The problem with phone calls was never the talking. It was all the related complexities. You dial a bunch of numbers. You wait while it rings, not knowing if they’ll answer. (If they don’t, this was all for nothing.)
If they do, you start with hellos, some self-identification and some small talk before you get to why you called. Then there’s more small talk and finally a protracted goodbye. A three-second question — Where should we go to dinner? — requires a five-minute conversation.
Texting’s initial limitations made it the perfect antidote. Back when you only had 160 characters and paid by the message, there was no time for wasted words.
But texting lacks humanity. We need a way to preserve our most salient mode of communication but strip away all the cruft. The answer might be in another vintage tech that has undergone a high-tech evolution: the walkie-talkie.
The modern walkie-talkie is now a smartphone app, not a hand-held radio the size of a car battery (or the push-to-talk feature you remember from those old Nextel commercials). Yet it operates much the same way: You press a button to talk, and when you’re finished your voice rings out from someone else’s device. They listen and talk back.
You also can enable a feature that plays your new voice messages when you raise your phone to your ear, which makes it feel even more like a walkie-talkie. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have similar features. And there are apps dedicated to voice, too, like LINX.
You’ll still be able to make phone calls and send texts, of course, but the best communication tools of the future will be the ones you can use however you like.
Maybe as keyboards become less ubiquitous, you’ll start to dictate messages instead — a recent Stanford study found voice-to-text is already faster and more accurate than typing. And you can play incoming texts aloud if you like, with a simple “Read my most recent text” request to your voice assistant.
But consider sending a voice message instead. After all, if I were on the receiving end, I’d really prefer your voice over a robot’s.
Excerpts from The Wall Street Journal article by David Pierce