What Voicemail Is and How to Set It Up

Get the basics and learn how to set voicemail up

Voicemail is a voice message that a caller leaves when the person called is absent or is busy with another conversation. Learn about the typical voicemail features and how visual voicemail works. Then, set up voicemail on your mobile device.

The instructions for setting up voicemail in this article apply to Android and iPhone.

A Look at Voicemail Features

The voicemail feature acts similar to an answering machine. However, the main difference is that instead of storing the voice message on the answering machine, it is stored on the service provider's server, in a space reserved for the user called a mailbox.

Voicemail has the same characteristics of email, except that the messages are voices instead of text. Along with recording and playing sounds back, voicemail has these additional features:

  • Receive voicemail messages from many callers at the same time.
  • Forward voicemail messages to other people's mailboxes.
  • Add a voice introduction to the message you are forwarding.
  • Broadcast voice messages to 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 a mobile phone or pager.
  • Present different greetings to different users.
  • Transfer and save voice messages to storage media like a hard drive, which can also be sent as an attachment with email messages.

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 voicemail messages like re-listen, delete, and move, which would be impossible or difficult with normal voicemail.

How to Set 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.

These instructions cover the default Android phone app. The phone app may vary by Android version and manufacturer.

  1. Open the Phone app.

  2. Select the three stacked dot icon in the upper-right corner of the screen.

  3. Choose Settings from the menu.

  4. On the Settings screen, select Voicemail.

  5. Select Advanced Settings on the Voicemail screen.

    Advanced Voicemail settings on an Android phone
  6. Choose Setup.

  7. Select Voicemail number.

  8. Enter the voicemail number provided by your carrier, then select OK.

    Voicemail number settings on an Android phone

How to Set Up Voicemail on the iPhone

On iOS, the voicemail setup process is fairly streamlined. Everything is handled directly through the Phone app. The process focuses mostly on customizing the experience with your password and a greeting. Altogether, it should only take a few minutes.

  1. Open the Phone app.

  2. Select the Voicemail tab.

    Each time you want to check voicemail on your iPhone, select Voicemail, then follow the prompts.

  3. Choose Set Up Now.

  4. Enter a new voicemail password, then select Done.

  5. Enter the password a second time, then select Done again.

  6. Next, either choose Custom or Default for your greeting. Default gives you the default iOS voicemail greeting. Custom allows you to record your own.

  7. When you're done, select Save.