May 18, 2021

Am I the last person to realize that voicemail is dead?

It bothered me to see this on my new iPhone:

If I touch "Call Voicemail," it just tells me I haven't set up voicemail, and there's nowhere to go to set it up. I researched it on line, saw some tips and followed them, without success, and called my service provider and spent half an hour in a very boring and fruitless conversation. 

I moved on to considering what am I really missing. I don't like when something doesn't work, even if I'm not using it, but am I using it? When's the last time I got voicemail that mattered? My one real use of voicemail is as the place where calls go because I've turned "silence unknown callers" on. If anyone not on my contacts list calls me, I won't hear the call, but they can leave a message. Now, they can't. They hear that I don't have voicemail. Is that a problem... or am I better off? 

I trying googling "no one uses voicemail anymore" and got over 3 million hits — mainly from 6 or 7 years ago. A more recent article is "Leaving a voicemail is rude...":

“There’s absolutely no purpose for voicemails in the modern age... You have no idea what to expect from them, they could go on for minutes, you might have to reach for a pen to jot down some information, and it’s super inefficient and inconvenient.”

And isn't the call itself rude? Not only should you text if your call isn't picked up. You should text before you call. It's too late in the history of technology to be calling people who aren't going to pick up for you, so why should these people be coddled with access to voicemail? 

So I'm ready to say voicemail is dead. Just get the corpse icon off the phone app, though, because I feel uneasy around things that feel broken.


Ann Althouse said...

Bart writes:

"I have intentionally left mine totally full for the last five years. Anybody who matters will ring back. It was ruined by robo-callers, which I've now pretty much defeated by answering all phone calls in French, which does not trigger their system. Again, anyone who cares about me knows what I'm doing and is not deterred in the least. Back in the '50s we had the "family ring". Let it ring twice, then hang up. Call back in about 15 seconds. Even before robo-calling there was a lot of junk, and we figured out was around it."

The way I have mine now though is that people who are not on my contacts list will never get an answer from me. Calling back won't work. The message to them needs to be that they have to email or text me. Anything commercial (or political) will have to become email.

Ann Althouse said...

Rob writes:

“ As long as you are in good health, voicemail is like that cassette deck in your stereo cabinet. My experience with a major health problem over the last 5 months has changed my view. Doctors call me once, only at their convenience, even about the scariest of test results. If I have the phone on mute, downstairs or am out hiking, they leave a voicemail. The call-back number is generic and simply puts me in musak hell for 30-40 minutes after which I can leave a message with their nurse assistant. (And don’t assume that because your personal physician is easier to contact that that means anything about specialists. They are gods, at least in their own minds.)”

Ann Althouse said...

Shawn writes:

d recommend setting up an appointment at an Apple Store to get your voicemail squared away. When you call your carrier, you’re dealing with customer service drones reading from scripts.

At the Apple Store you will likely be dealing with has a clue as to what to do to solve the problem.

As to the article you’ve linked to, I find the advice to “Never, ever leave a voicemail” unhelpful.

If I didn’t want people to leave voicemails I wouldn’t have set it up.

In fact I have my phone set up that any call from a person that’s not in my contact list, nor from a phone number I’ve called myself recently, automatically goes to voice mail, so I rely on voicemail. I make the point of putting in my outgoing message “Please leave a message” to signal that messages are welcome.

Most cell phones give pretty good transcripts of the audio messages, so many of the concerns about length or having to jot down notes are unwarranted.

With robocalls, telemarketers, and scammers calling many times a day, It’s the only way I can use the phone and retain my sanity.

Ann Althouse said...

RB writes:

“ Friends and family know that a text message is much more useful and expected compared to leaving a voicemail -- it's the default when an email is too much trouble. Email does have its place for longer, detailed messages, and perhaps multiple addressees including bcc.”

Ann Althouse said...

Bill writes:

“Can’t prove it’s dead by me. I use the landline more than my Android smart phone—slow adopter I guess--I’m 80. I don’t normally answer my smart phone—what happens is a caller will leave a voicemail message. When I see I’ve a message I’ll check and read the transcription. As far as I can remember I did nothing to set up the system, it just came as part of Android.”

Ann Althouse said...

Leon writes:

"I still have voicemail which I very seldom get messages on. I have currently eight saved messages from my parents that end with them telling me they love me."

Ann Althouse said...

Wendy writes:

"I don't think voicemail is dead... because I get voicemail reminders from:
primary care physicians, dentists, orthodontists, eye doctor, various specialists as appointment reminders (for myself and children)
my children's school principals with updated information

"I hate getting text reminders from those places because they still ask me to fill out some covid screening thing and then make me do it again when I get there, no thank you, I will do it once.

"I do like talking to people and sometimes I have questions for them that they may not know the answer to which is why I leave a voicemail if they don't pick up, so they can check their calendars, consult with people in their house about availability etc. I have already called them if they don't answer fine I leave a VM with my question I don't want to text them, to ask them the question, because I find texting at that point annoying. (BTW I am in my mid-40s). I personally hate when people don't leave a VM and I don't call them back, I make the assumption that they just wanted to chat and there was nothing important. Even if there was nothing important they just wanted to chat if they leave me a VM saying just that I do call them back.

"Yes, I despise robo-callers and spam but I can easily delete a VM from a number I don't know without listening to it on my cell phone."

All my reminders have come by text in recent years, not by voicemail. Lately, the only voicemails I've been getting were in a foreign language (maybe Chinese). I had no idea what they were about.

Ann Althouse said...

Mary writes:

"I like voicemail because I don’t answer my phone to any unknown caller and if it’s important they’ll leave a message. But another reason I like it is that I have older voicemails from my mom. She died three years ago. The first year or so after she died I would listen to her messages, and it gave me comfort. I haven’t listened to them for quite some time, but I know they’re there if I ever want to hear her voice again. Oddly I don’t have video of her, I have photos from my visits but that’s it.
I know they won’t last forever as I have to delete, but I delete everything except her messages. "