In the second session at Connect 2006, Ewald Andert from Kirusa described Voice SMS and some of it's uptake in Asia. I first saw one of the early Voice SMS services (not from Kirusa) in Singapore in December 2005, but now there are multiple vendors and the application is being rolled out in numerous Asian countries.
Isn't Voice SMS just voicemail, repackaged? No! With voice mail you place a call and, if it fails to get through, you get dumped to voice mail. Voice SMS intentional messaging.
Like SMS, you decide you want to send a message — perhaps one message to multiple people. Unlike SMS, the user interface is easy — you speak. You don't have to peck at keys. And on the receiving side, you decide when to listen — perhaps you're in a place where you can listen to a message but can't carry on a conversation right now.
Sending voice instead of text solves problems in parts of Asia where local languages aren't handled by the SMS interface. It's even more important for people who can't read and write. Finally, there's a lot more information and emotional content in a voice message than any text message.
One of Kirusa's first Voice SMS was GrameenPhone in Bangladesh. This short advertisement by GrameenPhone shows the emotional value of Voice SMS.
Early experience in several Asian countries suggest very rapid adoption — 30% to 50% penetration in less than 12 months for a service which is priced below voice phone calls, but 50% above SMS messages.
This is a person-to-person application that feels like it's going to be really big!