We pay very close attention to the reviews of our iOS and Android apps. We want to understand what we’re doing right, as well as where we might need to improve.

We came across a recent app review that was the most negative and critical we’ve ever seen. That was titled “A Horrible, Horrible, Horrible App?”.

So we wanted to respond to it. That’s because we think there are lessons here for us, for our users, and for our intrepid review writer.

Here we go!

“Was free for a but, but hit a brick wall. It wanted money or no more access.”

YouMail is totally free, forever, for the basics.  Stopping bad guys from ringing you. Automatically   stuffing spam voicemails into a spam folder, with a label of why it’s spam.   Handling low levels of voicemail every month (up to 20/month transcribed, and we don’t count spam messages). Having up to 50 messages saved permanently in the cloud.  Having custom greetings.  And more.

For over 10 years, we’ve honored the promise we will provide as much as we can for free. If you’re a normal YouMail user who is using our service for personal reasons, you’re very unlikely to hit these limits and can happily use it for free. And further, even if you hit limits, you find that you’re listening to voicemails instead of reading them. Or deleting and/or downloading messages instead of saving them in the cloud. There’s never a time where YouMail simply “Stops Working” to try to get you to pay.

Yes, if you want advanced call protection or other advanced features, or are a heavy user, or want business phone service, then you will wind up paying. We’re happy and grateful when users do that, especially since developers like to pay rent and eat and even get new bicycle tires once in a while. But it’s not a requirement.

That said, we’re going through all our communications to try to understand which one(s) could make a user think that YouMail stopped working and they have to pay. We haven’t seen one yet, but we’ll keep looking.

“So I deleted the thing, resulting in no voicemail at all. Tech support?  After T-Mobile for 4 hours. I reinstalled the horrible app , went through their hoops and rings, but still no voicemail returned to my provider. Deleted the piece of excrement, did it all over again. Followed all their rules. Found their hidden escape hatch. But still nothing.

When you “activate” YouMail, you ask your carrier to forward missed calls to YouMail.  That’s done by giving the app permission to dial a few simple codes that tell the carrier to send the calls to the phone number for our servers.  We show you we’re dialing those codes and have you verify that they worked. So, guess what?   If you delete the app, you need to ask your carrier to stop forwarding missed calls to YouMail. There’s no way for YouMail or the carrier to know what to do otherwise.

This is hardly a deep dark secret. Or hoops and rings. In fact, we clearly tell everyone who uses the app before they forward calls to us, and which we mention in a welcome e-mail we send our users.   And to help, we have a “Deactivate YouMail” button in app settings that dials those codes automatically. (We’re even working on trying to detect when someone has likely deleted the app and is still forwarding so we can let them know automatically – but that turns out to be really, really difficult to get right.)

That said, we know people might forget and delete the app while still forwarding their missed calls to YouMail.   So, we cover how to stop forwarding in multiple places. On our free support page. On an article that shows up as #1 or #2 for a whole bunch of searches related to YouMail. On our auto-responder to e-mails to support. And in our personal response to support e-mails. If renting a blimp or freeway billboards were free, we’d put that info there too.

So no reason to ever call your carrier After all, 4 minutes with a carrier on the phone is bad enough, but 4 hours would be horrible.  We can’t even imagine.

And there’s no need to search for a hidden escape hatch.   Just a quick web search, or even going to YouMail’s website and following the help link.   

We’re constantly working to ensure our users understand what’s going on here – and will continue to do so going forward. The last thing we want is someone forwarding us calls when it’s providing no benefit to them or us. We’ll keep trying to make the call forwarding/unforwarding experience clearer and more seamless for our users.

Now if your voicemail box is full or not working, how do you find out? Foolish me, I assumed it did what it said it would do. A week went by, but no voicemails. Uh oh. After deleting it, I still see residue in my iOS. I am infected. I have to wipe my phone to get their crap out of my system.If you love your family, and love your job,

Our guess is that YouMail was still your voicemail, and the folks at the carrier screwed things up when they reset your conditional call forwarding to stop calls from going to YouMail. That’s easy enough for them to do, since many of their support reps don’t understand that all they have to do is have you dial a few simple codes.

