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From a technology standpoint, accuracy in speech transcription requires some human interaction and feedback for accuracy. I can see some cases where it's worth the privacy trade-off, but others where it won't be.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Siri does seem to be involved, since having Siri's language set to US English was, at one time, a requirement for voicemail transcription to work.
Disturbingly, voice mail transcription seems to happen even with Siri completely disabled in all settings....
 



Transcription is a feature of Apple's "Visual Voicemail," but availability depends on your region, carrier, and language selection. For example, it has been available since iOS 10 through most of the major US carriers on iPhones using US English, but Apple has not been fast to roll it out to other regions, languages, or language variants. I dimly recall reading that some other English variants were beginning to get the feature earlier this year, but perhaps I am imagining that.
I use an iPhone 6 on Google Fi. They send a message to me, quoting every voicemail. It's incredibly convenient.
 


3. MagicJack costs, for the year, about 1/10 of the cost of a landline or even a VoIP line added to your Internet service.
I'm guessing the 1/10 you're referring to is the typical cost of the VoIP service sold by that same ISP, which typically has quite a markup.

In my case, my VoIP service cost (with voip.ms - highly recommended), all-inclusive, for the entire year was less than $45, and that's with e911 costs ($1.50/month), which I don't absolutely need. I used to pay over $60/month for land-line service alone.

Of course, I do need to pay for my internet connection for my VoIP service, but I'd have to pay it regardless, so that's not really a factor - especially since my ISP's (TekSavvy) prices have actually been going down while they've improved the service (higher bandwidth usage limits, etc.) in the last few years.
 


Transcription is a feature of Apple's "Visual Voicemail," but availability depends on your region, carrier, and language selection.
According to this article, one must also have the iPhone 6s or later. This would explain why, with our iPhone 6 Plusses, my mom and I have never seen this feature in action.

The requirement of a certain amount of processing power would seem to indicate that Siri isn't doing all the heavy lifting. The article also notes that Canadian English is also supported.
 


Disturbingly, voice mail transcription seems to happen even with Siri completely disabled in all settings....
Maybe that's not so disturbing after all. According to this old Apple Discussion thread, everything happens locally and nothing is sent to Apple. That explains why my 6 Plus isn't up to the task.
 





Ric Ford

MacInTouch
When I click the Wayback link, I see:
Voicemail transcriptions are done on your device and aren't sent to Apple.
That's certainly good enough for me!
And when I click the link, I also see...
archive.org said:
See a voicemail transcription on your iPhone
... If you see "was this transcription useful or not useful" next to a transcription, you can tap to let Apple know, and you can choose if you want to submit that voicemail's audio to Apple.
But the real questions here are: why did Apple delete that document, why isn't Apple being transparent in its current documents, and what is actually happening now?
 


But the real questions here are: why did Apple delete that document, why isn't Apple being transparent in its current documents, and what is actually happening now?
A good question, indeed, but here is a post that is much more recent (August 2019), from John Gruber/Daring Fireball. The relevant portion is near the bottom.
 


When I click the Wayback link, I see:
Voicemail transcriptions are done on your device and aren't sent to Apple.
That's certainly good enough for me!
Thanks! I guess I skimmed through it too quickly!
But the real questions here are: why did Apple delete that document, why isn't Apple being transparent in its current documents, and what is actually happening now?
That's really what was on my mind as I looked at the archived article. If there is one thing that should not be prone to link rot, it is technical/support documentation. Even though Apple does keep some older documentation online, it is a serious offender in the disappearing documentation department.
 


... One additional benefit with the MagicJack: If you take it with you overseas and plug it into the USB port of your computer that is connected to the WiFi of your hotel, you may make free calls to any US (and, I think, Canada) phone number. You don't even need a real phone, in the case, as the MagicJack will use your computer's mic and speaker. (This is great if your kid goes off to Europe for school.)
Actually, if you have the MagicJack app on your phone, you can use it wherever you are in the world and have WiFi or data access as a "free" phone to any US or Canadian number.

An additional value is setting up the call forwarding feature to send calls to any number. I live in Canada, but I have many contacts and clients in the USA. My first MagicJack number, purchased in 2009, was a Florida line, and I found that I could set up the call forward to my "regular" number in Canada. This is great for those who do not have "Canada" plans on their phone service. I am able to seamlessly take calls that are forwarded, and the only hard part for me is deciding which number to leave.

I liked the MagicJack so much that I canceled my home line, and use a MagicJack for that. I just enabled the feature Barry Levine mentioned about call screening, and hopefully that will make a difference.

I have recommended MagicJack to a number of people, and it is an easy fix where an office is moving and the telephone company is giving you a hard time about moving the number to another phone. This can come about if you are changing area codes and need to transfer a business's calls. POTS will ask for a ton of money, MagicJack just does it.
 


