The Slow, Painful Death of Voicemail

Voicemail is slowly dying.

The staple functionality is being used less and less by younger demographics. As these demographics become older, the overall usage of voicemail continues to drop. So how did one of the most important features of telephone communication enter this downward spiral?

The largest contributor has been the adoption of additional forms of communication. For example, when voicemail was first introduced, SMS messaging wasn’t around. There was no way to tweet at someone or leave a comment on their Facebook wall. People have historically migrated to the most efficient, friction-less forms of communication. Could you imagine writing a letter and sending it through the mail today? How about sitting on the phone for 2 minutes to tell someone a short message? I can’t.

The second, less obvious contributor to this trend is the decreasing likelihood that your voicemail will be listened to. Numerous times I have made the effort to call someone and refrained from leaving a voicemail, only to immediately send them a text message that relays the necessary information. I could have easily left a voicemail but I feared that the message wouldn’t be heard. (For context, I have 13 unread voicemails on my phone right now).

Lastly, many voicemail systems are out-dated and difficult to use. While iPhone users can listen to messages by tapping 3 buttons, most people are stuck calling a special number and entering their 4-digit password. This is utter chaos – remember, we live in a world where Apple replaced 4-digit passwords with our fingerprints to unlock our phones.

The world of communication is evolving quickly. There are too many human, product, and network forces acting against traditional voicemail for it to survive. I’m excited to see what comes next.


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