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I was extremely disappointed about one thing with the new iOS 4 Software Update and iPhone 4. With the iOS 4 update on my iPhone 3GS and then ultimately going to the iPhone 4, Apple took away one of my favorites features and one that made me think: Apple – It's a PHONE first! That feature was one that appeared in iPhone OS 2 (after my complaining about it not being on the original iPhone OS) and it was a simple double tap of the Home button to get to your Phone Favorites List. I feel that ALL phones should have a ONE TOUCH SPEED DIAL feature and since the iPhone doesn't have physical keys to assign contacts to, the next best thing was the ability to double tap the Home button to get to that short list of Favorites so that you can quickly dial someone that you call all the time. Instead Apple chose to reassign the double tap to the NEW multi-tasking feature. Again, I thought since multi-tasking is the NEW thing, why not give that feature a different command such as triple tap or double tap and hold, etc.? I couldn't believe that such a fundamental PHONE feature had taken a backseat to running multiple apps at the same time. After all the iPhone is a PHONE first! Note: double tap still works to get to Favorites (or whatever you have it set to) on the iPhone 3G since the iPhone 3G doesn't support multitasking. 

 

What about Voice Control?

During a dinner conversation my buddy and fellow columnist Jack Beckman, we started talking about Voice Control. Voice Control is not a new feature. It was there on my iPhone 3GS. However, I almost NEVER used it because quite frankly it just didn't work with my voice. As I've said in the past voice recognition software ether works really well for me or not at all. On the iPhone 3GS Voice Control was in the "not at all" category. I would say "Call Jack Beckman" and the iPhone would say "Calling Phyllis Evans". If I have to say it 3, 4 or 5 times to get it to work, then I'm better off just doing it manually and that was just how bad Voice Control was for me. However, since one of my favorite features had been thrown to the side like yesterday's news I figured what did I have to lose by giving Voice Control another shot? So I tried it and OMG it worked! First time, no hesitation. I tried it again with a different name and it worked again. I spent the entire next day forcing myself to only use Voice Control to make any calls that I needed to make and son of a gun, it worked with EVERY NAME I threw at it. Yesterday, I tried more difficult names like Kwesi Aquil and Rentata Stojcevski and it got those right too. As a matter of fact it has yet to not get it right on the first try for me! WOW!

Voice Control even has a few advantages over the Favorites list. First off you can hold down the Home button to get to Voice Control even if the iPhone is locked. You can use Voice Control with a bluetooth headset without even touching the iPhone. You can use Voice Control to call contacts that aren't in your Favorites. In other words you have access to your entire contact list and can dial numbers digit by digit. Lastly since it's handsfree, it's safer while driving. You don't have to look at the screen to use it and that's a win for everyone!

Voice Control Tip: If your contact has multiple numbers, you can actually say "call Jack Beckman iPhone" and it will know to dial the iPhone number (provided you specified "iPhone" in your contacts. Otherwise say "mobile", "home", "work" etc.)

 

The Bottom Line

While I do still think that the Favorites list is an important "phone" feature that should be EASY to access with one tap (or hold, or multiple tap combination, you get the idea), I applaud the improvements in Voice Control. I'm not sure if it's improved because of iOS 4 tweaks or because of the iPhone 4's dual microphones or because of the iPhone 4's faster processor or all of the above, but I'll take it!

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  • Scott

    Terry, I experienced exactly what you said with Voice Control and had to give up using it at all. Reading your article, I decided to give it another try on my iPhone 3GS with iOS 4. And shocker, it works beautifully. Three names, three correct! I guess the improvement is in the software.

  • I have had the complete opposite experience with Voice Control. After buying the 3GS when it shipped I have used Voice Control to call and play music all the time. I never dial a number, just say the number or name I want.

    But after upgrading my 3GS to iOS4, Voice Control have become useless. Now I can try repeating a name 3-4-10 times, and it doesn’t get it right. Also after I have spoken it uses about 3-4 seconds to “think” before misunderstanding what I said. On iPhone OS 3 the calling or change of music was almost instant.

  • Jay

    It’s not a phone first – at least not anymore. It’s a handheld computer that happens to run a great phone app. Having it be a great phone was just the carrot to get people using a small, well thought out computer with a touch interface. The public would except this in a phone, but nowhere else, so it’s were Jobs began. Now that we’re hooked – the iPad. Yup – Both just another computer in Steve Jobs’ world.

    Look at all the hub-bub about ios4. These are not improvements to make a better phone. ios4 is the next step to a better computer.

  • Jay

    Change except > accept in previous post. As you can see I can’t proof my own work.

  • This feature is also a big boost for users who are blind or otherwise visually impaired.

  • Gary Coyne

    I found this site trying to find more information on how to get Voice Control to work. I’ve an iPhone 4, I just updated to 4.2 and it still works like smashing rocks together to get smoke to send signals. For those of us in California where talking on a phone in a car is illegal (but more common than speeders nonetheless), really try to not hold or use my phone and try to use my bluetooth. Invariably I have to pull out my phone, find the person I need to talk to and initiate the call by hand because Voice Control just doesn’t work. FWIW, I’ve been raised in California and do not have any accent in particular and learned to enunciate by demanding parents. At 60, I do not have any speech issues. I love my iPhone, but VC sucks.