The future of the phone call? Who makes calls anymore? Clive Thompson recently argued:
Consider: If I suddenly decide I want to dial you up, I have no way of knowing whether you’re busy, and you have no idea why I’m calling. We have to open Schrödinger’s box every time, having a conversation to figure out whether it’s OK to have a conversation. Plus, voice calls are emotionally high-bandwidth, which is why it’s so weirdly exhausting to be interrupted by one. (We apparently find voicemail even more excruciating: Studies show that more than a fifth of all voice messages are never listened to.)
I love talking, but I’m not a big phone person. Before moving to Los Angeles, I spent most of my phone time texting and emailing. I’m known for having a voicemail that specifically requests that folks send me a text message if they need to reach me sooner; an odd request, but I believe screen-based messages are quicker and less disruptive to everyone’s day. Recently, though, thanks to a drive that is, at minimum, half an hour, and thanks to my car’s built-in Bluetooth feature, I’ve been on the phone a good deal with friends around the country and around the world. Since my Blackberry now has Skype built in, I also use that to engage in chats.
Conclusion: the future of the phone is in Skype, or at least something that looks like it. Not only are the calls free, as they are routed via my data plan (unlimited) rather than my minutes (limited), but they’re also managed much more easily. I can see who’s online and who’s available. I can see what time it is in their region. They can see me and my availability. And if I’m still not sure, I can easily ping them with a text message before making a call.