Services like etrieve's m3 (mobile Message Management) and CoolEmail promise to be the future for connecting mobile professionals to the office with minimal fuss. Both offer travelers convenient ways to check e-mail and more via the Web, and by telephone. They can even notify a pager or a text-based cell phone when high-priority messages arrive.
Both systems offer two-way synchronization of several e-mail accounts to mirror all actions taken on the phone-based service back to desktop- or Web-based accounts. In effect, reading and deleting messages by voice on these services marks it accordingly on the desktop e-mail account too, and vise versa.
Etrieve's M3 is focused primarily on delivering e-mail by telephone. It allows users to listen to messages and Microsoft Office attachments via an electronic voice, or forward them to any fax machine. Etrieve's basic monthly subscription fee includes 120 minutes of access time and costs $24.95, so the faxing option is more cost effective than having a long attachment read aloud.
Two-way synchronization will be available by the end of the fourth quarter for Eudora and Lotus Notes messages and contact lists. Users may consolidate POP3 (Web-based) accounts with M3 too, but can only copy messages from these accounts, rather than synchronize with them or send a response.
We like the ease with which we could configure M3 on the company's Web site. Accessing an M3 account involves calling a central toll-free number or logging on to etrieve's Web site. M3 makes creating, forwarding, and responding to messages simple. The service's detailed wallet card (or instruction manual), downloadable in PDF or HTML format, made navigating its menus a snap.
CoolEmail is a one-stop unified messaging service that bundles access to e-mail, faxes, and voicemail, as well as long-distance and conference calling, into one personal, toll-free number. We tested the company's "Unified Messaging Service," which costs $14.95 per month for 60 minutes of usage --not much time once you get started.
We liked CoolEmail's ability to record personalized outgoing messages and the ease with which it retrieved messages. Frankly, having faxes read aloud wasn't ideal because of all the extraneous cover-sheet and fax-header information. But, we did like CoolEmail's unique flexibility among messaging formats. For example, a voice mail can be forwarded to colleagues as a fax or an e-mail.
The service can also coordinate calendar, contact, and to-do information with Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, ACT, and palm devices.
Signing up for CoolEmail was straightforward and painless. It uses voiceprint technology for identification, so checking or sending messages is as simple as dialing an assigned 888 number, and then selecting the service desired. Configuring message notifications and other system parameters was a bit daunting, as there are numerous options.
For overall ease of setup and use, we liked etrieve M3. If all you need is e-mail delivered by voice, this is the way to go. However, if you need unified messaging that encompasses e-mail, voicemail, fax, and more, CoolEmail offers the greater depth of service.
MANUFACTURER: Etrieve, 877-907-1400; www.etrieve.com
PRICE: Basic toll-free $24.95/month (120 minutes) Unlimited toll-free access $49.95/month, Basic toll access $19.95/month (120 minutes), Unlimited toll access $39.95/month
PROS: Easy to configure and use
CONS: Dedicated only to e-mail
MANUFACTURER: CoolEmail; 847-835-6700; www.coolemail.com
PRICE: $14.95 per month (60 minutes) extra 30-minute blocks $5.95 Dictation 2 cents/word Sending outbound faxes 15 cents/page
PROS: Unifies e-mail, voicemail and fax; offers tons of options and services
CONS: Configuration not well explained on site