A new service called Pinger is allowing users in over 20 countries to send instant voice messages to mobile phones around the world.
Pinger is essentially a voice version of a text message and allows users to send a voicemail without first having to phone the recipient.
Customers dial a local number and provide a contact or group of contacts to which messages are to be sent, followed by the message itself which can be up to five minutes long.
A few seconds later the recipient gets a text message informing them that they have a Pinger message, and provides a local number for them to retrieve the message.
Senders have the option of a receipt notification and, once they have listened to a message, recipients have the option of replying or forwarding the message to others.
Contacts can be stored by Pinger with an associated voice tag, meaning that customers just need to say the name of the contact or group to send them a voice message.
Pinger is aimed at customers who prefer voice to text, or for use in situations where trying to type can be dangerous, such as while driving.
"Even people who love SMS get frustrated with the small amount of characters per text and the limitations that come from not being able simply to use your voice. You can't sing Happy Birthday in a text message," said Joe Sipher, co-founder of Pinger.
"Just as powerful, Pinger provides the ability to send a single voice message to groups around the world or in your home town."
The service launched in the US in September 2006, but was restricted to US mobile customers. It has proved popular, particularly with women who seem to prefer the emotive benefits of voice over text.
The US version of Pinger also has a website where subscribers can view and manage contacts, messages and other details, which is expected to be rolled out in other countries over the coming months.
Sipher told vnunet.com that the service is currently free, except for the standard cost of the local call.
In the future, customers who use the service heavily may have to pay once they reach a certain limit, and SMS notifications may carry some advertising to help generate revenue.
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