Pinger (Beta) review: Pinger (Beta)

CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
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The Good Pinger is a voice-relay service that sends and receives voice messages without having to go through voice mail. You can send a single voice message to a group of people, and it is easy to set up. The service is free for now.

The Bad Pinger does not work with landline phones, and it doesn't replace text messages entirely.

The Bottom Line Pinger is a great alternative for those who don't like voice mail and prefer not to send text messages. It is also the only free service that lets you send a single voice message to a group of people at once.

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Despite the popularity of text messaging, there are still quite a few people who would rather not send text messages. Either because they find it frustrating to type using their cell phone's keypad, or they feel confined to the limited space allowed. There have also been a few safety concerns lately regarding texting while driving; with a few states seeking legislation to ban the unsafe act altogether. The other alternative to text messaging would be to just make a call right? Well, sometimes that's not an option--either because you don't want to interrupt the recipient, or you'd rather just leave a message and continue the conversation later. Voice mail would do the job, but then you also have to depend on the other person not picking up the phone.

Enter Pinger, a voice-relay service that promises the convenience of text messaging, but with your voice instead. You call the Pinger phone number, leave a message, and Pinger will send your recipient a text message with a Pinger phone number. He or she then calls that number, and receives your voice message. While this may seem like a fancier form of voice tag, the power of Pinger really comes through with group messaging. You can send a single voice message to a group of people--much like you would with text messages. This is why Pinger calls the service "text messaging for your voice."

Signing up for Pinger is pretty easy. Just enter in your information on the Web site, and Pinger will send a verification code to your phone. Once you enter the code in, you're signed up, for free. You then have a choice of adding or importing your phone contacts to the service, so that you can simply speak the person's name to send a Pinger message to him or her. This works on any phone, whether your phone has voice dialing capabilities or not.

We tried the Pinger service with a T-Mobile Sidekick 3 and a Motorola Razr2 V9, along with a Plantronics Discovery 665 Bluetooth headset.

This is how it works. You dial the Pinger number, and an automatic voice answering system will prompt you for a name or a number: "Who do you want to message?" Either say the name of one of your contacts that you entered in earlier, or say the full phone number. If you happen to have multiple phone numbers belonging to one name, Pinger is also smart enough to ask you which number you want the message sent to. After the message is sent, the recipient gets a text message with a callback number. He or she can dial back that number and hear your message. It's as simple as that.

As we mentioned though, one of the best things about Pinger is that it lets you send a single voice message to a group of contacts. You can either add contacts one by one while on the call, or you can create a group on the Pinger Web site and just say the group's name when prompted. For example, say you want to let everyone in your carpool know that you'll be late. You can get Pinger to send a voice message to all members in your Carpool group by saying "carpool" when prompted. This is the only service we know of that lets you send a single voice message to a large group of people without having to dial multiple numbers.

There are a few downsides, however. Since the Pinger service relies on text messages to inform you that you've received a call, this is not a service to be used with landline phones. We would like to see an e-mail option, in case you would like to send a message out to someone who doesn't have a cell phone handy. Also, the beauty of text messaging is that it doesn't have to rely on a very good cellular signal, since the message will come through whether the signal is strong or not (plus, you don't have to worry about background noise!). With a voice service like this, a stronger cellular signal becomes more important, since you want your voice to come through loud and clear.

Even though we don't think text messaging is going away any time soon, we do think Pinger is good for those who want the convenience of text messaging with the ease of voice. It's especially timely, due to recent decisions to ban text messaging while driving. And even if you don't think you'll use it all that often, it can't hurt to try something that's free.

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Pinger (Beta)

Part Number: pinger

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