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How often do you speak to your phone? If you use Windows Phone, it might not be as often as you would like – but in fact there are several very good speech recognition options for this platform.
Although not as advanced as Siri on iPhone, Windows Phone 8’s voice recognition is surprisingly good, and can certainly aid with productivity. Some of its native features require third party apps on Android, making Windows Phone a good alternative, if good voice recognition is what you’re looking for in a phone.
Windows Phone 8 enables you to launch apps with your voice, open communication with contacts, take notes, and search the web. Some apps also allow additional voice interaction.
Prepping Your Windows Phone 8 For Speech
Windows Phone 8 supports speech for languages around the world, but to begin you’ll need to configure the phone for this, which involves changing some settings and downloading a voice pack.
In the Settings menu, open Speech, and view the available options. You may like to Use Speech when the phone is locked, so check this box; you may also like to the device to Read incoming text messages aloud, which can be done with Bluetooth, wired headsets, Bluetooth and headsets, or generally switched on and off. Having text messages read regardless of the situation could prove embarrassing, of course.
You can also choose between a female and male Text-to-Speech voice, and once this choice is made you should proceed to the Speech language option. Depending upon your device manufacturer and/or mobile network, this should have been configured already. If not, you should see message reading “Speech is off until your language pack has been installed.”
To deal with this, open the menu and select your preferred language, and wait while it downloads (if you have a metered mobile Internet connection, performing this step over WiFi might be wise).
With the language pack downloaded and installed, you’ll be ready to start using your voice to communicate with your Windows Phone. For the best results, confirm that Enable Speech Recognition Service is checked.
Launch Apps With Your Voice
Perhaps the first thing you will want to try is to open an app with your voice.
All Windows Phone voice controls are initiated by tapping and holding the Start button and waiting for the prompt. You will notice that some examples are given in the voice recognition box; there is also a help button you can tap for further suggestions.
To launch an app, simply say “Open [APPNAME]”. This works for all pre-installed apps, third party apps and even games!
Depending on which apps you have installed, you will find that additional voice options are available. You can check these by holding Start, tapping the voice recognition help button (labelled with a question mark) and swiping to Apps. Here you’ll see a list of voice commands associated with the apps you have installed.
For instance, I might be rather peckish after a long day writing, and still have hours to go to beat my deadline. What could I possibly do, with no time to cook? The solution, surely, would be to utter the immortal words to my phone: “Domino’s I am hungry!”
Moments later I’ll be able to quickly order a pizza and wait for it to arrive while I carry on working!
Communicate With Contacts
You already use your voice to communicate with people over the phone, right? Windows Phone 8 features voice recognition tools to open a conversation without manually finding and calling the contact yourself, either via phone call, text message or email.
For instance, you can instruct the phone to call someone using the phrase “Call [CONTACTNAME].” If your contact has multiple phone numbers in your address book, then you would say something like “Call Phil Work”, which would prompt Windows Phone to dial the work number saved for Phil.
You might also use the following:
- Call Phil on speakerphone – dials a number and uses speakerphone mode.
- Call voicemail – calls your voicemail account.
These options are very useful for hands-free communication when driving.
Other voice communication is possible. From the email app you can create a New message and after entering the recipient name (alternatively you might choose Send email from a contact listed in People) tap the Speak button and dictate your message. Although more suited to an office or multitasking environment than to driving, these can be very productive, and we’ve previously dedicated a full article to the various voice messaging options for Windows Phone 8.
You can even use the OneNote app to make an audio recording and then have it transcribed within the note! Do this by saying the word “Note” followed by the message. The text version will appear in the newly created note, below a play button that you can use to review the audio command. This can then be synced with your OneNote notebooks.
Search The Web Verbally
Much has been made of Android Jelly Bean’s ability to search the web with your voice. Windows Phone 8 has a similar feature.
While there is no problem solving facility (as yet) available, it is a simple matter to hold the Start button and find the information you need.
For instance, if I was in Manchester and wanted to grab a coffee, I could say”Find coffee in Manchester” and Windows Phone would connect to Bing to return local results, as pictured.
It’s also possible to search the web using your voice, although be aware that the results will come from Bing rather than that other search engine.
Conclusion: Good Speech Options, With More To Come
Very rarely will Windows Phone 8 answer you back. Problems such as mathematical equations cannot be solved and weather reports cannot be dictated to you (although they can be retrieved using the phrase “Find weather in [CITYNAME]”). On the other hand, it has been developed far more than the rudimentary system that was available on the old Windows Phone 7.
All in all, Windows Phone 8 voice recognition isn’t yet as developed as Siri on iPhone, and is roughly on par with that on the most recent version of Android.
This hopefully means that the system – which can prove very useful when driving and in desk-based productivity scenarios – will be further developed with future Windows Phone updates.
How would you like to communicate with your Windows phone?
Image Credits: N i c o l a Via Flickr