Archiving iPhone Voicemail Messages

Dave Zatz —  February 14, 2011 — 23 Comments

iphone-voicemail

For all the polish of Apple’s iPhone, there’s still a number of missing technological enhancements. For example, one would think that archiving voicemail in some manner would be a no brainer — saving a message to iTunes or emailing it beyond the confines of one’s handset. In preparation for an AT&T exodus and Verizon iPhone 4 purchase, that’s exactly what I wanted to do.

My initial plan to perserve a classic voicemail message involved a variety of mini plug cables. The thought was I’d have audio play over my iPhone headset jack which in turn would be received via the laptop’s audio input and recorded via Garage Band or Audio Hijack Pro. Unfortunately, at some point I realized that my current generation MacBook Air doesn’t really have audio in. So instead of dislocating the wife from her laptop for a similar attempt via Windows Movie Maker, I went with plan B…

Using Greenpois0n, I quickly jailbroke my iPhone… followed up by an install of the Cydia app store and SSH. Using my preferred OS X file transfer client Cyberduck, I wirelessly accessed the iPhone via SFTP using the default username (root) and password (alpine). Once in, I browsed to /private/var/mobile/Library/Voicemail/. Unfortunately, I rarely clean up after myself and was greeted by a rather a long list of .amr (adaptive multi-rate) audio files. So I copied them all down to my computer for safe keeping. While the .amr file type is new to me, QuickTime is familiar with it and had no trouble playing back messages until I found the one I was after.

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23 responses to Archiving iPhone Voicemail Messages

  1. “Using Greenpois0n, I quickly jailbroke my iPhone”

    Why the hell can’t you do that via iTunes, or via a simple one-line terminal command?

    Seriously.

    I understand if Apple won’t give you tech support after you do so, but why the hell do you have to rely on a supposed white-hat hacker going after a security vulnerability on iOS in order to gain control of your own gear?

    If I wanted to rely on third-party white-hats for my OS, I’d run linux.

    Down with psycho-killer Cupertino. Qu’est que c’est.
    Fa-fa-far better, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, away

  2. iPhone Explorer may enable similar functionality but without hacking your phone. I used it once before a year or so back to migrate some audio files or something and forgot about it until after this little project was complete. But jailbreak is always my backup method – I know it’s there, I know it works. Although I won’t leave my phone jailbroken fulltime due to stability and security concerns along with a rich app environment. But prior to the app store, in a different era, I was fulltime jailbroken.

  3. Do you use Google voicemail now?

  4. I have Google Voice, but I never use it. My cellphone is my ONE number that rings everywhere. :) Which is why AT&T was so brutal…

  5. or just use goolge voice as your voicemail provider while keeping your cell number.

    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/voice/thread?tid=00a93855af6943b4

  6. “iPhone Explorer may enable similar functionality”

    Yup.

    “But jailbreak is always my backup method”

    My problem here is simply that we’re using the correct terminology. Why the hell is your gear sold to you in a little jail of its own? If the cell network radio and subsystem needs to be locked down, I can accept that. At least there is a rationale.

    But the only real rationale for putting all of iOS in jail to ensure 30% of your firstborn goes to Cupertino. I’m outraged, even if the outrage hasn’t spread widely quite yet…

  7. Yeah, sorry dave, What Al is referring to is what i meant. No ring-everywhere nonsense, just voicemail stored in your account.

    Its pretty cool when you can embed and download voicemail thats worth sending along to others.

  8. Chucky, yeah as delivered it’s a locked down walled garden. Folks who don’t like it jailbreak or go with Android (which requires ‘rooting’ as well in many cases).

    Jon, Al, thanks for the clarification. I’m generally happy with the visual voicemail implementation and only once since owning an iPhone have I had a need/desire to archive a message. Although I’m sure my wife (also on an iPhone) would appreciate being able to forward me her voicemails – hm.

  9. Dave, so you know, you also get visual VM and VM transcription with the official google voice app if you use it as your VM.

    its a god send. i hate listening to VM, i just read it and delete it.

