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Workaround: How to fix the GSM/WAV voicemail attachment issue in Android

November 21, 2009 | by Ed Clark

Android Tricks, Android Tutorials, Tips

Workaround: How to fix the GSM/WAV voicemail attachment issue in Android

UPDATE:

While the solution below still works, I am happy to say that Walter Wang has released an app on the Market (after reading this post!) that may solve this problem for most. The app is called “Remote Wave,” and it has been confirmed to work with K9 and the built-in GMail client, among others.

Remote Wave

Remote Wave

If you’re like me, you work at a place that sends your work-related voicemail to you as e-mail attachments so you access them anywhere with an internet connection. Also, if you’re like me, you have come to view this service as essential. In fact, it’s hard for me to imagine being able to stay on top of my work commitments without it. Yet, this is one of the areas where my Android phone used to let me down. The issue became critical enough for me to search for a workaround instead of waiting for some developer to put a new app on the Market. I’m glad to say my search came up with something that works for me; hopefully it will also work for you.

THE PROBLEM:

One of the most common formats for voicemail attachments is a GSM6.1/wav file, and Palm 3-5 and Windows Mobile users have had support for these files for many years. Unfortunately, Android does not natively support this format, and (as far as I know) there are no applications on the Market or elsewhere that can handle these files on your Android phone.

This problem was submitted as a “feature request” to Google Code’s Android site as open issue #1712 in January 2009, but no visible progress has been made since the original submission. With the recent release of the Droid, a whole new group of corporate voicemail users is adding its complaints to the 1712 thread. Here is just a sampling of some of the most recent comments from this month:

/Comment 15 by racerock, Nov 08, 2009 WIll this issue be fixed or do  I need to return the droid?/

/Comment 16 by jlstanley, Nov 09, 2009 Same here.  Lots of interest in Android from various people at work, but this is a deal-killer.  The same files work fine for several iPhone coworkers.  We NEED this to work with Eris phone (cupcake) for work voice-mail. PLEASE fix!/

/Comment 25 by seankendrigan, Nov 16 (3 days ago) Ditto here, just bought the phone and am extremely disappointed.  I NEED THIS!!!/

/Comment 26 by smikwily, Nov 16 (2 days ago) Interested as well. I was one of the first in our company to get an Android and found out today I can’t listen to our company voicemails on my phone. I can surf the net, use GPS, view real time images with a 3D overlay, but am unable to play a WAV file. Doesn’t make much sense./

Clearly, the masses have spoken. This is one of a few issues that absolutely must be resolved to elevate Android phones from fancy social devices to the business phone level. From what I can tell, some Google engineers like JBQ have at least looked at it, but there’s no telling what’s in the works at this point. However, don’t panic. Your intrepid Android devotee has found a workaround.

THE SOLUTION (FOR NOW):

Greg De Vitry of iPhoneconvert.com has created a site that originally helped the iPhone get past this very same hurdle, and is now providing the same service to Android users. Users just auto-forward their messages in unusable formats to the site, which are then converted and e-mailed back to them as viewable .mp4 files. I was surprised to learn that iPhones had exactly the same problem when they first came out, until version 3, which can now handle most wav files. Greg originally built his site in 2007 in order to play his work and home (Vonage) voicemail files on his iPhone. Through the years he has had over 30,000 users of his basic (free) service, but as different hacks became available for the iPhone and the OS supported more formats, his userbase declined. He currently has 1,200 registered (paid) users, and just experienced a recent surge of 500 new basic service users in the past two weeks. Although he hasn’t ever asked users for their phone OS during the user registration process, it’s a good bet that most of these new users are Android owners.

Privacy is a big concern for most of us, so I asked Greg about how he deals with the voicemail files to protect privacy. He responded with the following:

“Each user has the option to auto-delete [their voicemail messages after conversion]. With auto-delete, the maximum time the voice mail would be on the server is 60 seconds (minimum 1 second). If a voicemail is not auto deleted, it has a life of 30 days max. The system cleans out any stored messages (and all other DB logs too… so I don’t have any data mining ‘data’). I also don’t keep logs/copies. If a user is having difficulties, I request an example file (one that is not sensitive or personal).”

That explanation, plus the fact that Google doesn’t turn up any complaints for iPhoneconvert.com is probably good enough for most people. However, for those that want to go the extra mile to guarantee security, Greg offers this option: “I’ll be glad to assist setting up an in-house/personal server converter.”

HOW TO DO IT:

1. Create a new account at iPhoneconvert.com.

2. Click the “Your Details” link on the left side of the home page to set up your addressing, delivery, and storage settings. I like the auto-delete feature because I don’t need to use Greg’s site for voicemail storage. Save your preferences by clicking the save icon at the top of the page.

3. Set up your work e-mail to send your voicemail attachments on to iPhoneconvert.com. In my case, I created an e-mail filter on my e-mail server that forwards all of my work voicemail to iPhoneconvert.com. (I was able to use the sender variable to create my filter, but you may have to use the subject line depending on your system.) The converted files get sent back to me within a minute or two because I am a “registered” user. Note: I chose to donate and become a registered user (minimum $10 donation) because I don’t want any delays in receiving my voicemail. Basic (free) users get the same conversion service, but the files sent back will be delayed in a queue.

4. I use the K9 e-mail client to view the message, click to save the attachment, and the file automatically opens in the default media player and plays the message.

CONCLUSION:

Don’t return your Droid/Eris/Magic/Hero/G1 because of this issue without trying this workaround! iPhoneconvert.com might be a good answer for you. The service is time-tested and works very well, and don’t feel too bad: your iPhone buddies had to do the same thing when their phones first came out.

Cost of Workaround: $0-$10+ ($10 donation turns off nags and preset delays).

Pros: Works well, easy to implement, cheap, the service handles many file types.

Cons: Increased bandwidth usage for each VM, possible security concerns for some folks, workaround for something that should be a Market app or have native support.