April 24, 2019Published by: Mashaal Punja

Speak easy: The rapid rise of the voice note

When it comes to communicating, it’s safe to say that the internet has changed things a lot.

Like us, you’re probably never off your phone, but chances are, social media is the first port of call when chatting with family and friends.

From apps like WhatsApp, Messenger and FaceTime, to internal messenger services within our favourite social apps, the options are endless. But what does this mean for the humble phone call? 

Over the last few years, consumers have steadily continued to drop fixed landlines in favour of smartphones and social media. And recent studies suggest this is looking likely to increase. According to a 2017 report from Ofcom, voice calls made on mobile phones in the UK dropped by 2.5 billion for the first time ever in 2017 (equating to roughly 1.7%).

The harsh reality is that the internal voice call capabilities of apps like Messenger, Instagram and Snapchat have actually made phone calls wildly inefficient in terms of practicality and cost. As we all know, voice calls via services like WhatsApp and Messenger are free, even if you’re calling from another country, as long as you have an internet connection. Yet the notion of a voice call for increasingly time-poor millennials is seen as an inefficient method of communicating, compared to sending messages via the wide range of messenger services at their disposal.

But does that mean voice is losing its role in how we communicate over the phone? Not quite.

You’ll probably be familiar with the concept of voice notes, but for the uninitiated, voice notes are a feature made popular by WhatsApp, which allow users to record long audio messages that can be sent within chats. Despite being around for years, the last 12 months has seen a significant rise in usage of the feature particularly among younger generations, coinciding also with the sharp decline in phone call rates. While both trends are not necessarily connected, it is interesting to see the opposing trajectories of two methods of voice communication that share strong similarities.

A recent study by the German Association for the Digital Economy found that 42 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds use voice messages every day. Further evidence for the growing use of the feature was Instagram’s decision to introduce the feature within their platform at the end of 2018. According to Anastasia Dedyukhina, author of Homo Distractus and founder of Consciously Digital, voice notes are on the rise because the medium encourages a more natural method of communication.

Considering the similarities with phone calls, it does seem confusing why younger users are shifting to voice notes. However, devotees to this method of communication are adamant that there are several, distinctive benefits of voice notes compared to not only voice calls, but also popular text messenger services.

For many, voice notes represent an ideal balance between the improvisational and personal nature of a call, married with greater convenience and control. 56% of respondents to the GADW study claimed that voice notes allowed for shorter composition time for messages than typing, as well as emphasising the flexibility of managing the duration of conversations as opposed to one continuous phone call. By having the ability to respond to bite-sized conversations with friends and family at your own leisure, but with a level of personal connection by using your own voice, voice notes offer a warmer alternative to text messaging.

This point is particularly important for avid voice notes users. Many use this feature are keen to stress that there are far fewer misunderstandings with spoken messages, both in terms of content and tone. Unlike messenger services where sentiment and tone of voice can be lost in text, a voice note offers

Naturally, there are still drawbacks. While the feature is popular among certain demographics, others are completely resistant to using them. For some, using voice messages only increases the time spent in composing what you want to say due to anxiety about composing messages clearly. For others, there is the stronger social factor of looking awkward speaking into your phone as if in conversation to record a message, or to listen your latest response.

So while there are many good reasons for the ‘fall of the call’, it will likely live on, albeit in a more segmented, voice-note form.

Just whatever you do, don’t leave a voicemail...

About Battenhall

We look after brand profiles on social media, and we're proudly the world's #1 at what we do. Named The Drum's social media agency of the year for the last three years running. Get in touch! hello@battenhall.com

Battenhall Whatsapp

Click here to subscribe to the Battenhall Whatsapp.