iPhone Visual Voicemail with Telstra

A History of Visual Voicemail:

January 2007 – Steve Jobs demonstrates Visual Voicemail on the iPhone.
11 July 2008 - iPhone 3G released in Australia.
26 May 2009 – Vodafone Australia activates Visual Voicemail on the iPhone
22 March 2011 – Telstra partially activates Visual Voicemail and charges a premium.
22 July 2011 – I switch from Vodafone to Telstra, but no Visual Voicemail.

I am so happy to be with Telstra. I’ve been with Vodafone for over 15 years but since the company had an implosion, I’ve been glad to escape from them. Now happily on the Telstra network I can: Make phone calls; Receive phone calls, Use data successfully.

The Telstra network works infinitely better than Vodafone’s network, no matter how much advertising Vodafone undertakes to tell me they are fixing their network.

The one problem I have with Telstra however is their attitude to iPhone Visual Voicemail. Today I have visited the premier Telstra store in the Sydney CBD where the two Telstra employees initially pretended that they don’t know what Visual Voicemail is. The best they were able to help me was to give me a free-call number to Telstra support. Calling this number led to a ten minute wait while the Telstra employee unsuccessfully tried to activate Visual Voicemail after initially pretending that it didn’t exist.

A short time later I was in the Chatswood CBD

and visited the Telstra store in the Westfield shopping centre. The Telstra representative initially pretended not to know what Visual Voicemail was and wanted to set me up with video telephone calls. After he accessed all three computers at the counter, he also suggested I ring another number. As I was talking to him, he used his iPhone 4.

I called the number and after 7 minutes of waiting and again explaining what Visual Voicemail is, they asked me to reset my phone, which dropped the call. I called back and educated yet another Telstra employee (this one took 14 minutes) but they were still unable to provide Visual Voicemail on my iPhone.

I find Telstra’s attitude to Visual Voicemail odd, having been announced five years ago, yet of six Telstra employees I spoke to today, none had heard of Visual Voicemail (or maybe they have been instructed by management to pretend that they don’t know what it is?)

Finally I made another two calls, this time to Telstra’s iPhone support section. Again I educated them on what Visual Voicemail is and after waiting on hold for over 15 minutes, they said that Visual Voicemail is “not applicable to my phone”.

Um… hello? I’ve been using Visual Voicemail for the last two years. Every time a call drops out or can’t make it through on the lousy Vodafone network, customers can leave a message for me and I can easily see the message in the list, play it whenever I like, pause it, and call the person back. So, don’t insult me saying that it is “not applicable” to my phone.

The end resolution was that if I had a 12 month contract with Telstra, then I could pay an extra fee of $5 per month to have Visual Voicemail (however you must not call it that – you must refer to it by the Telstra branded trademark they invented), however if you are a customer who chooses to have a month by month contract with Telstra, then you cannot have any apple pie.

I am dumbfounded that all Telstra employees I encountered have their heads in the sand regarding Visual Voicemail and that Telstra only implemented Visual Voicemail at all this year. Is it because easy access to my voicemail messages would take away voicemail revenue? Or is it because of some secret fee that Telstra would have to pay to Apple? Is it a serious case of Not Invented Here? Or is it just corporate apathy? Why does Telstra have such an attitude against the most innovative voice messaging system of the last 20 years?

So, when you switch from the Vodafone or Optus networks to Telstra to enjoy things like making and receiving phone calls successfully, be ready to go back to the stone age of “press 1, press 2, press 3” voicemail and paying a fee every time you access it.

My suggestion is to divert your busy and unanswered calls to a VoIP service such as PennyTel. For a few cents, you can have voicemail messages recorded and then emailed to you as an audio attachment. The email subject line includes the caller ID of the person who left the message. If you use Push email on your iPhone you can get the notification almost immediately and at basically no cost other than using a tiny bit of your data plan.

But, Telstra, I do love your network.