Tuesday, September 25, 2007

PhoneGnome "Better Experience Factor": Part 2

Even the non-aficionado may dimly recall hearing about "advanced features" starting as far back as the early ‘90s — automated voice-based personal assistants, one-number service, “find me-follow me”, text-to-speech email, etc. Pick one for, say, $15-20 per month.

These services failed for what I call the Three-C's - they were Cumbersome, Complex, and too Costly.

VoIP services like PhoneGnome strive to overcome these problems, trying to find the right balance of useful capabilities without being too complex, while at the same time, keeping the price low enough for consumers. It is not easy. Consumers are tough to please, when it comes to telephony services. They want a lot for little money - and it better be easy to use. And they are quick to drop a service at the first hiccup or if it is too hard to use. Who knows if, in the long run, PhoneGnome, or anyone, will succeed in hitting this sweet spot on a grand scale. In my case, they do.

Internet Answering Machine

For $100, PhoneGnome gives me an answering machine that can (1) answer the phone, (2) play a greeting to a caller, (3) take a message, and (4) package it into an email and send it to me. That may not sound like that much. Is it worth $100? Maybe not to some. It is to me.

Here is what you get in your inbox if you sign up for the Premium Voicemail Service from PhoneGnome. I imagine the standard Voicemail email looks similar:

From: PhoneGnome [voicemail@televolution.net]
Sent: Sunday, September 23, 2007 6:25 PM
To: Joe Smith
Subject: New message 1 in mailbox 2075551212

Attachments: msg0000.wav

Joe Smith:

"SMITH SUE" <2075551212> left a 0:20 long message in your PhoneGnome mailbox at Thursday, March 23, 2006 at 06:27:06 PM.

Check your PhoneGnome Voicemail by dialing **123 on your PhoneGnome phone.

Standard PhoneGnome free voicemail will send a .WAV file attachment to any email address. Callers will only hear a default greeting if you use the free standard voice mail. If you sign up for the Premium voice mail service for $19.99 (gives you one full year) you can record your own greeting and also get sent both an email with .WAV file of the a caller's voice message (this is the same as the free voicemail service) and get an SMS/text email sent to another email address.

PhoneGnome voicemail means I can pick up my voicemails anywhere I can get my email, which is just about anywhere these days. It also means I have the recorded message as a .WAV file that I can send to someone else, or use on my PC, save it forever, etc.

What's nice about this is it's super simple. All I have to do is click 'Activate' to enable the feature. I can change the email address(es) and set the number of seconds before PhoneGnome picks up and that's all there is to it. Simple, but very useful. And something the telephone company won't give me.

When I get an SMS from PhoneGnome premium voicemail, I know who left me a voicemail, so I know whether I need to check it right away, and when it can wait. This is about convenience, improving the "experience", making my phone behave the way I want it to behave, and work with what I want it to work with.

Next up, getting these same features on your cell phone, using PhoneGnome voicemail on your cell phone.

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