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YouMail Puts Phone Tag on Notice

Mon Nov 10, 2008 - 10:27 AM EST - By Annie Latham


I can't tell you how many times I've gotten a call from my husband that went like this:

"I'm going to Costco on the way home, do you need anything?"

I usually start rattling off a bunch of stuff when he stops me and asks that I text it to him. Easy for him to say, but kind of a pain in the butt for me to do as I end up dropping everything to type up a list. That was the old school way.

Now let's try that again. The call comes in, but this time I tell my husband to hang up and then not answer when I ring back so it goes to direct to voicemail. I proceed to leave him a message with a list of the 5-6 items I need and within minutes, he has that list in his text messages. How cool is that?

The new world scenario of voicemail-to-text is one being addressed by a Southern Californian company called YouMail, with their expanded line of service offerings. Last Thursday, this provider of voicemail transcription services for mobile phones unveiled a high-quality transcription service where humans are involved to improve accuracy.

"We found that people were willing to pay for higher quality transcription," said Alex Quilici, the chief executive officer of YouMail, Inc.

Fees for the new service run $6.99 per month for Centros, Treos and other smartphones, for up to 50 transcribed messages a month to be sent by text or email. For those with "non-smartphones," the fee is just $3.99 per month for the same number of messages.

YouMail is also offering unlimited transcribed email messages too, though Quilici said that so far, only 5% of the customers get more than 50 messages a month. If you stop to think about it, that makes perfect sense considering how the slowdown in the economy has put a damper on activity in real estate and other sales-related activities. When things take off again, those needing the unlimited plan will be glad to know that it only runs $17.99 per month for their Centro or Treo.

What's cool about YouMail...

Voicemail transcription services have been around a while. Many may be familiar with Simulscribe (now renamed PhoneTag). Their service uses voice transcription software, to convert voicemail to text. And they will email the message to you along with the original audio of the message to mobile phones, and to home and office phones. Their price point starts at $9.95 for 40 translations and $29.95 for unlimited. But can automated translation software ensure accuracy?

YouMail claims 95% accuracy using humans (an outsourced translation service). There appears to be no trade-off speed-wise for that accuracy. Quilici stated most messages are turned around in 3-4 minutes. He also said that most messages are transcribed to fit the limitation of SMS.

Voicemails are now Email!

During the interview, Quilici enthusiastically remarked, "voicemails are now email!" The YouMail service is designed to keep communication flowing because "you don't have to call people back about stuff." Instead, you can respond to the voicemail via email. How is that possible? Apparently, YouMail is smart enough to match up the phone number of the caller with your Contacts, so you have an instantaneous way to reply. Now that sounds really cool.

Working with the Various Wireless Carriers

YouMail can be obtained by simply going to and selecting "Sign Up Now." It will ask you for your mobile number and then text you an activation code, after you provide name and email. Then it goes through a process of identifying your mobile device and carrier so it can tailor the service to your needs.

A couple of things to note: It lists all the Palm phones except the Centro. And, if you are on Sprint like me, you'll see a message that looks like this:

Apparently Sprint is the only carrier that doesn't play nice with YouMail. They charge 20 cents for every forwarded message. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon let you forward for free.


It appears that YouMail is onto something. We all know how frustrating it is to play phone tag. Getting closure by being able to use email (or SMS) to reply to voicemail is a great productivity enhancer, for sure. And then there�s the Costco list... a hassle no more!

Please Share Your Thoughts:

I'd be curious to hear how those with service from Verizon or AT&T enjoy using this service. Please write in and let me know your thoughts or Discuss YouMail here. Don't forget to mention which email client you are using on your Treo/Centro.

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