Voice dialers for the iPhone are not in short supply; puh-lenty to choose from. So in this review I’ll try to find what VoiceBox Dialer from VoiceBox Technologies Inc has up its sleeve in its attempt to stand out from the crowd.
It’s important to rattle off some standard caveats so take your coat off and stay awhile. First, be aware that ALL app’s in this category are somewhat crippled and not by any fault of the dev’s. Due to the terms Apple set forth and enforces in the SDK, no app can fully integrate all the actual ‘phone’ features such as call lists, favorites and contacts. Another limitation is none can offer hands-free dialing (bluetooth headsets work after the call is underway but can’t initiate). So the best you can expect is to first enter your password (everyone should password their iPhone /end soapbox), touch the app icon, wait for it to load, hold an onscreen button, speak your command, wait for it to parse and then dial (there’s at least one app out there that goes right to ‘listen mode’ so you save the step of holding an onscreen button). On a side note, my advice to anyone is forget about using this type of app while driving unless you’re just begging for an accident. Also notable is background noise can cause parsing failures but again this is the same for all apps in this category.
Whew. All of that said, there definitely ARE plenty of situations where these apps can be fun and useful and the dev’s truly have done the best they can given the strict limitations. So without further adieu we have VoiceBox Dialer (VBD from here on out). This app actually records your spoken command and sends it off to a remote server for processing. Assuming you’re ok with this (their website states they do *nothing* else with this data), be aware that without an Internet connection this app isn’t going to function. If, like many others, you routinely keep 3G disabled to save battery you will find that 2G is so slow that the connection attempt can actually time out. Even if you always keep 3G on, we all know how possible it is to be pushed back to 2G at any time based on the whims of the 3G coverage gods. Personally I don’t think this ‘offloading’ is a very good decision for this kind of app but regardless of what I think let’s cover what you get for the effort.
All such apps let you give simple commands like ‘call mary at home’ or ‘call john mobile’. VBD ups this ante with more natural language support so you can say things like ‘get me billy at work’ or ‘dial 867-5309′ or even ’what about kristin on her cell phone’ and quite a few other combinations. This is the most valuable extra that’s directly related to the increased processing power of an external server and it’s pretty cool. Int’l dial is supported as long as the contact entry has all the right prefix info. Fairly standard options such as vibrate, autodial delay and sound prompts can be configured inside the app. VBD also takes an Iron Giant-sized stride toward convincing you to permanently replace the default phone app by presenting your entire contact list and a direct dial keypad from within the app. As noted, no app can pull your current call lists or favorites but VBD does its best by giving you its own so if you decide to commit to the app you’d eventually have the functional equivalent of each.
In the end, VoiceBox Dialer is extremely high on features, probably as close to a default phone app replacement as you can get within SDK limitations. However, I personally can’t quite get behind the feature of sending your voice commands to a remote server. Not because I fear for my privacy but because of the very real possibility that your data connection or a VoiceBox server could be down or slow, any of which resulting in delays you would never experience with the default phone app. VoiceBox Dialer is as free as a jaybird so in the end, due to the wealth of great features, I absolutely recommend you grab it, spend some time with it and see if it suits you personally as it is in fact a superb app (especially for those of you who like to keep 3G enabled and/or spend a lot of time on WiFi). Lastly, if you want to do a little head to head comparison of VBD with another app in this category that doesn’t parse commands offsite, try Melodis Dialer which is also free.
Version reviewed – 1.1.0