How to Rescue your iPhone Voicemail

by Barrett

Do you recognize this cable? Of course you do. This mini-plug audio cable ruled your analog universe years ago. It’s time to find it in the back of your tech closet. Because you’re going to need it on your visual voicemail rescue mission!

Visual voicemail is magic, isn’t it?
All your messages. Right there in front of you.
Waiting to be played back in whatever order you want.

Infinite goodness.
But not limitless.

Pop quiz:
How many of you have ever run out of voicemail space?
All right, half of America, you can put your hands down now.

So occasionally, you’ve got to delete some messages. No biggie.
And I doubt every voicemail you receive is a gem that’s needed for posterity.
But you probably don’t want to lose it all.

Sometimes a message comes along you’d like to download to your computer for safekeeping, right?

And how does that work?
It seems like such simple ‘drag and drop’ task.
Shockingly, there’s no Easy Button to press on the iPhone.

Like Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island, you’ve unknowingly paid a steep entry fee to access the flexibility of visual voicemail.

I think the unfortunate truth is you’re not really supposed to move your voicemails around. Not that it’s illegal.
It just appears the tech titans didn’t feel this functionality was all that important.

Where do your Messages Really Live?
Part of the problem is where your voicemail messages actually reside.
In the good old days, your phone messages lived in your home answering machine on little mini audio cassettes. Remember those?

Yes, the limits of that analog technology inevitably created mangled tapes with partially destroyed messages. Towards the end of your answering machine’s life, the recorded voices you could make out spoke in wild, warbly pitches ranging from an operatic soprano to the devil’s deep base.

It’s all ancient history by today’s sleek digital standards.
But I bet some of those messages are still alive on a couple of tapes forgotten inside a shoebox in the back of your closet.

The lesson here is you had possession of the actual messages, however fragile the audio tapes were.

Today, your wireless provider stores your voicemail safely on their servers.
But only temporarily…

For example, Verizon Wireless will store 40 messages up to 3 minutes each for only 30 days.

AT&T gives you the same deal, but each message is permitted to extend to up to four minutes. (Whoo Hoo!)

Either way, your messages only have a month to live.

Escape from Alcatraz
“Hold on there, Tech Nerd!”
(you might be thinking)

“Aren’t these messages also living on my iPhone?”
Why, yes they are, clever reader.

Once your iPhone receives your messages, they do hang on…
seemingly forever, because a copy gets stored locally.

So your messages actually are in your possession.

But they’re buried really deep in your iPhone. And there’s no key.
Again, the iPhone IOS offers no obvious escape for these digital files.

I suppose you could be satisfied nurturing those voicemails locally on the phone, but if you lose or break your iPhone, your messages will go “POOF!”

If that threat doesn’t make you flinch, the simple passage of time will.
When you inevitable upgrade to a newer phone model in the next year or two, and you send your iPhone into early retirement, you might find yourself saying “Sayonara!” to your precious messages.
(An iTunes backup sync on the old iPhone should restore all existing content, but who knows what differences future operating systems might contain.)

One way or another, now is still the best time to act!
So call up your personal DBORS,
(Digital Black Ops Rescue Squad)
and let’s get to work!

We’ll give them three rescue plans to work with…

Rescue Mission 1
Bring along Third-Party Software
Your target is the aforementioned copy of your voicemail, living deep inside your iPhone
AND ALSO… backed up on your computer somewhere in iTunes.
That’s where we want to go.

But finding your messages and then identifying the right ones to save is universally viewed as a herculean task!
(I couldn’t locate them.)

Fortunately, there are some clever entrepreneurs who’ve taken the time to figure out a solution for you.

You just download their third party software, and BAM!
You’re suddenly looking at your visual voicemail on your computer’s desktop.
Export what you want, and you’re done!

Unfortunately, these software downloads are going to cost you some coin.

That said, here are the dominant players in the space:

Though this is not an official review, I’d go with Decipher Voicemail, the least expensive one.

Not that any of these choices cost crazy money, but it just feels wrong that you’ve got to pay what seems like ransom money to break your voicemail free.

Plus you know how much I like downloading additional software that may or may not play nicely with other software on my computer.

There must be another solution…

Rescue Mission 2
Bring an Old Mini-Plug Cable and Count to Five!
As the saying goes, “What’s old is new again.”
Yes, it’s an analog solution to the rescue!
And it’s free.

Just play back your voicemail message and re-record it onto a different platform.

It just takes five easy steps…

  • Step 1:
    First, plug a mini-plug audio cable into your iPhone’s earbud jack and then into the line input of your computer.
  • Step 2:
    Download Audacity, which is a popular, free audio recording program.
  • Step 3
    Play your voicemail on your iPhone and then hit the record button on Audacity.
  • Step 4:
    When you’re done, export the file to an AIFF audio file.
  • Step 5:
    If you’d like, you can then convert it to an m4a iTunes file in QuickTime.

It’s embarrassingly easy.

Rescue Mission 3
For Those Who Still Know What a Pager Is
And if your iPhone isn’t physically around, (dog ate it/toddler flushed it)
you can really go old-school and call in to your wireless provider’s voicemail system.
(Remember, you can only access your last month’s worth of messages.)

  • Dial your mobile number and let your call ring in to voicemail.
  • While your message is playing, press the * key.
  • And then tap in your voicemail password.
    (If you can’t remember it, you can always call your wireless provider to quickly change it.)
  • Now, you should proceed as above, although you’re forced to use the limited functionality of sifting through each message before you find the ones you want.
    (Old school is old for a reason.)

Mission Accomplished!
You’ve got your voicemail messages safely back on home turf.

Sure it took a little MacGyvering.
And who knew the old low-rent mini plug still had such value other than at the end of earbuds?

You may be feeling a bit like a donkey having made such an effort to rescue a simple voicemail message…

But such is life on Pleasure Island.