Have you ever been in a lecture and wished you could record only the moments the professor mentions something will be on the test, or what the homework is? Perhaps you’ve wanted to record audio notes from interviews, and didn’t want to have to listen to unexpected tangents or noise a second time? The free Android app Cogi Voice Recorder, short for cogent ideas, may be just what you’re looking for.
Getting Started with Cogi Voice Recorder
When you start a session in Cogi it starts to ‘listen’ without saving anything at this point. The magic comes when you decide you want to remember what is being said. Simply ‘Tap to Highlight’, and Cogi starts to record until you tap it again to pause recording, at which point it resumes listening.
Of course, sometimes it takes a while to realise that you’ll need to save what you’re hearing. The magic of Cogi is that when you Tap to Highlight, it ‘rewinds’ back 15 seconds of audio and continues recording from there. That way, you have the context that made you think “I want to save what I’m about to hear”. What if 15 seconds is not long enough? Cogi gives you the freedom to change the length of time it backs up to either 5, 10, 15, 45, or 60 seconds. If you want to focus more on listening and have to worry less about setting off the Highlight quickly, you may want to switch the default to a longer time frame. Cogi also lets you type notes while an audio session is happening and saves them for later. It can also launch your device’s camera to take a photo, which it will display on the session review page later.
Reviewing your Listening Sessions
The Review page itself is simple. Cogi on first download will have a session already stored, entitled “Explore Cogi” which explains how Cogi works. If you have recorded a session, it will also have that listed, labeled with the date. Tap on the session’s Play button and the middle-third of the screen will display any photographs or notes you took during the session. The bottom-third will show the waveforms of the Highlights captured, each with a corresponding play button and the duration of the clip. If you long-press on the label of a highlight, you can choose to edit it to give it a meaningful title. Unfortunately, if you’re planning to transfer the sound files to another device for review, the file names will remain untouched and unreadable, so that may defeat the purpose.
Tagging & Searching
Cogi supports tagging sessions with the name of one or more of your contacts for searching, using the familiar @context format from GTD methodology. Cogi also uses Twitter-style hashtags for sessions you may consider #Important or that you may want to #FollowUp on. However, you cannot add tags for single highlights.
I would like to see the developers work on Cogi’s tagging capabilities. It would also be good if Cogi gave you the option of editing the file name within the app.
One thing that will always be frustrating for any audio recording app is that the microphone is embedded on your device. That means your recording quality is limited to that of your on-board microphone. It also means that usually you’ll be hearing yourself speak louder than anyone you may be trying to record. This is especially true if you are the one controlling the highlights. To mitigate these issues, you can plug a microphone into the 3.5mm headset jack of your device, and set the mic up closer to the person you want to record.
Cogi’s Unusual Permissions
Cogi requires a few unusual Android permissions, including “Directly call phone numbers” “Permission to modify contacts” and “Change sync status”. I reached out to the developers of Cogi through the Android Play Store review system to find out why these permissions are required. The Cogi Inc. team responded,
Good questions. Our premium services are not yet released but include the same great functionality but for phone calls. For a seamless experience, it’s all built into one app and connected to our back-end services. The contact permissions are tied to contact tags. Easy way to include a reference to who was in that meeting, and later, who to call.
Those of you who use the iPhone also have a version of Cogi to try out. The iPhone version has a different user interface, and seems to have a larger scope, including making and recording voice calls.
The Bottom Line
If you don’t need your recordings’ metadata (titles, tags, and contacts) to be useful when you move recordings to your desktop computer, and can live with the audio quality of your smartphone, Cogi could prove useful. There is the trade-off of not having all the information from the conversation (if you decide later that you needed complete context), but remember, in some cases, less is more. So Android users, if you’ve been looking for a way to capture audio while minimizing the amount of noise you have to sift through later, and you’re a bit daring, Cogi may be just right for you.
Download: Cogi Voice Recorder [FREE]