Pinger launches 'voice messaging' in UK. Will we call?

Let me start out by saying that I absolutely loathe and despise voicemail. It is the bane of my life. Which is why I was rather bemused to learn I was to be pitched by Pinger, a US-based service which launches in the UK today with a method for sending people voice messages. However, here’s the general thrust…
Already live for a year in the US, Pinger now lets you send voice messages to mobile phones in over 20 countries for the cost of a local call in each place. The theory goes that instead of sending a short SMS which has the gist of the info you need, you send or receive a voicemail up to five minutes long which employs the “personality” (assuming you have one) of your voice, as opposed to smilies and exclamations marks. “You can’t sing Happy Birthday in a text message” says Joe Sipher, co-founder of Pinger. Ok, he has a point. The question is will the person getting it be bothered to sit there listening to someone sing? Maybe if it was from their kid I guess…

At any rate, the issue here is that this is asynchronous messaging, not voicemail, which is what made text messaging so powerful in the first place. Pinger won’t release numbers on how they’ve done in the US, but they did win funding of $3m (series A) and later $8m (series B) from backers Kleiner Perkins. The business model is going – as some point – to be inserting ads in text messages alerting you your have ‘Pinger’, and possibly, down the track, audio ads after voicemails. They claim that Pinger is quite viral, in that once you try it, you start sending your friends these types of messages. It is also quite similar to US competitor startup 3Jam.

Now, I don’t know about other networks but on T-Mobile and can do this already. The advantage with Pinger is that – unlike the ill-fated Push to Talk system – it is network independent.

I remain to be convinced, plus I think Twitter and UK group text startups like Zygo Communications, by concentrating on Text, will appeal more to SMS-obsessed Brits.