Telstra announced yesterday that after several years of waiting, Apple’s visual voicemail feature - originally touted by Apple with AT&T in the US as a big feature of the original iPhone in 2007 - is now finally available for the iPhone on Telstra. There are two catches however.
Catch 1: The phone must be running iOS4.3 - that means it won’t work on an iPhone 3G.
Catch 2: Please hand over another $5 per month for the privilege.
Let’s be clear: Vodafone in Australia have offered Visual Voicemail from mid 2009 at no extra cost to the end user and it worked on all iPhone models from the 3G running iOS2. Why the difference?
The major telecommunications companies around the world use hardware from Lucent, Nokia, Ericsson, Nortel, Siemens and/or Motorola to get the radio signals to and from their mobile phones and each company produces their own software to drive that equipment. Some telecommunications companies use completely different software to manage their users voicemail messages. The problem is that Apple had an exclusivity contract with AT&T initially which meant it worked with them to integrate VVM into AT&Ts voicemail system. If other manufacturers around the world had the same software they were in luck - they could integrate VVM easily. Alas most did not run that software and some Telcos needed to spend their own money developing the software to make VVM work. Vodafone clearly made a decision to develop their VVM application earlier than everyone else - perhaps the integration was not too difficult. I had heard through a inside source that Telstras system was not easy to integrate VVM into.
Be that as it may it’s great to see Telstra doing something to add user experience for their users. Alas it’s the Telstra of old that chooses to charge an unreasonable amount for that experience. Given that nearly all iPhone users are paying at least $49 each month on their iPhone plan an extra $5 for very little extra seems disproportionate and unfair and I can forsee Telstra relenting on this in the long run - possibly for the iPhone 5 release in coming months when they see low adoption rates of this new service.