SpinVox

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • Good quality of voice to text conversion
  • text conversions can be sent to email as well as SMS
  • short time delay between voicemail and SMS receipt

Cons

  • Currently only works with voice messages in English
  • out-of-tariff messages are expensive

Handling voicemails on a mobile phone can be tedious. You may need a pen and paper handy to jot down important information, for example; you'll probably need to find somewhere quiet to sit and listen to your messages and make notes; even then, there's the chance you’ll have to repeat a message to get all the details. There are also the issues of sharing information with others and of keeping a permanent record for an audit trail or simply for your own reference.

Enter SpinVox a service that automatically converts incoming voicemails to text messages and delivers them to your handset. In theory, this solves all the above problems in one fell swoop -- and because the SMS messages are delivered to your handset quickly, you can be sure you won’t miss any critical calls.

Installation, design & features

SpinVox doesn’t require any software installation, and it works with all mobile phones that support voicemail and SMS. You sign up for a free trial at the company's Web site and provide your mobile number so that the system can intercept voice messages. For this to work, your mobile operator needs to support call diverts.

By default, the person calling you will receive a greeting message from SpinVox explaining that their call is being converted to a text message. You can add a personal greeting easily enough, but the SpinVox promotional tag will be appended to it.

Your network operator's voicemail retrieval service is replaced by SpinVox, so if you need to listen to the original voicemail you'll have to dial a new number and enter a PIN to get to your messages. Each SMS you receive from SpinVox is assigned a unique number, and you can listen to the voicemail from which it was produced by entering that number when you have connected to the SpinVox voicemail service.

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As well as converting voice messages to SMS on your handset, SpinVox can send them to an email address, either in addition to or instead of the text message option.

You can set up these services via the SpinVox Web site. You also need to use the site for other account management tasks, such as changing your PIN and turning the service on and off. There is a setting to have SpinVox run only between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday, to save you the bother of activating it for working hours only. This is potentially very handy, but unfortunately you can’t customise the time setting.

With SpinVox turned off, you’ll receive a text message to tell you that a voicemail has been left. Currently, SpinVox only works with voice messages left in English; if a message is left in another language, you simply get a notification text.

The free trial is fully featured and runs for seven days or 50 messages, whichever threshold is reached first. Thereafter there are six different tariffs to choose from, depending on the number of voicemails you expect to receive. The cheapest, at £5 a month, includes 20 voicemails, while the most expensive, at £40 a month, includes 210 voicemails. It's important to choose carefully, as any out-of-tariff messages will cost you 30p each to convert.

Performance

Our first few test messages were left by people who were aware that we were evaluating the service. They were asked to mumble as well as to speak normally. The real test came in later on, as other people who didn’t know we were trialling the service spoke normally using the standard abbreviations and jargon of everyday parlance.

Generally speaking, SpinVox performed remarkably well. It had difficulty with place names, some personal names and some jargon, but delivered enough for us to get the gist of the voice messages.

The speed of conversion was pretty impressive. During the test period we didn’t have to wait more than a couple of minutes for any SMS to arrive. On more than one occasion SpinVox delivered timely information that might have been retrieved too late had it remained as a voicemail only.

Mobile operators should like SpinVox -- not least because the temptation to return a call or send an SMS could increase handset use. Users may well find, as we did in our tests, that messages are easier to deal with as text than as voice, and that information is received in a more timely fashion.

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