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Jonathan Jensen – SpinVox, the future of Voicemail


This week we go to press early because there’s been a lot of debate over the past few days on the subject of voicemail and its future …

Fellow SMS Text News contributor (and mobile geek extraordinaire) James Whatley (aka Whatleydude) recently organised some SpinVox accounts for my family. I know I wouldn’t be without SpinVox but what about the rest of the family? Is SpinVox really just for mobile geeks or does it have appeal to Normobs (normal mobile users) too?

So what is SpinVox? SpinVox Voicemail replaces your mobile operator’s voice mail with a speech to text service that converts the caller’s voice message into a text message which is sent to your mobile as a SMS, plus an email to your PC too if you choose. It’s so much easier reading the voice message than having to dial in and listen to it. Of course, if you do want to listen to it, the original message is only a phone call away! The caller either hears your voice as usual or the ‘SpinVox lady’, asking them to leave a message.

I’m a big fan of SpinVox. I’ve used SpinVox instead of regular voice mail for over a year now and there’s no way I’d go back to voice mail. But what do Normobs make of SpinVox? Well my wife started out a bit sceptical. ‘Why would I pay extra for something I get for free now?’ was the initial comment when I asked her to test out SpinVox. However, after a few messages she was very impressed and agreed that it greatly improved the voice mail experience. She particularly likes receiving a text message when mobile coverage is poor – difficult to make calls but sufficient for SMS.

I also put SpinVox on my teenage kids’ phones. Whilst they both thought it was quite good, they said they wouldn’t be prepared to pay extra for it. Because they both tend to communicate by SMS, the idea of an enhanced voice mail service was of less appeal. The verdict was they would use it if it was available as part of their existing mobile package but it didn’t merit paying for as an extra. SMS is a more important communication medium to them than voice.

Inevitably speech to text transcription suffers from a small degree of error, particularly if there is background noise like street noise or traffic. Whilst I can accept a few errors, Normobs have a high expectation of transcription accuracy (like 100%!) and don’t appreciate the nuances of the technology. My take on this is that their expectation is based on text messages which of course exactly reflect the accuracy of the sender.

Pricing is an interesting area. We mobile geeks are much readier to accept that an extra service like SpinVox has its own price point and be prepared to pay for it. For Normobs this seems to be more of a barrier. I think this could be overcome by integrating SpinVox into the mobile operators’ packages where the additional cost could form part of the overall package. The customer still pays for SpinVox but the additional cost is not obvious. This approach would extend the reach of SpinVox and create a much simpler customer experience. Selling an additional third party service to customers is always a challenge but if it can be included in the operator package – job done!

What enhancements to SpinVox Voicemail would I like to see?

– Support for multiple mobile numbers within a single SpinVox account would be great for those of us with several handsets.

– The delay when a call diverts before the caller hears the SpinVox message seems longer than with regular voice mail.

– I got a couple of comments that messages were slow to arrive. I would agree they take a little longer than a regular voice mail SMS alert.

– Pricing seems a little on the high side at 30p to 20p per message, depending on the tariff. Whilst mobile geeks may see this as a reasonable premium for the service, it reduces the appeal to Normobs.

One little extra which is one of my favourites … SpinVox Voicemail subscribers also get free access to SpinVox Memo. This allows you to call SpinVox, record a short note to yourself & the message is sent to you as a text email. Useful when you’re out and about and think of something you must remember. I’ve set up a rule to forward these emails to my Evernote account so I’ve always got them.

Since I wrote the first draft of this post, there’s been a lot of debate online about voicemail being dead. To me, SpinVox neatly bridges the old world of voicemail with the world of text.

Finally, James Whatley is generously offering five SpinVox accounts on a one month trial. Everyone who comments to this post will go into a draw, to be drawn live on the SMS Text News podcast. So get commenting!

Jonathan’s also at Sevendotzero.


  1. Thanks for the write up Jonathan, feedback noted.

    One thing – You don't have to be a SpinVox Voicemail subscriber to get a free SpinVox Memo account.

    All of our non-voicemail services are currently FREE and you don't have to be using SpinVox Voicemail to gain access to them.

    FYI and all that.


  2. Spinvox is great and all that but I agree it would make much more sense if it could support multiple phone lines.

    Just as an aside, what happened with that Skype deal that was announced ages ago?

  3. Wow, read the write-up and the voicemail replacement isn't something I'd need as I don't receive sufficient voicemails anyway… BUT… the memo service got my attention straight away, and to see it's not a subscription service at the moment… Might have to give that a try and see how it works.

    Thanks for that. 🙂

  4. I also heart SpinVox and have dropped them a few suggestions re: potential enhancements / changes to their existing services previously, but what I really want is some kind of API that I can throw recorded speech at and get a transcription back from… pay per use naturally and in short segments if nescessary.

    An Amazon EC2-hosted virtual appliance you could license and manage yourself would just about rock my socks off, although I don't know enough about how SpinVox processes voice to be sure if that kind of computing power would be sufficient. I guess that kind of detail is pretty valuable IP…

  5. Wow. A cloud dictation transcription service accessed by the ubiquitous mobile and an email response. That would be very cool indeed. It would remove the need for keyboards for a lot of mobile usage, i.e writing email and memos – dictate, [review] and send! Any device, any where.

  6. I am currently researching voice mail to e-mail conversion services, and SpinVox seems to be a favorite. I will probably try it out.

    Julian and others interested in a memo-like program, if you are in the US or Canada, Jott is a great program which allows you to call, speak, and then transcribes your voice into e-mail to anyone on your contact list and/or yourself.

  7. except spinvox is human powered so you'd have to wait a bit for the API to come back with a response

  8. SpinVox is absolutely not human powered. It's 100% automated and (I think) in a very small group of such services in that respect… The only human interaction is after a computer voice transcription where a human may review a particular small element of a transcription and tune the system to improve quality for future transcriptions.

    Having said that, providing a true real-time service would probably not be realistic in a cloud service (lots of processing!), but I don't think that prevents it from being useful.

  9. That certainly appears to say they use overseas transcribers, but contradicts what I have been told directly…. I hope I'm not mis-representing anyone's position here.

    I'll do some homework and follow-up.

  10. That certainly appears to say they use overseas transcribers, but contradicts what I have been told directly…. I hope I'm not mis-representing anyone's position here.

    I'll do some homework and follow-up.


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