This has been going on for a while. Think about it, though: your phone company and/or Apple and/or outsourced contractors is listening to your personal voice mails, processing them (with "AI" of some kind), transcribing them and presumably storing them. There are any number of possibilities for additional processing, sharing, and analysis, none of which you control or know about. Does any of us understand how this works, exactly? What could possibly go wrong?
For me, the privacy issue is no worse with phone messages than emails (etc.). At least Apple tries to maintain competent privacy... In any case, almost all my voicemail messages are 'business' - e.g. "your license plates are in, free offer on solar panels installed in your very own living room, there's a virus on your phone call now so we can remove it" and so forth. :-)

Plus, dammit, they have the recording anyways :-)

I'd be interested in knowing where the transcription is done - on the phone or in the Cloud.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I'd be interested in knowing where the transcription is done - on the phone or in the Cloud.
I'd be interesting in knowing:
  • exactly what companies/organizations/people are doing the transcriptions
  • exactly where/by whom all recordings are stored
  • exactly where/by whom all transcriptions are stored
  • exactly what software (and hardware) components are doing the transcriptions
  • how long recordings and transcriptions are stored
  • how recording and transcription data is exchanged among various agents involved
  • details of the workflow involved
  • etc.
 


An additional value is setting up the call forwarding feature to send calls to any number.
And, if you use MagicJack's call screening, your junk / spam calls won't make it though. The screener (a MagicJack voice) asks the caller to press a number (0-9) to continue. The number is always different, so robo calls don't make it.
 


And, if you use MagicJack's call screening, your junk / spam calls won't make it though. The screener (a MagicJack voice) asks the caller to press a number (0-9) to continue. The number is always different, so robo calls don't make it.
Jim, my original post mentioned this, but the use case many people miss is that, for the $40-some-odd per year, this can provide a call-screening service for your cellphone.

Don't even plug in your MagicJack device after you've set it up. Just set up conditional forwarding (on your cellphone) to your MagicJack number, and when an unknown incoming number appears on your cellphone, just swipe it away and MagicJack's online service will answer the call, screen it (which will hang up on robo-callers), and record a voice message from the caller. MagicJack's service will then email the voice recording to you. (No more of your phone's "visual voicemail".) I will know the email has arrived, and I may listen to the voice message and return the call. The email from MagicJack even shows the phone number of the caller. It's amazing how many cold-calling salespeople, once successfully making it past the call screener, will simply hang up once they realize they will have to leave a voice message and not have a chance to swindle a live human.

Again, just to reinforce this: Once you've set up the MagicJack device, you simply unplug it. There's no need to port over a number because you never have to use it for outgoing calls. Of course, you will have access to the MagicJack app, so when you're overseas connected to a hotel's WiFi, you may call back to the US for free. Bonus. (But remember the time zone difference! :D )
 


MagicJack's online service will answer the call, screen it (which will hang up on robo-callers), and record a voice message from the caller.
This makes me wonder how it responds to robocallers. We use answering machines, and most of the scammy robocalls that try to leave a message do not notice when an answering machine answers; they think a human answered and start talking during the outgoing message, so the recording starts in the middle of the message. Other robocalls shut down after the third or fourth ring if they have got no answer.

I also wonder what happens to "legitimate" robocalls such as city messages (e.g., emergencies or school closings), medical appointment reminders, and warnings that credit cards have been compromised? Some of them seem to be better programmed, but others also seem to start talking when the answering machine picks up. Are these liable to get screened out with the spam?
 


... I also wonder what happens to "legitimate" robocalls such as city messages (e.g., emergencies or school closings), medical appointment reminders, and warnings that credit cards have been compromised? Some of them seem to be better programmed, but others also seem to start talking when the answering machine picks up. Are these liable to get screened out with the spam?
At least in this area, all local government notices can be set up as text messages, and/or have purpose-built apps (e.g. your iPhone sounding a very loud alarm if there's a tornado warning).

Since literally no one I know uses voice telephony over a physical phone any more (my fellow geezers use Skype or email, and my kids use text or FaceTime), I have no issues with a [possible] change in Apple's policy on visual voicemail.

The obnoxious attempts by online pharmacies to get my business (speak of "backfiring"), notices of doctor's and dentist's appointments (most of which also offer text options), and credit card fraud prevention units: I'd frankly be fine with "sharing" with Apple QA checkers — none of them share any personal information, other than a prescription for a blepharitis treatment.

If you have family and friends, or business contacts, who prefer telephony, obviously your milage may vary.
 


Since literally no one I know uses voice telephony over a physical phone any more
I'm one of the exceptions. As a journalist, I interview people on the phone, and cellular voice quality often is inadequate to understand the other person. I use a headset, which leaves my hands free to take notes, and I use the same set-up when talking with friends and family. I'm happy to use Skype, but it's generally easier to set up calls on the phone.

My wife is on the phone a lot with an out-of-town child, and she finds old-fashioned wireline phones much easier to hold for long conversations than either cell phones or cordless wireline phones. I have a flip phone but rarely use it except when I need to be in contact when I'm out, and that's rare. Lately, the spam rate per hour on my cell is almost as high as on my landline phone. I now refuse to give out my cell number, because it goes days without being turned on. I use email all the time, but as a touch typist I won't put up with having to find my reading glasses to hunt and peck a text.

The problem we have now is that we have too many ways to communicate, and too many people think the ones they prefer are the only ones that anyone uses.
 


Of course, you will have access to the MagicJack app, so when you're overseas connected to a hotel's WiFi, you may call back to the US for free. Bonus.
If your cell carrier supports it, you can do the same thing with iOS's built-in Wi-Fi calling feature.

I used it a few years ago while on a trip to Italy. Most of the time, it worked great, although there were a few times when there wasn't enough Wi-Fi bandwidth to place a call.
 




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