So when you say “No voicemails” on your iOS app they were still going to YouMail, but because you deleted the app, you didn’t see them. Not a great position to be in, for sure. But an e-mail to support saying “Hey, I deleted YouMail but I’m not getting voicemails on my iPhone voicemail” would have gotten the right instructions back quite quickly.

Ideally everyone who ultimately decides they want to return to carrier voicemail will remember to stop forwarding to us, then delete the app. But as we can see, not everyone does that, leaving a tough problem for us to solve. We’re always trying to figure out how we might detect and notify users this is going on – but we don’t have a great solution yet that doesn’t have some really negative unintended side effects.

Having said all that, we have no idea what residue would be on iOS. We’ve tested deleting the app and once it’s gone, it’s gone, gone gone. No residue we can see or that we’d ever want.

“DONT INSTALL THIS APP! “Hey, this guy is just a moron” you are thinking. “I’m sure I won’t have any problems. “Ok genius, fair enough. Why don’t you call them?   8003740013    Ask them a question. Any question. That’s right, you can’t. A computer answers, pushes you around a phone tree, and hangs up on you. It is all a empty shell, an act.

YouMail provides phone support for paying users. We don’t for free users. We tried to do so for several years, but the economics don’t support it, and at one point we were paying more to provide phone support for free users than we were spending to develop and improve the app.

Just do the math and think about what it costs to handle a phone call, even from a call center in a foreign country. And then think about what revenue a privacy-preserving app gets from free users. That’s not a recipe for success. And we’re not alone. What happens when you call Facebook? Or Instagram? Or Google? Or any number of free services? The bottom line is that a trade off for using something valuable for free is that you have self-serve support – which we have invested in and generally provides the answers for almost all questions. The phone tree simply lets free users know where to go to get that self-serve support.

On top of that, the main problem at the root of this review is not knowing to dial a few codes to go back to the carrier. But how can anyone dial those codes when on the phone with the support team? Guess what, they’d just get sent an e-mail with the codes! So the phone as a support mechanism for activation and deactivation just doesn’t make sense.

That said, it would great if we could make free phone support work for our free users. It would be even better if we could send everyone a free donut and a coffee once a month as a thank you. But we can’t afford to do either, and most people don’t expect that either, so we think we’ve made the right decision.

“If they lie about what the app does, do you think they will tell the truth about your privacy? Two days ago,  I got a text purporting to be from my bank about suspicious activity. Coincidence? Well look what you have to give them to play: unfettered access to your phone and contacts.Because this is a program that is designed to sucker you into installation and never let go. Like AOL, or Hotel California, you can check out but you can never leave.They won’t even pay a phonefarm in a third world country pennies on the dollar to deal with you. Why should they, when thousands are funneled right into their gaping maw?I am going to backup and wipe my iphone

We haven’t lied about anything. Ever. We have a privacy policy that is a legally binding agreement that we honor and take very seriously. On top of that, we’re an app that is all about not only blocking spam calls from reaching our users but also works with law enforcement and regulators to actually shut down those who are making those spam calls. That means, we’re protecting everyone, whether or not they have YouMail. Lie about anything and ruin that reputation? Not a chance.

For what it’s worth, we don’t doubt the user behind this review got a spam text. It turns out that people are getting them once every three days on average right now (from the best data we have seen). So randomly anyone would get 1-3 spam texts within a week of doing anything, including deleting youmail but also including working out at the gym, walking the dog, or stopping by the grocery store.

So, yes, it’s a total coincidence. The only thing is, if you have YouMail, there’s a decent chance your iPhone will block the spam text if you’ve turned that on. So you’d never know it happened.

For the love of God and everything beautiful, don’t be me. As I write this, I know my comment will never see the light of day, that this is beyond futile. Every avenue out has been plotted and blocked. We see the signs, but in truth there is no exit. – R Hoering 3-27-22 7:24PM PST

Uh, no. Nope. Not true. We never would suppress any legitimate review from someone who used or tried to use the product. In fact, we actually took time out of our insanely busy days to write a whole blog post addressing it, which will give it more visibility.

Hopefully in doing so it helps anyone else having similar questions, confusions, or issues. We’re always trying to improve, and we appreciate feedback, whether it’s positive or, as in this case, horribly, horribly, horribly negative.


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