iPhone Gems: Every Voice Recorder, Reviewed | iLounge Article

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iPhone Gems: Every Voice Recorder, Reviewed

Voice recorder technology first appeared on iPods back in 2003, when Belkin released the original Voice Recorder for iPod. Since then, additional full-sized iPod and nano models have offered basic voice recording capabilities, using software that Apple included in the devices’ firmware. All you needed was one of several microphone-laden accessories from Belkin, Griffin, XtremeMac, or others.

Then something changed: the iPhone came with a built-in microphone. Yet it didn’t have any voice recording software to take advantage of that feature. Today, less than a month after the opening of the App Store, there are 13 different pieces of voice recorder software—a lot to choose from—so we’ve tested them all, and created this iPhone Gems feature to help you figure out which is best for your needs. You can skip straight to the reviews of SpeakEasy and Note2Self if you want to see our top picks.

 

Unlike many of the App Store programs, these particular applications are designed specifically for the iPhone, not the iPod touch. The iPod touch does not have a built-in microphone and there are no iPod touch-compatible voice recording accessories available. Further, current SDK restrictions preclude third-party applications from accessing most Dock Connector accessories, so even if an enterprising developer or accessory manufacturer wanted to bring voice recording to the iPod touch, it does not seem that this will be possible unless Apple changes the software.

It should also be noted that the base recording quality of all of the apps that we reviewed was roughly equivalent. A few of the apps we reviewed offered higher-quality recording settings, which resulted in slightly improved fidelity when recording from music sources or from distant sources, such as in a lecture hall. However, for voice recording quality purposes, all of the applications that we reviewed provided acceptable quality with virtually no distinguishable differences.

In terms of space taken up by voice recordings, based on the apps that did provide storage information or transfer of voice memos, you can expect your recordings to take approximately 1MB per minute of recorded audio on average, versus 2.5MB per minute on the iPod 5G’s, classic’s and nano’s low-quality mode. Notably, the numbers are not directly comparable because iPhone recordings are currently made in Apple’s Core Audio Format (CAF) rather than WAV, the format used by iPods. The space consumed will also vary somewhat with applications that provide different quality settings, however with the monaural microphone on the iPhone, there’s no current need to record in stereo fidelity. A near-term iPhone software update is expected to add MP3 encoding as an alternative to CAF for greater compatibility of the recorded files.

Voice Memos ($5) from Verge23 (iTunes Store Link)

Voice Memos is a basic no-frills voice recording application that more or less works for its intended purpose: to record and store voice memos on your iPhone. Starting the application presents a list of existing recordings with a Record button for making a new recording, and a Delete button for removing an existing recording, in an interface very similar to the iPhone’s own Visual Voicemail application.

 

The interface is simple enough in that it allows you to quickly and easily get started recording new voice memos without a lot of effort. Existing memos are played back by tapping on the saved memo and pressing the small play button which appears to its immediate left. Tapping on the arrow brings up an information screen which allows you to view basic information about the memo, and rename the memo by tapping the Edit button.

 

Unfortunately, this is where the interface begins to fall apart. When editing an existing voice memo, you can tap on any of the displayed fields, but regardless of which one you tap on, you will be prompted to enter a new title for the memo. To make matters worse, it would appear that each new field actually accesses a different title field. In other words, if you tap on the actual title field, you can rename the memo and tap the Save button to return to the main editing screen. Tapping on another field such as the last modified time will bring you back to the Edit Name screen, but with the old name filled in. Although this is a minor annoyance, we do feel that a bit more attention could have been paid to the UI design on the editing side, particularly for one of the most expensive voice recording apps presently available. Further, during our review testing, we noted that tapping the Record button sometimes failed to actually start a recording. This seemed to occur most frequently immediately after a previous recording had been deleted, but although the problem occurred several times, we could not reproduce it on demand. It is unclear whether this is a deficiency within the app itself or simply the result of the many problems that are currently plaguing the iPhone v2.0 initial release.

