There's an old saying in marketing that the consumer always gets what he or she wants.

That's likely never been more true than with today's cell phones, where users are clamoring for more than just songs downloads, video, GPS, systems, and, increasingly, voice mail technologies.

Voice mail? Did he just say "voice mail"? Isn't that a bit, say, 1990-ish?

After all, there's nothing sexy about voice mail applications, and nothing to be gained by cell phone manufacturers by adding new voice mail features to this generation of phones.

Or is there?

A survey of more than 3,300 customers of Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile and Sprint in North America says that, increasingly, cell users want even more options and more flexibility than they have now, especially visual voice mail.

That would seem like a tall order, even with video services. Don't cell users have all the options in the world? And the next one. Apparently not.

According to the Sprint survey, cell users are clamoring for new cell features, such as:

-- The ability to avoid dialing into voicemail to retrieve messages
-- Not having to write down details within a voicemail
-- Being able to discreetly read messages without having to listen
-- The ability to respond to messages with a single click as a call, sms or email
-- Video voice mail as part of the primary package offered by cell phone providers

“The launch of the iPhone into the market has focused attention on the use of Visual Voicemail and the ability to see who has called and when,” says Daniel Doulton, chief strategist and co-founder at SpinVox, a cell phone voice mail provider commenting on the Sprint study. “What our research has shown is that consumers value this but also want the ability to see what was spoken and to take action with a single click. Visual Voicemail is a step in the right direction, but already it lacks many of the capabilities that consumers now desire.”

The survey was set up so they could sample some new cell phone voice mail technologies. For example, during each trial in addition to receiving their converted voicemails in text format delivered to their wireless devices, respondents also received conversions in the form of emails. Users recorded strong benefit from receiving the messages via email and saw the feature as a way to manage messages on their desktop. “This feedback also signals a strong market demand for traditional wireline service providers and VoIP providers who want to add a sense of mobility to their service,” adds Doulton.

According to Sprint, while most North Americans receive their current voicemail service for free, more than two thirds indicated they would pay extra for the type of advanced features that they were able to experience during the survey.

Spinvox is one of a handful of companies that is designing new voice mail features. It could be a wide open playing field, with plenty of money to be made. As I said, the American consumer always gets what he or she wants - and apparently, that means more cell phone voice mail options.

Cell phone "features" are NOT driven by consumer demand but by network capacity.

As networks get wider, capable of carrying more and wider signals to users, phone manufacturers and network engineers have to think up new ways to use that bandwidth in such a way that it generates income for the networks.
Network marketeers come in on the act in order to create the demand for the things the engineers think up.

The consumer doesn't enter the equation except as a target for advertising and a source of income.

The fact that he thinks he actually wanted that new capability before it was offered to him when he goes in to purchase something that didn't even exist a few months before is testament to the success of network (and cellphone manufacturer) marketing techniques rather than the foresight of engineers and marketeers to consider correctly what customers are going to want to have in the future.

They create the demand after all, not the customer. Without the marketeers the demand would not exist. Without the engineers the marketeers would have no demand to create.

Sounds like "Choosy Consumers" want iPhones.