What Is Voicemail?

Get the basics and learn how to set voicemail up

Checking voicemail on iPhone

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Voicemail is a voice message that a caller leaves when the person called is absent or is busy with another conversation. The voicemail feature acts in a way similar to the old answering machine, but with the main difference that instead of the voice message being stored on your answering machine, it is stored on the service provider's server, in a space reserved for the user called a mailbox. It is not very different from email, save that the messages are voices instead of text.


Voicemail has evolved and improved and now is a rich service. Besides recording and playing sounds back, you can do the following:

  • You can take voicemail messages from many callers at the same time.
  • You can forward voicemail messages to other people's mailbox.
  • You can add a voice introduction to the message you are forwarding.
  • Broadcast voice messages, i.e. send to more than one person at the same time.
  • Store voice messages for a long period of time.
  • Be notified of the arrival of a voicemail through your mobile phone or pager.
  • Present different greetings to different users.
  • Transfer and save voice messages to storage media like your hard drive, which can also be sent as an attachment with email messages.

With new voicemail services now available, you can even playback your voicemail online or by email. This means you can check your voicemail without taking your phone.

Visual Voicemail

This enhanced type of voicemail is taking over on smartphones and mobile devices. It allows you to check your voicemail without having to listen to everything. It presents your voicemail in a list like your email. You can then choose to apply a number of options to them like re-listen, delete, move, etc., which would be impossible or very difficult with normal voicemail.

Setting up Voicemail on Android 

You need to have a voicemail number from your telephone service provider. Call your service provider and inquire about the service — the cost and other details. On your Android, enter Settings and Choose 'Call' or 'Phone'. Select the 'Voicemail' option. Then enter 'Voicemail settings'. Enter your voicemail number (obtained from your service provider). This is basically the path you follow for voicemail. It may vary based on the device and based on the Android version. 

Setting up Voicemail on the iPhone

Here too, you need to enter the Phone section. Select Voicemail, which is represented by the tape icon at the bottom right of the screen, select Set Up Now. You will then be prompted to capture your password twice, as usual. You can now record a custom greeting by selecting Custom and then Record. If you want to use the already existing generic greeting, check Default. Stop the recording when finished and then save the whole thing by selecting Save. 

Each time you want to check voicemail on the iPhone, it suffices to enter Phone and to select Voicemail.