If you’re looking to record voice memos, there’s a plethora of apps in the App Store that can do just that, not to mention Apple’s own Voice Memos app that comes installed on the iPhone out of the box. But what if you prefer your notes in typed format instead and you want to be able to dictate them on the fly instead of taking the time to type them out yourself? Then you should check out Speech Notes by Beam Speech Solutions for the iPhone.
Speech Notes debuted the App Store earlier this summer and features a very simple interface with the recording button at the top and a list of all of your saved notes at the bottom. To create a new note, you can either tap on the recording button to dictate your note or tap on the plus button in the top right corner to create a note by manually typing it out.
When you dictate a note, you can also dictate punctuation to insert commas and periods as needed. However, I couldn’t seem to find the command for a carriage return to create a new line though it’s not clear if the app is even capable of this. With this limitation, Speech Notes is best for short lists and ideas you want to capture and then edit later manually if you want. Also, the app does not automatically capitalize the first letter of any sentences you dictate. While not a terrible issue, it’s noticeable and annoying to me as a writer.
The conversion of dictated speech to written text requires an internet connection. The speech recognition is not perfect and felt less accurate than what you’d get with an app like Dragon Dictation but it’s still quite serviceable.
One other limitation is that you can’t add on to an existing note via dictation – you can only extend an existing note manually via the iPhone’s virtual keyboard.
The app’s interface is pretty sparse and unpolished, and there’s not much in the way of settings other than the language you’d like to use. By default, Speech Notes selects the system language used by your iPhone though you can choose from among 13 languages in total: Czech, Danish, German, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian.
Speech Notes is free and ad-supported. At the moment, there’s no way to remove the ads via in-app purchase but they are fairly unobtrusive and don’t interfere with using the app.
Speech Notes is compatible with the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3Gs, and iPhone 4 and requires iOS 4 or higher. It also works on the iPod touch from the 2nd generation and later. Speech Notes also works on the iPad though it is not a universal app and does not offer an interface optimized for the device’s larger screen.
I really like the concept of Speech Notes. I often find myself wanting to quickly record a note but would rather have it in text format for reference afterward instead of listening to a voice memo and then transcribing it manually later. I like that Speech Notes can do this as well as keep text notes I type out manually, a combination that isn’t offered by any other app in the App Store to my knowledge. But it hasn’t become my default notes app because the shortcomings mentioned previously, most notably the lack of a carriage return voice command and the inability to add to an existing note via dictation. Also –and I admit that I may have been spoiled by other apps in this regard– I’d like to see some sort of back-up or synchronization capability via Dropbox or another method so I can access my notes in other ways as well.
Speech Notes is only at version 1.0 right now and hopefully Beam Speech Solutions will be improving it in the near future. I think Speech Notes has a lot of potential if it gets a few more features and the interface gets some attention to add some polish.