It's like Hotmail for your phone
Published: Friday, September 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 31, 2006 at 11:53 p.m.
You're partying at the club - again - and that attractive young woman you've been dancing with wants your cell phone number. But what if she's a stalker?
A couple of new or in-the-works services give you a phone number and a voicemail box where people can leave you a message. So that potential stalker? Go ahead, give her your voicemail number. Then dial in from anywhere and use your personal code to get your messages.
These voicemail services are like Hotmail for your phone. For years, smart Web surfers have slowed the tide of spam by using their free e-mail account - from Yahoo or Hotmail, for instance - when Web sites ask for an e-mail address.
The anonymity is a two-way street, though. Just as you're using the service to avoid shady characters, shady characters can use it for shady means. Matt Wisk of United Online - the Internet company behind PrivatePhone - acknowledges this.
"If you put your home phone number on MySpace, someone can Google it, versus a PrivatePhone account."
United Online hopes to use the free service to lure users to try out other United Online fee-based services.
Although PrivatePhone limits users to 10 voice-mail messages, SimpleVoiceBox accepts 30 messages and can send you an e-mail when a new phone message arrives. Jangl is testing its service before giving a wider audience a chance to try it.
The companies use technology called VoIP, or voice over Internet protocol. It turns voice into zeroes and ones and sends the data over the Internet, similar to how e-mail is transmitted. It's cheap to use, so many consumers are using VoIP service from such companies as Vonage, AT&T and Comcast to lower their phone bills.
There are drawbacks to VoIP; Internet traffic can slow down the packets of voice data or cause them to arrive out of order or not at all. This presents a problem when two people are yakking to each other over the phone, but when leaving voice mail via VoIP, the problem isn't huge.
For more information, visit privatephone.com, jangl.com and simplevoicebox.com.
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