Cover Story - PhonePost – E-mail over the phonePhonePost – E-mail over the phone
09 December 2004 Written by Albert Malik
While we hadn’t even heard of the concept around ten years ago, today we live in a society that can’t survive without e-mail. Nearly everybody has an e-mail address. Company employees churn out multiple e-mails a day, then come home to go through their own personal e-mail address, if they weren’t already doing so at work. Students communicate via e-mail with friends, and other people with their relatives on the other side of the world. Some people live and die by e-mail, and yet, some just can’t fathom the thought of being away from access to their e-mail address for hours, or even minutes at a time, let alone days. Some people’s jobs depend on their ability to access their e-mail and keep in touch with their clients.
Enter PhonePost. Jointly developed by Dark Horse Productions and ActiveCall, PhonePost is a service that literally turns your e-mail address into a voice-mail centre. It allows you to keep track of all e-mails sent to your e-mail address without actually having access to a computer, by allowing you to check on your e-mail by simply ringing a telephone number. The automated operator will retrieve any received messages from your e-mail address and read them over the phone, with fairly advanced text-to-speech technology incorporated into the system. PhonePost is not capable of translating attachments into voice messages, and that’s understandable, as trying to turn a picture into a voice message would be a fairly difficult task. After having your e-mail read to you, you can reply to it, save the received message as a fax to a phone number of your choosing, or forward it on to someone else. You can also choose to delete the e-mail if necessary.
While the system is not capable of translating speech back into text for reply purposes, you can reply to a received message by sending a voice message back. This works by recording your message and then attaching it as a sound file, in WAV format, to an e-mail. While using WAV format for sound files might cause some concern, the WAV files used here are fairly low quality (11KHz, 8-bit), so they won’t occupy too much space. They are still perfectly discernable however. A 15 second message will be about 180 kilobytes in size, with about 25 per cent extra space when attached to an e-mail.
If you would prefer to read your messages at your own pace and there’s a fax machine nearby, you can have PhonePost convert your e-mail into a fax and have it sent straight to it. You can choose whichever number you want to send the fax to, so if you need a carbon copy sent to a client then it’s just a matter of having it sent to their fax number.
The other alternative to that is to simply tell PhonePost to forward the e-mail to another e-mail address. However, you need to have this e-mail address pre-registered with your PhonePost account in order to do so. You can have up to ten e-mail addresses registered with PhonePost for forwarding purposes.
In order to get started with PhonePost you need to go to their website and set up an account. PhonePost can be configured so that it either will check on an e-mail address you already have set up, whether it be a corporate or home address, or you can create a new one on the phonepost.com.au domain. PhonePost is available in two different pricing packages. The first one allows for free registration through the PhonePost website, but restricts access through an expensive 1900 number, charging a fee of 55 cents per minute to the phone that is used. With the second option there is a monthly charge of $19.95, but for that you get cheap access at local call rates using a local metropolitan number and no restriction on the amount of e-mail you can receive and reply to. Executives and ‘road warriors’ who do a lot of travelling and often lose access to a computer will likely find the second option good value for money.
Dark Horse offers a seven day free trial of PhonePost via the PhonePost website. If the idea of being able to access your e-mail from any location appeals to you, and you don’t have a computer to do so, then PhonePost will make sure you are still in touch and connected with family, friends and work colleagues.