Note that this application also provides no method for getting recordings off the device. You can listen to your recordings on the iPhone, or delete them, and that’s about it. Further, you cannot pause while recording, nor append to an existing recording. On the upside, Voice Memos has a very nice interface that Visual Voicemail users will feel comfortable with, and it does what it’s supposed to do with only a couple of minor interface glitches. Unfortunately, the reality is that at the $5 asking price, this is one of the two most expensive voice recording apps on the iTunes Store, and we really would have expected a lot more, particularly compared to the alternatives which are available. iLounge Rating: D.

Voice Notes (Free) from GarSoft (iTunes Store Link)

Voice Notes is another no-frills voice recording app which has the advantage of being free. However, rather than presenting the user with a ready-to-record screen when opening this app, the user is instead presented with a list of existing recordings. When first using this app, this means that the user is presented with a blank slate:

 

To start a new recording, you must click the plus sign in the top-right corner of the screen. The app then switches to a simplified recording screen where you can give your new recording a name and/or start recording by tapping the Record button. While individual users may have different preferences, in our opinion the goal of a voice recording app should be to minimize the amount of time and number of taps required to actually start a recording, which means priority should be given to the recording interface, rather than the list of recordings. In this case, this app feels much more cumbersome to use than many of the alternatives.

 

When finished recording, you can edit the name field, tap the Record button again to re-record your clip (note this erases your current recording without warning), or tap the Save button in the top-right corner to save your recording.

Although this app does what is advertised and has the advantage of being free, there are some serious limitations in its current design: there is no way to preview your current recording from the recording screen itself—you must save it and then listen to it from the main screen. There is no way to pause while recording, and tapping the record button a second time will erase your current recording rather than appending to it; there is no prompt to notify the user of this and it’s far too easy to do accidentally, such as while you’re trying to type in a name for the memo. Further, once you have saved a recording, there is no way to rename it—you’re stuck with whatever name you gave it during recording. Lastly, there is no way to get these recordings off of the iPhone. Even with a free price tag, this app is far too basic and limited at this point for any kind of serious use. iLounge Rating: C-.

VoiceRecord ($1) from Patrick O’Keefe (iTunes Store Link)

Yet another basic voice recording application, VoiceRecord is in many ways similar to the other options we’ve reviewed thus far, albeit a bit more polished. Like Voice Notes, this app has the annoying feature of presenting the user with a list of recordings rather than getting right down to business with the actual recording interface. To begin a recording, the user must tap the plus sign, in this case in the top-left corner of the application.

 

Tapping the Plus sign takes you to a very nice recording screen, where you must then tap the Record button to actually begin recording. As a nice added touch, a level meter is displayed during recording:

 

When finished recording, tapping on the stop button saves the current recording and returns you to the list of recordings. By default, all recordings are named with the current date and time.  Tapping on a recording presents a list of options to play, rename, or delete the recording.

 

Unfortunately, VoiceRecorder lacks any of the more advanced features of some of the other voice recorders, such as the ability to pause while recording or append to an existing recording, and no means is provided for transferring the recordings off of the iPhone to your computer. If you can live within those limitations, however, this app works well as a basic voice recorder, and is reasonably priced. iLounge Rating: B-.

SpeakEasy Voice Recorder ($2) from Zarboo Software (iTunes Store Link)

SpeakEasy Voice Recorder is definitely the most polished and professional-looking option among all of the voice recorders that we reviewed, offering more advanced voice recording capabilities within a very attractive user interface. Starting SpeakEasy takes the user to a “Studio” screen with a nice big microphone button to immediately start recording:

 

Tapping on the microphone takes the user directly to recording mode:

 

A level meter is displayed to track your audio levels and you can also pause and resume recording by tapping the pause button which appears to the immediate left of the level meter. When finished recording, tap the too-large-to-miss STOP button and you are asked what you want to do with this recording:

 

Tapping the Save It option provides you with a screen where you can name your recording, add some comments, and assign it to a category. You can also add a photo tag to your recording by tapping the blue image icon at the top-left:

 

Note the “Mark as Played” button which also appears in the very top-left corner. SpeakEasy marks all recordings as “New” until you have either listened to them, or marked them as played manually.

