Death to voicemail: Telstra launches Voice2Text

Telstra Mobile has launched Voice2Text which lets people leave voicemail on your phone like normal and then have what they say automatically converted to text and sent to you as an SMS.

The service costs 40c per message compared to 65c per message for an operator-answered call using the Telstra Memo paging service.

The system is provided to Telstra by UK company SpinVox which converts the messages using voice recognition or uses human operators to convert the message if the voice can’t be recognised by the computer.

The Voice2Text message also comes from the caller’s number (provided they don’t have Caller ID blocked) making it easier to call the person back or text them back.

If you get a dodgy transcription of one of your messages (which does sometimes happen based on past customer experiences of the SpinVox services) you can listen to the original message.

Telstra has been running the service for business users for some time and says customers have been happy with it.

The main benefit behind the SpinVox system is the lower cost per message than using an operator paging service .

Telstra charges 65c per message for casual use of paging while Voice2Text is 40c per message (both have a $5 monthly fee).

There’s also a $10 per month plan with 25 messages included and a $15 per month plan which includes up to 500 messages which both compares very favourably to Telstra Memo which has a $12 per month plan with no included messages and a reduced per-message rate of 50c. You can see all the Voice2Text plans here.

As a promo to get people hooked in Telstra is offering the first month of Voice2Text free.

“Crash override” a user on Whirlpool who has used the Voice2Text service on a business mobile account said ” In my experience it’s very good. I very rarely have messages incorrectly translated perhaps one in 6 will have a word that the system is not quite sure about in which case it puts a question mark after the word if it’s not sure (or if it’s completely not sure it puts an underscore).”

Telstra does put this caveat on the service: “We can’t guarantee that the message will be correctly translated and we are not responsible for the content of the message. On average it should take around 3.5 minutes for text message notification to be received but in some instances it can take up to 20 minutes.”

However on the flip-side Telstra says “you are [only] charged for one message despite its length (up to 3 concatenated SMS) including long messages.”

Spinvox has a number of other voice-to-text services including a blogging engine where you call up and dictate your post to the system. The post can then be uploaded to Blogger Vox LiveJournal TypePad or any other blog system that can accept a post by email. However it does not currently have an Australian dial-in number for the service.