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Apple is preparing to launch a voicemail service that will use Siri to transcribe your messages

Apple CEO Tim CookMarcio Jose Sanchez/APApple CEO Tim Cook discusses the new Apple Watch and iPhone 6 on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif.

Apple employees are testing a voicemail service which uses Siri to answer your calls and transcribe voicemail messages. Apple’s iCloud service will then send you the text of the transcribed voicemail — meaning that you’ll never need to listen to your voicemails again, sources tell Business Insider. The new service is being prepared for launch in 2016, we hear.

Apple’s proposed solution is both incredibly simple and incredibly clever: People like to leave voicemails (it’s often quicker to orally deliver your information than it is to type it in a text message). But they don’t like to receive voicemails (it’s a lot quicker to read a text than it is to listen to the other person talking at you). The new product will also bridge a generation gap: Older users like voicemails. Young people do not.

We first heard about Apple employees using a new kind of voicemail service several weeks ago.

Here is how it works: When someone using iCloud Voicemail is unable to take a call, Siri will answer instead of letting the call go to a standard digital audio recorder.

iCloud Voicemail can relay information about where you are and why you can’t pick up the phone to certain people. But the coolest feature of the service is that Siri will transcribe any incoming voicemails, just like it does with anything else you say to it.

Here’s what it looks like at the moment when Siri transcribes something you say into text:

Siri screenshotBusiness Insider/James Cook

Apple sends voice data to company servers, where Siri converts the words spoken into text. iCloud Voicemail will presumably function in the same way, sending the raw voicemails to Apple, and Siri will then transcribe them and make them available on your iPhone.

Siri is already going to be upgraded in iOS 9, Apple’s upcoming mobile operating system. It’s going to be able to search within applications and predict what you want to do. Clearly, Apple is focusing on its virtual assistant, and iCloud Voicemail is going to be another part of what it can do.

Multiple Apple employees are currently testing iCloud Voicemail. Business Insider understands that if the service works reliably enough then it is currently scheduled to be launched in 2016, presumably with the iOS 10 mobile operating system.

Apple has already launched products that stray into the domain of mobile phone network and wireless service providers. It quietly launched Apple SIM in 2014 which lets customers switch between networks easily, all through the device. There has been continued speculation that Apple may want to become its own mobile virtual network operator. (An MVNO rents bandwidth from traditional wireless service suppliers and bills customers who go through it.) iCloud Voicemail would replicate something that carriers already do. Another incentive for Apple to launch its own carrier network would be to compete with Google. Google is currently operating its own service, but only through its Nexus 6 smartphone.

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