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What Is an Automated Answering Machine?

An automated answering machine is a digital gatekeeper for your calls, efficiently managing messages when you can't. It's the voice that greets callers, records their words, and ensures you never miss important information. Think of it as your tireless, personal receptionist. Ready to see how this tool can revolutionize your daily communication? Let's uncover its potential together.
Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden

An automated answering machine is a device that answers telephones and records messages from callers if a human does not answer the phone first within a set period of time or number of rings. Such machines usually require the owner of the phone to record a message that will be played back to the caller if the machine answers the phone. Though early answering machines recorded messages on tapes, most modern answering devices use solid-state digital storage. It should be noted, however, that a "voicemail" system, which is commonly used to leave messages for cell phone users, is not considered to be an automated answering machine, as it is generally a networked system rather than a machine attached to the phone. Additionally, automated machines sometimes are designed not to record messages, but to transfer callers to the correct party.

Personal answering machines tend to exist exclusively for the purpose of recording messages when one misses a call. The phone owner's recorded message usually says something similar to "Hello, this is John. I'm sorry I couldn't make it to the phone — please leave a message, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can." In some cases, such machines allow the phone owner to call his home number and remotely listen to the messages, but the functionality tends not to extend far beyond this.

Automated answering machines record messages form callers if a phone is not answered within a set period of rings.
Automated answering machines record messages form callers if a phone is not answered within a set period of rings.

Many companies, on the other hand, use automated answering machines to direct callers to the proper person or department. A person, upon calling a company's phone number, may get a message from an automated answering machine instructing him to press a certain number or symbol on his phone based on the reason he is calling. While an automated answering machine can be quite useful for such purposes, many find such systems to be overly complicated and confusing. One must often navigate complex and recursive phone menus before being directed to a human operator.

All modern cell phones have a voice mail function that serves the same purpose as an answering machine.
All modern cell phones have a voice mail function that serves the same purpose as an answering machine.

The widespread use of cell phones has somewhat reduced the demand for automated answering machines. Most cell phone service providers offer a voicemail service that offers all of the functionality of an automated answering machine without the need for an actual machine attached to the phone. Many people use cell phones as their primary telephones and, as such, do not require an automated answering machine. Regardless of this trend, new answering machines are still being made smaller, easier to use, and with more efficient storage and recording options.

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Discussion Comments


I am curious as to how many people are still looking to buy automated answering machines for their homes? Do you think it is any better than the answering services provided by phone companies?

My phone company is currently offering a free automated answering service when you sign up for a year of landline phone service. I guess with so many people purchasing cell phones that it is really putting a wrinkle in their plan to make profits off of landlines.

I like the idea of being in control of my own messages, so an automated answering machine still seems like a good bet to me. Though, free is a very convincing argument, especially since I can check my messages from anywhere.


Our local phone company provides an answering service but my mom refuses to pay the extra fee so I bought her an inexpensive digital automated answering machine. It is just a tiny black box that is attached to the phone, and simply states which number has been reached and records messages.

My mom loves the ability to do call screening because she gets a lot of annoying calls from telemarketers. If the message is being left by someone she actually wants to talk to, she can just pick up the phone and the answering machine will quit taking the message. It really is convenient.


@indemnifyme - That is pretty surprising. I personally have never owned my own answering machine. I haven't had a landline since I left home to go to college.

My parents, on the other hand, are big fans of the landline. They change their answering machine message every few months and always make sure it is something entertaining. Sometimes their answering machine message is only entertaining to them though!


I think people would be surprised at the amount of people that still don't have answering machines. I always thought that everyone these days had an answering machine for their landline, but this isn't the case.

I make a lot of outbound calls for my job, and a lot of people only provide their home number. And some of them don't have answering machines! It's so frustrating sitting on the phone listening to it ring and waiting for the machine, only to realize they don't have one! Usually we either call these customers back or contact them by mail.


I no longer have an automated answering machine, but use an answering service that is provided by my phone company.

With this service I have the ability to call home when I am away and see if anybody has left any important messages. This can be helpful if I am going to be away for a long stretch of time.

Most of our friends call us on our cell phones, so the answering service doesn't get used as much as it used to.


The first automated answering machine we had was one that used a small tape to record the messages. You could rewind the tape to hear previous messages and only so much information would fit on one small tape.

We then converted to a digital answering machine that was built in to our phone. This fulfilled the same purpose, but you on longer needed to worry about using the tape.

Now we don't even have a land line phone so don't worry about having an automated answering machine at all. I think as the cell phone industry continues to grow, personal automated answering machines will be a thing of the past.


@Cupcake15- I agree with you, but I have also been on the receiving side of a message that was too long. This is also annoying when someone leaves a very long message on your answering machine.

Some people rattle on forever. There is really nothing you can do about that. The other problem is when the message is too brief and they rattle off their phone number so fast that you have to keep replaying the message in order to capture the number correctly. This also drives me crazy.


@Cafe41 - The worst thing is having to hear a long answering machine message when you dial a number. Some people like to play music while others like to have an extended message that might have seemed like a good idea when creating the message, but a terrible idea when you have to listen to it.

My sister has a bilingual message on her answering machine. Yes that is right. If I am leaving a message on her answering machine, I have to listen to her initial message in English first and then I am forced to listen to the same message in Spanish.

It is a little annoying because I just want to leave a message and get on with it, and I feel I am forced to listen to more than I wanted to.


I have a generic answering machine message that is automatically generated when I miss a call. I did not use my voice, nor did I include any personal information. The only bad thing about not personalizing your message is that sometimes when people call you and they hear a generic message like this they might think that they dialed the wrong number and it might confuse the caller.

I figure that they can always call back and leave a message the second time around when they realized that they reached the correct number in the first place.

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    • Automated answering machines record messages form callers if a phone is not answered within a set period of rings.
      By: Carsten Reisinger
      Automated answering machines record messages form callers if a phone is not answered within a set period of rings.
    • All modern cell phones have a voice mail function that serves the same purpose as an answering machine.
      By: Tarikh Jumeer
      All modern cell phones have a voice mail function that serves the same purpose as an answering machine.