eVoice Adds More Mobile Apps

eVoice, a phone service for small businesses, last week announced it is shipping a mobile app that lets customers use their BlackBerries with the company’s service. The service already offers a mobile app for the iPhone, and in early June eVoice added a mobile app for Android devices as well.

Adding BlackBerries to the list of mobile devices that it supports is one of several recent moves that eVoice has taken to better support mobile professionals.

Among other features, the BlackBerry mobile app lets you return calls from within a message, provides voicemail search, and displays your eVoice phone number for the outbound caller ID, according to an eVoice statement.

However, expanding its wireless options is only part of the company’s agenda.

“In 2010, we’re looking to expand our phone number coverage … with plans to cover every city in the U.S.,” Mark Meyers, director of voice products told Small Business Computing.

A Mobile Office for SMBs

EVoice is a subsidiary of j2 Global Communications (NASDAQ: JCOM), a 15-year-old firm that owns the popular eFax service. Overall, j2 Global claims to have messaging networks in 3,500 cities in 46 countries on six continents with 11 million subscribers.

“We’ve been offering products to the small business market for more than ten years,” Meyers added, referring to J2 Global’s longevity.

The business model for eVoice is based on the premise that small businesses need professional phone services that follow them wherever they go whenever. The target customers for eVoice, according to company statements, are businesses with 20 or fewer employees.

What eVoice provides might be thought of as a virtual PBX that a small business uses to make sure that calls are professionally received and routed wherever they need to go — whether to a member of a virtual team across the country, to a colleague in the next office, or to a business owner at her kids’ swim meet. And the service presents that professional face to callers 24/7.

“It’s your business identity — eVoice allows a small business to project a professional image … [and] it lets the small business person run his or her business and not worry about technology,” Meyers added.

Mobile Business Communications

The service includes a professionally recorded greeting, along with call routing and forwarding services. Incoming calls can ring sequentially through a tree of extensions, or they can all be set to ring simultaneously, depending on the small business’ communications needs.

Customers can choose a new business number or keep their current one — numbers can be either local or toll free — and voice mails can also be automatically transcribed and sent as a text message or in email.

In order to remain affordable for various sizes of small businesses, eVoice offers three pricing plans starting at $12.95 per month, which provides up to two extensions and 300 monthly minutes. The middle option costs $19.95, comes with 500 minutes and supports three extensions, and the third option costs $29.95 per month, supports five extensions and provides 1,000 monthly minutes, according to the company’s website.

Additional minutes cost 5.9 cents per minute, 4.9 cpm and 3.9 cpm for the respective plans.

One analyst thinks eVoice may be in the right place at the right time with a service that small businesses can use to level the playing field against much larger competitors.

“Similar features have been available to large businesses with PBXs for decades, but they haven’t translated well to … smaller firms. A service like eVoice is vastly more attractive to a small company that neither has the funds to buy a high-end key system or the time to learn how to administer it,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told Small Business Computing.

But does a service like eVoice actually yield the kinds of benefits they tout?

“Having used some of these myself … assuming you take the time to configure the service correctly, it can make it sound like you are a much larger company,” Enderle said.

Further, Enderle added, the firm’s longevity puts it in good stead with many small companies.

“This is a relatively young market, and this is one of the oldest players, clearly one that has gone through a number of changes,” Enderle said. “It is one of the more comprehensive services in terms of capability while still appearing to be easy to set up and use.”

“Both [qualities] are critical to a small business market,” Enderle added.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at Internetnews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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