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A different kind of Voicemail

Mel Martin

A new app for the iPhone has made its way to the App Store. VoiceMail, $0.99, lets you record a message and send it to a friend on a PC or Mac, or even on an iPhone.

I tried the app several times and found it a frustrating experience. First, you click on 'send mail' and the app brings up a list of your contacts. You are still within the VoiceMail app, and if you have a long contact list, all you can do is scroll up or down. No shortcuts. You select the contact, and are instructed to add a short line of text. I entered 16 words, and got an error telling me the limit is 25 words. Grrrrrrr. I shortened my message, then proceeded to record a voice message. After hitting the' send' button I waited for it to go out. Then I waited some more. I noticed my network signal was dipping below 2 bars, so decided to quit. Unfortunately, there was no option to cancel. I forced quit the application and went back in. No sign of that message, so I had to start from scratch.

By this time, I was in a better signal area (4 bars, solid 3G) so I sent another message. This one succeeded, but it took 24 seconds to send a 4 second message. I don't think this app is designed for long, detailed voicemails. Maybe on Wi-Fi.

For further testing, I sent myself a message. It arrived in my mailbox, and it said if I wasn't on an iPhone to click on a URL to retrieve it. Well, I WAS on an iPhone, and saw no indication that there was an attachment to click on or listen to. There is an in box on the app, so I checked there, and hit the refresh button. No message there either. In desperation, I clicked on the URL and got a web page with no way to listen to a message. Grrrrr.

Checking at home, I used my desktop Mac and clicked on the URL. There was an embedded Quicktime control, so I clicked on it. No audio played. Odd. I even checked the message before I sent it and could hear it loud and clear. I tried this on 2 messages. No audio on either. Grrrrrr.

Time for a check with the developer's support site. I clicked on the link at the App Store and was taken to a web page that simply had a link to take me back to the App Store. Grrrrr.

This looks like another App Store submission that Apple never tested. Some apps do get rejected, often for arcane reasons, but it implies at least they were looked at. This app, if anybody ever tested it, would have been killed outright.

Voicemail seems to favor sending these voice messages to iPhones, but why do that? iPhones have voicemail. You can send to a PC or Mac, but the receiving computer needs Quicktime. The developers say they'll add MP3 playback. Maybe so, but that won't solve the myriad other problems. It's almost like every time the developers had a decision to make, they went down the wrong path.

The idea behind this app has merit. It just has zero utility in its current form. The GUI is slow. The recording of messages is picky because you have to speak very softly or you get gross distortion. Transmitting the messages is slow. All that would be forgivable if the app worked, but I could not listen to a message sent to a desktop machine or my iPhone. It didn't work when I sent messages to friends either.

Other than that, VoiceMail is terrific. Grrrrrr.

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