Listening to voicemails is a huge waste of time. That’s why apps that transcribe your voicemail to text are a godsend. The new Yap Voicemail app is now available for the iPhone. You route your voicemails through Yap, which launched a few years ago at TechCrunch 40 as a speech-to-SMS app. It transcribes them for you using only speech-to-text technology (no humans), which allows it to offer the service for free (with ads at the bottom).
The transcriptions are not perfect—it mistook “Leena” for “Nina” and “drafts” for “trust” in one message, but Yap gets enough of the words right to figure out what the message is about. And you can always play the message in the app to listen to exactly what was said. Every time you get a message, a notification pops up with the name of the caller and the beginning of the message. Since it is completely automated, the message appears almost immediately after it is left on your voicemail, just like a text message. You can respond via email, SMS, or a phone call right from the app.
Here is one typical message that Yap transcribed for me today from a PR person:
I am sorry to leave this message. I know you probably hate voice mail but this one is important. Otherwise, I wouldn’t leave it to get to the point. I know you’re probably getting inundated with pitches around Google TV from all the partners in obviously Google but hoping that there’s a way to include . . .
You get the idea. I saved 42 seconds not having to listen to that. Thank you, Yap!
Yap is not first to this market. The ability to read your voicemails is one of the killer features of Google Voice, for instance. While the official Google Voice app is not available on the iPhone, it is expected to be approved shortly. And third-party Google Voice apps are already available. Note that Google Voice offers other features besides voicemail-to-text transcriptions, but with Yap you can keep your own phone number.
And then there’s Ribbit Mobile, which does pretty much the exact same thing as Yap and is an excellent app, but won’t be free after its beta period. Ribbit’s voicemail transcription is powered by PhoneTag, which augments its speech-to-text engine with human proofreaders and claims to be the most accurate of all the services. I’ve only tried the Yap iPhone app for a day and received a half dozen messages, so I can’t really tell which one is more accurate. But it seems to be at least as good as Google Voice, maybe better. The set-up is real easy, and it’s free. Definitely worth a try.