Voicemail. You hate it. We hate it. Damn near everyone hates it – at least, we all hate it in its current form. It’s an antiquated system desperately hobbling on its last leg in an industry where technology moves forward at a nearly absurd rate. While our phones get bigger and better each and every month, our voicemail system has, for the most part, remained the same for over a decade.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been progress. There certainly has – but it’s isolated. A handful of smartphones (the iPhone, the Samsung Instinct, and a couple of BlackBerry handsets) have embraced visual voicemail, which does away with the archaic process of dialing in for your messages by bringing your messages to you. In 2008, YouMail rolled out an independent visual voicemail system aimed at smartphones that didn’t have it out-of-the-box. This morning a competitor out of the UK, HulloMail, took a huge step forward with the launch of a native BlackBerry application.
HulloMail’s taken a rather interesting route with their service; unlike the standard voicemail system and competing services, all voice messages are stored by the user – or, at least, the user’s email service. After signing up with HulloMail, the user configures their number (either on the handset or through their carrier, depending on both) to forward to HulloMail whenever a call goes unanswered. After a caller records their voice message, HulloMail encodes it into an MP3, tucks it into an e-mail, and sends it off to the user’s e-mail inbox. The strength of this approach is two-fold: it works on just about any handset that can receive e-mail and play audio files, and it makes sharing drunken voicemails with all of your friends a matter of hitting the “Forward” button.
So if it’s all handled through the user’s existing inbox, why the native app? Flexibility, primarily. There are a few things that can’t be done within the inbox, which is where the native app steps in. First of all, the HulloMail app trims the fat, plucking solely your voicemails from the mess that is your inbox. Beyond that, it’s all polish: automatic contact sync (both Google Contacts and those locally stored on your BlackBerry), one-click callback, and greeting customization to name some of it.
This isn’t HulloMail’s first foray into the native app space. Back in December of 2008, HulloMail made their debut as an Android application. The primary improvement in the BlackBerry app is the overall speed; they’ve learned a few new tricks for retrieving and playing your messages more quickly, and have built them into this new app. Don’t fret, though, Android HulloMail fans – they plan on rolling the same tweaks into the Android app shortly.
Both the HulloMail service and application are free of charge – the company plans to make money with premium services at a later date. The app, compatible with the BlackBerry Tour, 8900, and Bold, should be available shortly at http://www.hullomail.com/, and will roll out onto the BlackBerry App World shortly thereafter.