Since the initial launch of the iPhone back in 2007, the phone’s “Visual Voicemail” feature has relied on whatever mobile carrier a user has an account with. That reliance on the carrier may disappear in 2016, with Apple reportedly testing a new voicemail system using Siri to answer calls, take messages, and then transcribe the messages as text. The service, apparently referred to as iCloud Voicemail, would eliminate the need to listen to voicemails.
While people like to leave voicemails because it’s faster to speak a message than type it in, they’re not as happy about listening to voicemails as it takes longer to listen than to just read a message. The new service would let Siri answer a call, provide information to specified callers about where you are and why you can’t answer the phone, and then transcribe the voicemails.
Some internet service providers that also provide landline service — Comcast being an example — already provide a similar service, converting voicemail messages into easily read emails. Presumably, Apple’s Siri engine would provide better recognition than the sometimes unintentionally humorous results provided by existing services.
iCloud Voicemail would be released in the latter part of 2016 if testing shows that it works well, and could be part of an overall plan for Apple to eventually become its own MVNO (mobile virtual network operator). MVNOs lease bandwidth from existing carriers and bill customers who use it. The iPad Air 2’s Apple SIM already allows users to select their own carrier from the Settings app; perhaps future iPhones will release users from having to tie themselves to any network other than Apple’s.