Our smart devices have become so advanced that we no longer need to read everything that’s on our Android device’s screen — we can just have them read everything back to us. However, many apps tend to implement speech-to-text rather than text-to-speech despite the fact that there’s an entire framework for it in the Android operating system, which is a shame. On the bright side, there are numerous apps out there which can add some text to speech functionality to your Android device.
The most useful text-to-speech app I’ve found is SpeakMe. This app allows what most apps fail to support — spoken notifications. While some smartphones offer something like “Driving Mode” where it speaks out text messages, others have nothing to offer.
SpeakMe allows you to turn all notifications into spoken messages. During the first launch, it will try to get you to install a third party speech library, but this is actually unnecessary if you have a relatively new phone — the library even failed to install yet SpeakMe works fine on my Nexus 4 running Android 4.2.2.
Once set up, you’ll enable the service by going into Settings –> Accessibility or hitting Start within the app.
Finally, you can choose which notifications you want to be spoken on a per app basis, as well as how many seconds should pass between each spoken notification. The voice is generated by the Android system, and is quite clear, easy to understand, and only slightly robotic due to its monotone characteristics.
If you’re looking for a text-to-speech solution that works in the background, you may want to look at Easy Text to Speech. This solution speaks back text without having to actually open up the app, which is really nice whenever you just want a quick readout. The app works by monitoring changes to your clipboard — so whenever you copy a selection of text to your clipboard, the app will automatically recognize this and start speaking out the text. There are a handful of options available to customize your experience. The only downside is that you can use a trial app for free, but the full version of Easy Text to Speech costs $4.00.
Another great voice app is Google’s Voice Search. A fantastic alternative for those who do not yet have access to Google Now, Voice Search allows you to speak your search queries and have Google return a number of results. If you look up certain people, sports scores, etc., Voice Search will speak the search result out loud. This makes it extremely quick to look something up at a whim and get that result spoken back to you. Simple, yet useful.
Finally, if you’re looking for a simple yet flexible text-to-speech app, check out Talk. At first glance, this app seems to be very barebones, where you can type some text into the large text box and then have it repeated back to you in voice. However, you can make a lot more use out of it by pasting text from another app into or. Additionally, if you enable the “Get text from shared websites” option in the app’s settings, you can share a website’s URL from your browser to Talk, which will automatically import all of the page’s text and begin speaking it to you.
This is a fantastic approach because the app is very useful despite not being integrated into any other app whatsoever. The app uses the same text-to-speech engine that SpeakMe uses, so the voice characteristics are identical. You can also choose from a large number of different languages in which Talk can speak, provided that those languages are installed on your Android device.
These four apps can make your Android device a lot more useful with just the power of voice. No matter what you’d like to do, these apps have you covered and provide you with an alternative way to use your device. Whether it ultimately allows you to do more is questionable, but it certainly makes your device more accessible, something which everyone can appreciate.
What voice apps do you prefer? What feature would you still like to see? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credit: Beverly & Pack