receive voicemail messages by email, and more!"
I registered but haven't configured my phone to use it yet.
Bruce Stewart
2006-03-06 10:58:11
No kidding! I totally agree with your gripe about the state of telecom providers' voice mail systems. I was just battling with my cingular voice mail before reading this, frustrated that I couldn't easily skip around or even seemingly delete a message without listening to it in it's entirety. I would much rather get my voice mail pushed out to the device where I would have better control over it.

I also live somewhere where the cell coverage is very spotty, and I can't count the times I've had a vm for my cell number that the phone knows is there (because it went through a covered area and got the notification), but I don't find out about it until I'm outside of the coverage area. It's very frustrating to have your phone know there's a message waiting for you but not be able to deliver it!

Bruce Stewart
2006-03-07 12:04:34
I just saw this press release from and it sounds like they're working on one angle of this problem.

Seattle-based GotVoice offers a FREE service that lets you manage all of your home phone and mobile phone voicemails in one place online. You can receive, listen to, organize and forward your voicemails (via MP3s) in your own email system or via your own personal GotVoice web page. GotVoice makes voicemail accessible virtually anywhere you log onto the Internet...