Thursday, April 02, 2009

For Some, Voice Mail Is Losing Its Allure - NYTimes.com

For Some, Voice Mail Is Losing Its Allure - NYTimes.com

Research shows that people take longer to reply to voice messages than other types of communication. Data from uReach Technologies, which operates the voice messaging systems of Verizon Wireless and other cellphone carriers, shows that over 30 percent of voice messages linger unheard for three days or longer and that more than 20 percent of people with messages in their mailboxes “rarely even dial in” to check them, said Saul Einbinder, senior vice president for marketing and business development for uReach, in an e-mail message.

By contrast, 91 percent of people under 30 respond to text messages within an hour, and they are four times more likely to respond to texts than to voice messages within minutes, according to a 2008 study for Sprint conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation. Even adults 30 and older are twice as likely to respond within minutes to a text than to a voice message, the study found.

There are no definitive studies of how many voice mail messages American leave compared with earlier periods, but if the technology is heading toward obsolescence — as many communication experts suspect — the trend is being driven by young people. Again and again, people under 25 recount returning calls from older colleagues and family members without bothering to listen to messages first. Thanks to cellphone technology, they can see who called and hit the Send button to reply without calling their voice mail box. “Didn’t you get my message?” parents ask. “No,” their children reply, “but I saw that you called.”

Jack Cathey, 20, a college student in Lewisburg, Tenn., said his parents and grandparents continued trying to leave him voice messages despite his objections. “Do you know your voice mail’s full?” a family member asked him recently, failing to comprehend that, for his generation, that might not be a problem.

To cater to those with no patience for voice mail, wireless providers are busy rolling out a new generation of text-based alternatives that promise to make communication faster and more efficient.

The most popular is Visual Voicemail, which comes standard on the iPhone and is available on other smart phones, including the Samsung Instinct and the BlackBerry Storm. The application displays messages in a visual in-box, just like e-mail, and allows users to listen to messages one by one, in any order, so important calls can be returned first and others saved.

Other companies have taken a bolder approach, eliminating the need to listen to messages altogether.

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