Go­ing back to our ears

Voice­mail, that old hall­mark of the voice-cen­tric era, is dead. But the era of app-cen­tric voice mes­sag­ing is very much alive

Financial Mail - - PATTERN RECOGNITION - @shap­shak BY TOBY SHAP­SHAK

Just over a month ago I turned off my voice­mail. Af­ter voice calls and SMSES, voice­mail has been the long­est-used ser­vice I’ve had since I bought my first cell­phone in 1995. It was an es­sen­tial part of the cell­phone era,

To say I hardly miss it hardly needs to be said. My voice­mail, like just al­most ev­ery­one else’s th­ese days, has po­litely im­plored peo­ple not to leave a mes­sage but rather text or e-mail me. I even help­fully spelt out my e-mail ad­dress. Peo­ple still left voice­mail. For years it hasn’t re­ally both­ered me be­cause for the past decade I’ve paid for an ex­tra voice-to-text trans­la­tion ser­vice. In­stead of lis­ten­ing to my voice­mail, I would get th­ese handy SMSES — with most of the voice mes­sages prop­erly con­verted into text.

But when Vo­da­com shut the ser­vice down at the be­gin­ning of Novem­ber, I took it as a sign that it was time to turn off voice­mail al­to­gether. For the past month my life has con­tin­ued with­out voice­mail, and it has not been missed in the slight­est. I quite rightly as­sumed I didn’t have to ask peo­ple to send me a text mes­sage (via what­ever chan­nel) be­cause that is now the com­mon as­sump­tion. Right?

Ex­cept voice mes­sag­ing is flour­ish­ing — from an un­ex­pected source. Al­most ev­ery tex­ting app in­clud­ing What­sapp, Telegram, Facebook Mes­sen­ger and Wechat lets you send short au­dio clips. I have to ad­mit, per­haps ir­ra­tionally, to not lik­ing voice mes­sages be­cause they de­feat the point of a text-mes­sag­ing app: to send text mes­sages. That’s not to say they aren’t use­ful. For the sender they are es­pe­cially handy. In­stead of typ­ing up a note with your thumbs, you can hold down the mi­cro­phone icon and dic­tate a mes­sage.

What could be eas­ier? Just ask the Wechat users who sent 6.1-bil­lion voice mes­sages last year. There is a sin­cer­ity to hear­ing a voice mes­sage as op­posed to read­ing a text one. You can hear real emo­tion in some­one’s voice and it’s a much warmer, more in­ti­mate way to com­mu­ni­cate even if it’s one-sided.

But you can’t sim­ply glance at your phone’s locked screen no­ti­fi­ca­tion to see if it’s ur­gent or not, be­cause you only get the voice mes­sage icon. Nor can you dis­creetly lis­ten to it like you can re­ply to a re­ally ur­gent text mes­sage. It feels like a be­trayal of the whole point of text mes­sag­ing.

We’re not mak­ing as many phone calls any more, be­cause the voice­cen­tric cell­phone has been re­placed by the data-cen­tric smart­phone. We stopped hold­ing cell­phones next to our heads — in­stead, we stare down at smart­phones, scroll through so­cial me­dia and tap out mes­sages.

Now, the phone is go­ing back up to our ears, as it were. Un­less of course you’re a Blue­tooth head­phone user.

Voice mes­sag­ing is more per­sonal (even if many peo­ple ram­ble), and it’s the evo­lu­tion of mes­sag­ing hap­pen­ing in front of our eyes.

Whether it’s a per­ma­nent new fea­ture or a pass­ing fad, we’ll prob­a­bly know in the dis­tant fu­ture. Like, next year.

Voice mes­sag­ing is more per­sonal, it’s the evo­lu­tion of mes­sag­ing in front of our eyes

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.