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vlingo iphone reviewHere at MakeUseOf, we’ve reviewed voice recognition apps before, but this is definitely the best iPhone voice command app I’ve used to date.

Vlingo [iTunes Link] has all of the great features you would expect, but remains simple and easy to operate.  On top of that, the App allows you to choose which task you want to execute by voice (or by keystroke).

This is also the first app I’ve seen that lets you update Twitter and Facebook statuses by voice as well.

vlingo iphone appThe core of Vlingo is the home screen. From here, you can actually use any of its main features directly.  For simplicity though, let’s break them down. At the bottom the app displays:

  • Maps
  • Search
  • Phone
  • Social

Each function has been cued to specific keywords that are easy to remember. If you want to run a web search, simply prepend your query with “search,” “Google,” or “Yahoo.” If you just go with “search,” it defaults to Yahoo, but you can change the default easily from either the search screen or the options.

Likewise, the mapping function only requires a “find” in the front and then a regular Google Maps search query. “Call” brings up the phonebook function and very reliably brings up hard to pronounce names. You can specify “mobile” or “home” if you wish. The first time you use the phonebook, you’ll need to submit your contacts to the Vlingo servers, but this only takes a minute.

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The last function is the most innovative. There are two status update options. You can update your Twitter status or your Facebook status. What’s nice is that you can say “status update” if you want to choose the service manually, or you can say one or the other. For instance you can say “Twitter update: This movie is really boring” and it will figure the rest out.

The first time you use it, Vlingo prompts you for your log-in information. As an added advantage, you can view your Twitter feed directly inside the app without switching to Safari. It works the same way with Facebook, using the API. It too provides the mobile version of Facebook inside the app, so there is no need to open a browser window. Keep in mind that the Facebook API is a bit finicky (at least it was when I tried to connect), so a WiFi connection is optimal. Otherwise, it might just time-out on you.

I’m hoping that Vlingo will extend their interest in status update networks and add in more services. Personally, I’d like to see Plurk, FriendFeed, BrightKite, and Tumblr added to their list.

So, the biggest question with any voice recognition app is “how accurate is the recognition software?” Well I tested it a bit and it is one of the best I’ve ever tried on the iPhone. Most recognition programs have a minimum level of quality nowadays, but often get tripped up on funny names and words. While there are limits, I found that even the trickiest names in my contact list were no problem for Vlingo.

The web search was the only sticky point. The longer the query the worse my results seemed to be.  This might be because longer phrases are probably less well pronounced and harder to decode. Also there is more room for error. Fortunately, Vlingo has a built in function to list alternate possible phrases under the search box. For some reason, the status update function had fairly good recognition, but that is probably because the choice of words in a tweet is easier to parse (lots of short verbs and location nouns).

In comparison to Google’s new search app Google's Mobile iPhone App Now With Voice Recognition Google's Mobile iPhone App Now With Voice Recognition Read More , the two fared about the same. I tried searching for my blog, “Mason Tech Beat,” and neither app did very well, no matter how well I pronounced it. Google probably still wins this one because they have the hands-free option (but Apple is letting them have special privileges so it’s a little unfair).

Overall, I was very impressed by the new direction Vlingo is taking their voice-driven iPhone app. The status updates, the high recognition quality, and the overall ease of use has really warmed me to this app. I’m definitely keeping this one around for when I get a little tired of typing everything out!

  1. @toddlucier
    January 5, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Have to agree Vlingo is a great way to update twitter or use google search, even more convenient than Google's iphone audio search because of the link to google maps and twitter.
    Nice.

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