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Looking at the future of voicemail

For a long time, I’ve been mulling the possibility of creating a video series on the future of voicemail. Indeed, on the face of it, absolutely nothing has changed to my standard mobile operator voicemail service since I got my first mobile handset, decades ago. I can store — what? — 10 voicemail messages at any one time. Some operators will allow you to increase the size to 20 or similar, for an extra fee. Aaaand… that’s it. For a tool that is used by hundreds of millions of people every day, I am staggered that the only apparent innovation in the industry appears to have been Apple’s ‘visual voicemail’. So dramatic was this service that both Vodafone UK and Orange UK haven’t quite managed to steady themselves from the shock. If you walk out of a Vodafone or Orange shop expecting to get the Visual Voicemail experience from your iPhone, you’ll be sorely disappointed. That’s only available on o2. Why? Because it’s rocket science. At least, as far as Vodafone and Orange are concerned.

Complain to either operator and they’ll likely refer to you to HulloMail as a convenient alternative to explaining that they a) haven’t got the rights from Apple and/or b) don’t know how to replicate the experience or c) haven’t quite recovered from the shock of voicemail changing beyond the 10-messages-and-thats-yer-lot experience. I kid ye not. This is Vodafone’s private/public strategy. They will politely ‘suggest’ you ‘check out’ HulloMail — a service that pleasingly replicates the visual voicemail experience and builds upon that with an array of other compelling features (including address book integration) — plus it’s free for consumers. Here’s a recent tweet sent by VodafoneUK mentioning HulloMail.

When I mentioned the video series to Andy Munarriz, one of HulloMail’s founders, he generously offered to help support the series by becoming the sponsor. You’ll thus see HulloMail branding on the intro/end bits of each episode. So thank you Andy and all at HulloMail — your support has enabled me to actually move the series from concept to reality.

Here’s where I need your help though. I’ve got a good selection of industry spokespeople/thought-leaders, Andy included, to agree to go on camera and tell me where they think the future lies. I’m looking for your recommendation on one of the interviewees. The majority of the people I’m going to be interviewing are commercial. That is, they all work in and/or around the mobile industry. This is good, because it’s primarily where I’d like to focus the series, however I would like to get someone from an academic/research background to participate, who can provide some insight into consumer expectations and usability. Do you have any suggestions? They’d need to be in the UK and willing to be filmed in and around London for around an hour.

Let me know? And if you’d like to find out more about the series, just drop me an email (ewan@mobileindustryreview.com). I’ll hopefully be able to commit to publication dates here in the next week or so.

Note: Gary emailed to point out that Judah Klausner apparently invented Visual Voicemail. Here’s the Wikipedia entry. Find out more at this infuriatingly annoying website!

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