Visual Voicemail

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Visual voicemail does exactly what it says on the tin. It allows users to view their voicemails on screen, and to choose, out of a list, which voicemails they want to listen to and which ones they want to skip over. Since its inception in early 2007, visual voicemail has taken on many forms, and has increased the productivity of hundreds of thousands of individuals and business around the world.

Pre Visual Voicemail

Before visual voicemail came along voicemail was not user friendly. It was time consuming and over burdensome, especially for users in a hurry to listen to a certain message.

Historically voicemail offered a telephone user interface (TUI) for users to interact with, options would be spoken down the line and numbers on the telephones dial pad needed to be pressed to select a certain option. A typical set of options may be; press one to listen to this message, press 2 to skip this message, press 3 to delete this message and press 4 to repeat this message. Judging from this it is easy to see how much time could be spent checking messages on a daily basis.

Visual voicemail changed all this and made voicemail appealing to a much wider audience.

The Beginning

Like with many great inventions the early days of visual voicemail are mired in controversy. Initially launched on the iPhone in 2007 as a signature feature, Apple were quickly challenged by a company called Klausner Technologies claiming patent infringement. The patent in question, named 'Telephone answering device linking displayed data with recorded audio message', was eventually settled by Apple after they agreed to license the technology.

These early difficulties did nothing to impede the rise of visual voicemail, helped by the explosion of smart phones on the market; visual voicemail has grown exponentially and has become an essential part of the lives of countless people worldwide.

Visual Voicemail and the Smart Phone

Without the smart phone visual voicemail would clearly have been a non-starter, and it is safe to say that visual voicemail owes its success in part to the smart phone. As previously mentioned the iPhone was the first device to offer visual voicemail to its users, and other devices quickly followed suit. It is hard to imagine visual voicemail being where it is today if we still only had access to basic phones.


Visual voicemail is usually offered as an application by both phone providers and third parties, and in its simplest form displays messages in a list in order of time and date received. Users are then able to interact directly with the application by randomly choosing which voicemails they want to deal with first.

Once a message has been selected, users are taken to the message screen from where they can play, pause and delete the message. This screen typically includes a slider indicating how long the message is, and whereabouts in the message playback currently is.

In practice visual voicemail application interfaces are rarely this basic, and often include a settings page where users can set up their voicemail in a way that suits them best.

It is easy to see just how much time can be saved with visual voicemail, especially for users who receive a lot of messages on a daily basis.


Visual voicemail applications offer a wide range of features aside from standard messaging, from greetings to transcriptions, there really is something for everyone. Below we will go over some of the most important features available to users of visual voicemail applications:


This is one of the main features of visual voicemail applications. When someone leaves a message you will receive a pop up on your device screen letting you know that you have got a message.

Personal Greetings

Users can record greetings that will play to their callers offering a more personal interaction.

Individual Greetings

Similar in design to personal greetings, individual greetings let users record a greeting that will play to a specific contact.

Copy to Email

Copy to email is a feature that allows users to have a copy of their voicemails automatically forwarded to their email address.

Voicemail Transcription

A popular feature of visual voicemail is voicemail transcription, where the content of voicemails are converted into readable text. Primarily a time saving tool, users can get an idea of what the message contains without the need to listen to it, deciding what course of action to take.

Block Callers

A feature that allows users to add phone numbers to a list of callers that will not be permitted to leave a message. This is ideal for users who get nuisance calls and that want to control who is and whose not allowed to leave a message.

Forward To

A key feature for business users, forward to offers a second line of defence against missing an important call.

Out of Office

This feature can be programmed to turn on at a certain time making it possible for a special greeting to play. One possibility would be to have out of office play every day at 6pm allowing users to separate their business and personal lives.


Visual voicemail offers industry standard security protection to keep users voicemails safe from prying eyes. From password protection for app access, to PIN security for standard retrieval, visual voicemail applications use all the technology at their disposal to keep users safe from unscrupulous entities.

Although security is a never ending battle, it is one that, for now at least, is being won.

Moving Forward

With such advancements in voicemail technology over the past decade it is hard to envisage what could come next, but with the constant innovation that we have come to take for granted it is easy to say that we will not be disappointed.

Visual voicemail continues to revolutionise the way that we interact in our personal and business lives, and even with the rise of competing technology, nothing can beat good old voicemail.


Visual Voicemail Inventor Strikes Again, Sues Google, Verizon, Others. 26th of August 2008.

Apple Targeted in new Patent Lawsuit over iPhone Visual Voicemail. 20th of December 2014.

Apple settles suit with Klausner over Visual Voicemail technology. June 16th 2008.

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