  10. Damn, you guys are tenacious. ;) OK, OK, I’ll give it a shot. (But it doesn’t negate Apple’s shortcoming.)

  11. I have used a program called PhoneView in the past.

  12. Here are actual instructions:
    http://www.google.com/support/voice/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=164652

    Just trying to push you along a little more :-)

    GV’s transcription is cool, but I would says its ~60% effective, slowly getting better.

    Also extremely annoying is the GV blackberry app on a Storm 2 is terrible.

  13. Or you can grab a cheap app like this http://ecamm.com/mac/phoneview/ and not spend your weekend to analog conversions by hand :p.

  14. “I have used a program called PhoneView in the past.”

    I don’t personally use any of the ecamm apps, so I can’t endorse them. But ecamm does seem to have a decent reputation among users.

  15. “Chucky, yeah as delivered it’s a locked down walled garden. Folks who don’t like it jailbreak or go with Android”

    The problem is that Google is autistic, and I don’t want them as my OS vendor, but jailbroken iOS devices bring their own significant headaches.

    Can’t someone just deliver a sane mobile platform?

    I mean, the concept of letting a user gracefully elevate his permissions on his own gear at his own risk shouldn’t be all that controversial. The model is broken when you have to resort to security vulnerabilities to do that.

    Doesn’t Apple realize that folks aren’t going to let them own 30% of the planet? They’d be better off just being the folks who first supply a sane mobile platform…

  16. I’ve found iPhone Explorer (PC version) to be less than reliable in iOS 4.2.1 with the latest iTunes installed. It will work for about 20 seconds before complaining that it can’t access the phone. At that point the program either needs to be restarted or the iPhone needs to be disconnected and reconnected. Using the iPhone logger program (from Apple) it looks like the connection simply times out.

    I wrote the programmers and they said a number of people have reported the issue, but it isn’t listed in their FAQ.

    I agree it would be nice if there was a better way of saving your voice mail.

  17. YouMail is good too. Free and emails you a copy of every voicemail. Good alternative to GV.

  18. I’ve ranted about the insufficient backup capabilities of iOS devices in the past. Somebody, Apple or 3rd party, should offer a FULL backup program that backs up and restores everything (or at least almost everything). Music, podcasts, playlists, apps, app organization, passwords, bluetooth pairings, photos, voicemails, etc etc.

    Anyway, speaking of Google Voice I tried it for about a month after all the hype. But it was basically unreliable. For example I used it as the one number my WebEx conferencing would call so I didn’t have to worry about what phone I was nearby. But calls would drop mid-meeting over and over again. I didn’t bother to figure out why, just dumped it.

  19. “I’ve ranted about the insufficient backup capabilities of iOS devices in the past. Somebody, Apple or 3rd party, should offer a FULL backup program that backs up and restores everything (or at least almost everything)”

    ecamm’s PhoneView advertises that it does much of what you are looking for. Again, I don’t use it, so I can’t vouch for it. But it’s probably worth a look if you want those types of capabilities.

  20. Um… there’s software made just for doing this (No, I have nothing to do with the company). It’s called Missing Sync for iPhone. You don’t have to jailbreak your phone or do any complicated hacks. You set it up, you run it, and your voicemails are backed up on your computer.

  21. For saving text messages you can use Tansee iPhone Transfer SMS. It saves as a text document. For recording voicemail I bought a standard stereo cable with dual plugs. Download a sound recording program, I used Audacity. Just plug it into the phone and your computer mic, click record on Audacity and press play on the voicemails. Save or export the voicemail and you’re done!

  22. zatz,
    thanks for the info.
    iPhone Explorer did not work for vis voicemail msgs. which is what i want to archive. can never be too careful with clients or girlfriends…
    anything else?

    Also, is that THE Jon Frederick

  23. The deicpher voicemail program might help? I use the text message one, however the voicemail one seems to save iPhone voicemails.

    http://www.deciphertools.com/vm-mac.html

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