YouMail: How about a voice mail secretary?

Company unveils its service that uses real people to transcribe voice mail messages and send the text via SMS or e-mail.

YouMail logo

How would you like to have your own secretary for taking and delivering voice messages? It sure beats slogging through your phone's voice mail menu, especially if you're short on time or if you want to quickly refer to a saved message.

YouMail's new transcription service, launched from beta on Thursday, adds a (premium) human touch to its otherwise free "visual voice mail" service. In addition to receiving automated transcriptions of cell phone voice messages online, YouMail users can now pay for real people to transcribe their messages and send the gist through SMS or e-mail.

Human intervention boosts the transcription accuracy to 95 percent, estimates YouMail CEO Alex Quilici. That's compared with an estimated 75 percent to 95 percent accuracy of automated transcription, a rate that varies due to factors like voice clarity, idiom use, and call quality.

YouMail is offering its human transcription service in four tiers, two of which are aimed at people with smartphones and the other two for owners of standard phones. Prices range from $3.99 per month for YouMail to text you the meat of 50 messages, all the way up to $17.99 for unlimited transcriptions sent over e-mail.

There's also a freebie that lets YouMail users have the messages from one contact auto-transcribed to text, or to have the first five calls per month from any caller converted to text. All transcriptions will also be available from your YouMail in-box online.

This move offers direct competition to voice-to-text services like VoiceCloud, which also charges a monthly fee to have people--instead of computers--type up your voice mails.

Related stories:
YouMail puts voice messages on the mobile screen
Voice-to-text services seek a human touch

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.