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Dragon Dictation for iPhone

Dragon I've been playing around with an interesting new app for the iPhone (only – sorry, iPod Touch users) called Dragon Dictation from the same folks who do the PC and Mac Dragon dictation programs, Nuance Communications. This app lets you dictate into your iPhone and end up with text. Just press the red button in the middle of the screen and start talking!

So far, I'd say it's getting about 80-90% of what I'm saying, which isn't to bad, but not great if you have to spend as much time fixing the errors as you would have saved. Fortunately, the program has a fairly quick correction scheme – you tap on the word that's wrong, and it will pop up some choices to substitute for the incorrect word. If none of them is right, you can hit the "record" button on the screen and  try saying the word again. This seems to work every time for me. You can also correct with a keyboard.

The software does recognize commands such as "new paragraph," "open quote," "close quote," "period," "comma," "question mark," etc, to insert those special characters.

Once you have the text, you can send it via an email (a new message opens up right inside the app), SMS message, or save it to the clipboard to use in any other app.


So how does it work? The speech is sent to servers to be translated to text, so you need to have an Internet connection (WiFi or cell data). Then the text is sent back.  Nuance says it's all done by machines, not people, which is good – because before you can use the app for the first time, you are presented with a loooooooooong EULA, and in that EULA it mentions that it will upload the names of everyone in your Address Book to their servers.

Whoa!  What for?  The EULA says only to better aid in translating names (figuring that if you say some names it doesn't know they are quite probably in your Address Book). So if you have any qualms about sending up those names, don't accept the EULA!

There are several folks at the iTunes store down-rating the app because of this. I don't agree with downrating the app – it should stand or fall on how well it works. If you don't want to agree to the terms (and I certainly understand why some folks would not want to) then just don't take the app. I think it should be a bit more obvious that the app is going to take your info (you need to scroll down quite a bit in the EULA to find that out), and I think you should be able to opt out of that portion (and live with the possible lower conversion rate).

The app stops recording after about a minute or so – not sure why. Maybe that's all it can send at one time. You can re-start the recording at the point it stopped, so you can eventually copy/paste, mail, or SMS a longer message.

It would also be nice if there was some sort of Help available for the app, but I can't seem to find any in the app. There is some help available at the Nuance site, but there's no way of knowing that from the app (add a link guys!). I also had a problem using this at work through our firewall (but not at home). The app uses port 443, like a secure web connection, so I don't know why the work firewall blocked it. I got around the problem at work by turning off WiFi. 

You need to be on iPhone software version 3.1 (the latest) to run the app. If you're interested, get it now while it's free.

Dragon Dictation

UPDATE: Nuance has been listening! The upload of the names from your Address Book is now optional, and you have the ability to remove the ones already uploaded. So now there's no reason not to give this a try!

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