After using the iPhone’s intuitive and excellent visual voicemail for the first time, there was no going back to regular voicemail. Except, I did go back when I switched to Android, where the default was (and still is) primitive, regular voicemail. I didn’t know it was such a luxury and that carriers charged $1-3/month for the service (and still do) until I made the switch. Surely it must be standard on Android phones by now.
I asked a Verizon rep why visual voicemail is free on iPhones, but comes with a monthly “fee” on Android phones. He said Apple provides the voicemail service for iPhones and chooses not to charge its loyal followship for it. Meanwhile, the carriers provide the service to the rest, and they charge you for anything and everything. But Google could, and does, handle free visual voicemail with Voice.
Voice is by far the best visual voicemail solution for Android, which is amazing since it was designed primarily as a VoIP client (voice over IP), which allows phone calls to be made and received over an internet or data connection, not a visual voicemail client. Google’s own voicemail instructions lead us to the old-fashioned way, further suggesting that the search giant doesn’t consider Voice a visual voicemail client. It just works in that Android-MacGyver kind of way; you can rig up an app to do something you want rather than what it was designed for.
In a blip of hope and progress, visual voicemail was integrated into Android 4.0′s (Ice Cream Sandwich) phone app in 2012 (pictured above), but it didn’t really work very well. It seems to have disappeared without a trace in Android 4.4 (Kit Kat). Yet, it looked like what dedicated Android visual voicemail should look like, and hopefully Google won’t abandon their efforts.
Otherwise, Android users are stuck with carrier voicemail, which might work well, and isn’t THAT expensive, but carrier apps are usually poorly designed. Third party apps, such as Visual Voicemail Plus, are worse. They’re initially free, but require paid upgrades for full functionality. They look awful, too, but many sport a “function over form” attitude. I’ll take 1st party apps for telephony functions that are designed in line with the rest of Android’s user interface and experience.