5 Tips for Smartphone Voice Tools

It’s been a decade since Apple built Siri right into their iPhone software and made voice-activated assistant mainstream. However, the assistant is just one of the voice-controlled tools in your smartphone’s ever-growing audio toolbox. Your device can also be a digital recorder, voice recorder, podcast production studio, and more. Here’s how you can do things with more talking and less typing.

You have probably already familiarized yourself with Apple’s Siri, the Google Assistant for Android (and iOS), or Samsung’s Bixby during the process of setting up your phone. You may even have tried it by asking for the weather report or setting a timer. The biggest challenge in using a voice assistant, however, is knowing the various tasks the software does and the devices it is running on. This now includes tablets, speakers, smart home hubs, automotive systems, and streaming TV boxes.

Note-taking apps are great for jotting down quick ideas, but recording an audio clip can be even faster. Your assistant can even open the app for you. You can also record interviews with relatives for family history archives or school projects.

The phone’s recording app works just like a physical recorder. Press the record button to start the session and the pause or stop button to pause the session. At the end, you will receive an audio file that you can play, transfer to a computer, and back up online. Third-party apps abound, but your phone likely has its own free recording program.

Apple’s iPhone includes a Voice Memos app and Google’s Recorder app for Android can be downloaded for free from the Google Play Store. Samsung has integrated its voice recorder in many of its Galaxy phones, but is also making it available in the Galaxy and Google App Store.

Do you need a personal secretary to take dictation – or do you find typing difficult? Your phone can convert your spoken words to text. Just search for a microphone icon on the keyboard or search bar, tap it, and start speaking so your words appear on the screen.

Whenever you are dictating long passages of text such as an email message or sections of your current novel in a word processing app, you need to call up punctuation by name. For example, say “period” when the sentence ends or “new paragraph” to start a new paragraph.

The voice-to-text feature may be enabled (or disabled) by default. So check your settings. The Apple website provides instructions on how to use dictation on the devices and on Google for the Android system (and the Gboard app for iOS). Bixby has its own dictation function with instructions on the Samsung website.

An audio clip shares the sound of your world. Sending audio can also be useful if you currently cannot type, although your assistant can also receive and send a text message.

To send an audio clip in Apple’s Messages app, press and hold the sound wave icon in the message box and record your clip. You can preview them before sending them. (To save space, the audio clips are automatically deleted two minutes after they have been listened to unless you select the Keep option.)

Google’s Messages app for Android sends audio messages in a similar way: just press the microphone icon in your conversation to record a clip to send. Note that when you send a message to another phone platform, you may need to record the clip in another app and send the file as an attachment.

Podcasts have replaced blogs as a medium of self-expression for many people. If you are thinking of starting your own show, you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment. Free or low-cost apps like Spotify’s Anchor, Podbeans Audio Recorder, and Spreaker Studio for Android and iOS offer recording and editing tools right on your phone, as well as publishing and distribution platforms for your podcast.

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