The Singing Telegram

Dad picked up the phone. “I will get your Mum”.

The colleague you have called was in the middle of something and doesn’t want to chit chat. “I am doing great, what can I do for you?”

Of all the little numbered red dots on my iPhone, the voicemail one is the last I check. “You have six voicemails, press one to listen to voicemail one”

Should you send me an email I will either respond right away or send it to my task list.

If you FaceTime call my parents they both light up and huddle around the camera. And if we have a video conference call at work, people put away their laptops and get engaged.

It felt for a few years there that we were finally moving away from phone calls. Video was going to bring us all together, it was all starting to become much more.. human.

Personally, I was happy with that, I like looking at someone when I chat, I also like quick questions sent by text or email. Yet. It appears we are about to take a step backwards.

The launch of iOS8 and the iWatch brought with it voice messaging. Essentially, you now have two options in the text window. Either type or talk. Which is a pretty clear indication that from a user experience standpoint, thats where Apple for one expect the future of short messaging to go.

A voice message is easier to give, but harder to receive. If you are in a noisy bar for example, waiting on a friend to arrive, they send you a quick voice message. Are we going to see lots of people standing at the bar with their watch pressed to their ear to receive their messages? A voice message isn’t subtle.

If you are at a meeting but waiting to find out if a problem was solved, a subtle text message ‘its all sorted’ allows you to glance and carry on. Where a little red number bubble is just increases your stress.

I get it, you can’t type on a smart watch, so you need to talk.

In the future, speech to text will be so much better and we will start to be able to receive text from a spoken message. But for now, its the worst kind of user experience. One that fits the limitations of the device, not the need of the user.

But what user?

In 2012 the Chinese voice messaging service Weixin had 100m users, two years later its now called WeChat at has a colossal 300 million users and 70 Million outside of China.

"You don't have to type, because as we all know, typing in Chinese is a pain. And Chinese is such a musical language. It's better to listen to music than type out notes. For me, when I use it, it feels very natural. It's faster and more personal. I don't know why people in the West don't use instant voice messaging,” - Duncan Clark, chairman of consultancy BDA China

Perhaps voice messaging doesn’t need to take off in the English speaking world, because its not for us.

Our language isn’t musical, mores the pity really.

Singing telegrams anyone?