I'm a long time fan of SpinVox - the Voicemail to SMS service. In my review of them last year I found seven ways they could improve their service.
Due to SpinVox's rather beleaguered year, there have been no noticeable improvements or enhancements in the service they provide.
(Edit 20100318 - SpinVox is now cancelling all individual users' accounts)
Currently in beta, Ribbit promises to be all that SpinVox could be - and more.
The basic premise is the same. You divert all your voicemail to their service, a caller leaves a message, you get it delivered as an SMS. Perfect.
Set up was a breeze, enter account information and set up the divert. They even do a test call to make sure everything is set up correctly.
Compared To Wishlist
So, how do they do compared to my wishlist?
It’s great to receive an email with the transcript, but I’d really like to get an audio file as well. Useful for record keeping, error checking and blackmail.
Yup - done and done! MP3s come through email. If your phone picks up your email, you can listen to a message without having to dial in. Perfect.
I’d like to be able to go to spinvox.mobi and see a list of all the voicemails I’ve received – including transcripts and audio downloads.
Again, close to perfect. There's a hidden mobile site - http://m.ribbit.com/ which gives you direct access to your transcriptions. It even lets you dial in to a message or return a call directly from the web site.
I’d like access to an API for personal use. To enable me to generate wordles or similar. To grab all the voicemails from a particular person or containing a certain phrase.
It's there! http://developer.ribbit.com/- I need to dig around to see what can be done.
I’d like to set different greetings for different sets of numbers. I keep the same number for work, friends and family. My friends don’t want to hear my work Out-Of-Office message and my work colleagues don’t want to hear my James Bond impression.
I can't see a way to do this. It should be possible. Once I've uploaded my address book, I want my mates to get one voicemail greeting, work colleagues to get another, etc.
Along with greetings, I’d like to be able to quickly flick between my regular voicemail message and my out of office message. It’s great fun recording a new one every time I go away for a few days.
Yes! This works! You can record as many greetings as you like - you can even use your computer's microphone. You can swap them over on the web - I've not found a way to do it either via IVR or mobile web.
Direct Dial Voicemail.
On Vodafone UK, I can dial 121 before any number and go straight through to voicemail – handy if I want to avoid someone! I’d like a number I can give out which would just go direct to my voicemail.
Not available. A minor concern.
Ribbit has an incredibly feature packed website. As well as giving you complete control over your account, you can also use the website to read and listen to all your messages.
You can also see missed calls. This is wonderfully useful. If you're out of coverage, your phone won't ring. Once you're back in coverage, you can get a text or email from Ribbit telling you who rang but didn't leave a message.
Nothing in this world is perfect - let's look at what Ribbit does badly.
The welcome text is very poorly done...
Coming from an unknown number, oddly formatted and no link to the mobile portal. The link presented doesn't render well on mobile either.
You only get one chance to make a first impression - sadly Ribbit's first impression is of carelessness.
Always a tricky one to get right. Take a listen to this MP3 and compare it to the transcribed text.
Hi, Terry. It's Mom. We're just about to go over to have a cruise in Hong Kong. It's the most beautiful place I've ever seen. I'm just knocked out. Anyway, we'd love to hear from you speak to you, I guess you can ring this phone. We mentioned we have a cruise and I may answer it. I hope you and Lis well. And I love you lots. Bye.
Pretty damned accurate! I put this under shortcomings because of the American translation of "Mum" to "Mom".
When your servers are in one country and your users are in another, date- and time-stamps become really important.
The timestamps in the mobile web version are several hours out. A minor annoyance - but one which gives people a headache trying to work out why someone is calling you at 6AM!
Notice the "Call Voicemail" link in the image above?
It's pointing to - I presume - the US dial in number, not the UK one. There are several little errors like this. None of them critical, but all enough to remind you it's in Beta.
Ribbit is close to perfect. It blows SpinVox out of the water in terms of voicemail functionality.
It's accuracy is good - and it's upfront about its transcription methods. It even lets you sacrifice accuracy for confidentiality if you'd rather just have machines listening in.
What will make it sink or swim is its pricing. Free during beta, it's promising free automated transcription, with pricepoints of US$10 and $30 for higher tiers of premium human-based transcription.
It's missing a few "nice to haves" - SpinVox let me reply to voicemails via text-to-voice and would let me update my social networks by speaking a message.
The website and mobile web service need a bit of spit-and-polish - but it is functional.
I highly recommend you sign up for the beta of Ribbit.