How to Use Voicemail to Text

iPhone Voicemail
Voicemail on an iPhone.

 Erikona / Getty Images

Have you ever received a voicemail message and wished you just had a text version to read? This handy feature, usually called voicemail to text, is becoming more commonplace these days.

Although the voicemail transcription may not always be 100 percent accurate, it usually gives you a good sense of what a message is about. Voicemail to text can come in handy if you need to confirm something that was hard to hear in the voicemail itself, or if you need to quickly scan your incoming voicemail messages to figure out which ones are most important to respond to or follow up on.

Voicemail to text, also known as voicemail transcription, or visual voicemail, is available on many iPhone and Android devices. Here's how to use it.

How to Use Voicemail Transcription on iPhone

Although voicemail to text is becoming more widely available, you'll want to first check with your carrier to make sure they support it. Depending on the plan you have with your carrier, there may or may not be an additional monthly charge involved with activating the voicemail transcription feature on your iPhone, and you may need to download a special app to use it.

Visual Voicemail for the iPhone
iOS Visual Voicemail feature.  Apple

You'll need an iPhone 6s or later running iOS 10 or newer to use visual voicemail. Take the following steps to set up voicemail to text on your iPhone:

  1. Open the Phone app.
  2. Tap Voicemail on the bottom right of your screen.
  3. Tap a voicemail message just as if you were going to listen to it.
  4. A paragraph of text should appear just above the play button. That is your voicemail transcription. You may find there are some inaccuracies in the transcription, but you should be able to get an overall sense of what the message is about.
    1. Note: You can still listen to the message by tapping the Play icon.
  5. If you like, you can share feedback with Apple on whether the transcription was useful by tapping the blue Useful or Not Useful links below the text of the transcription.
  6. You can decide whether to keep the voicemail, follow up on it, or delete it. If you would like to save a copy of the transcription, you can tap the save icon found in the upper right corner of the voicemail message, represented as an open box with an arrow pointing upward. After that, choose Notes to save your message in text format, or Voice Memos to save your message in audio format.

How to Use Voicemail Transcription on an Android Phone

To use visual voicemail on your Android phone, you should first check with your carrier to make sure they support it. T-Mobile users can now access it in the visual voicemail area of their Google Phone app. Other carriers may require you to download their own voicemail app to access voicemail transcription, in which case the service might come with a monthly fee.

Android device
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If you don't want to pay the fee, you can use YouMail, Google Voice, or another app to get voicemail transcriptions instead. Here's how to set it up for free using Google Voice:

  1. If you don't already have the Google Phone app, download it from the Google Play store.
  2. Sign up for a Google Voice account, as you'll need one to set up Google Voice.
  3. Tap Continue to accept the Terms and Conditions.
  4. Select a phone number.
  5. Follow the instructions for linking your Android device to Google Voice.
  6. Let the Google Voice app know whether or not you want to use it for voice calling as well as voicemail transcription. If you only need voicemail transcription, choose No.
  7. When you're done, tap Next, then tap Finish.
  8. You should be taken to the main screen for your new Google Voice account. If Google Voice asks permission to access your contacts, tap Allow.
  9. In the top-right corner, you'll find your incoming voicemails in the tab with an icon that looks like a tape recorder. They will be automatically transcribed as well.
  10. If you want your incoming voicemails automatically texted or emailed to you, tap the icon in the top left corner, then tap Settings. Google Voice will ask you permission to access your photos, media, and files. Tap Allow to grant it access.
  1. Scroll down until you find the Voicemail header. If you see that Voicemail notifications is already checked, there's nothing else you have to do; all your visual voicemails will be sent to you via a push notification. If it's not already checked, you can enable the setting manually.
    1. Tip: To have your voicemail transcriptions emailed to you, tap Get voicemail via email. To have them texted to you, tap Get voicemail via message.
  2. You're all done. Now, when you get a voicemail, you should receive the transcription via a notification shortly afterward.