SpeakEasy also offers a few additional options which are hidden under the iPhone’s main “Settings” application.

 

From here, you can specify whether you want SpeakEasy to play output via the iPhone’s main speaker or the earpiece, as well as choose from one of five recording quality levels:

 

In comparison to other voice recording applications, SpeakEasy’s ability to adjust audio recording quality allows for recording performance options for recording musical content or recording in a large room such as a lecture hall. Under these circumstances, the Better quality option yielded noticeably improved results, although little difference could be heard at the Best quality setting in our testing environments. Unfortunately, with no way to actually get the recorded audio files off of the iPhone and into another application, it is difficult to properly analyze and compare the different recording quality settings.

Ultimately, SpeakEasy is a very polished voice recording application with the only serious limitation being the ability to actually transfer your recordings off of the iPhone onto your computer. If this is not a feature that you need, SpeakEasy will definitely address most of your other voice recording needs in a very reasonably-priced package. iLounge Rating: B+.

Audio Recorder ($3) from Peerium (iTunes Store Link)

Audio Recorder is another voice recording application with a slightly unique user interface design and one important additional feature: you can e-mail your recordings either to your own e-mail account or to any contact in your iPhone address book at the tap of a button.

Upon launch, Audio Recorder presents a nicely designed ready-to-record starting screen, with standard stop, play, pause and rec buttons all consistently laid out:

 

Tapping the Rec button immediately begins recording. A recording level meter is provided, and you can pause and resume recording as needed.

 

When finished recording, simply tap the Stop button, and the recording will be saved to a recordings list, identified by the date and time of the recording, however you will remain on the recording screen. You can resume recording simply by tapping the Rec button again, and recording will pick up from where you left off.

You can access a list of your recordings by tapping the “Recordings” button in the top-left corner.

 

In fact, you can even call up past recordings from your list and append to these at any time, simply by tapping on the recording in your list, which will load it into the main recording application, where you can play the recording back, or tap the Rec button to add more to the end. Recording into an existing file always appends to the end of the file, regardless of your current playback position.

Since recording always picks up from the end of the current file, you must start a new recording by tapping the New button located in the top-right corner of the application.

Audio Recorder uses uncompressed Core Audio FIles (CAF), and the recordings when sent out via e-mail appear to be about two to three times larger than files created by other iPhone voice recording applications. Expect about 3MB per minute of audio recording when using this application.

The “Send to Self” and “Send to Contact” buttons will send the current recording as an e-mail message either to your own e-mail address, or to any contact in your iPhone’s address book. For this to work, however, you must first configure your e-mail account settings under the Audio Recorder settings which is buried in the iPhone’s main Settings application:

 

If you have not configured these settings, you will be reminded to do so. It would be nice, howver, if the Audio Recorder application could simply prompt you for these settings, rather than presenting you with an error message, then requiring you to go and find the Settings screen panel to set them yourself.

 

Another problem we noted is that it would appear that the application tries to send its e-mails directly to the destination mail server, and therefore can be blocked by certain firewalls. In our testing, we were unable to successfully send a voice recording while on a home Wi-Fi network—which blocks outbound SMTP traffic—although this worked fine over a 3G network once we turned Wi-Fi off. Using an intermediate mail server, or sending voice memos through the actual mail application would likely produce more reliable results.

The only other minor limitation when compared to other voice recording applications is that Audio Recorder provides no way to reorganize, rename, or otherwise annotate your recorded notes. Notes are named with the date and time of the recording, and this cannot be modified. However, it is a matter of individual preference whether this is a feature that is really required in an application whose primary function seems to be collecting voice notes and sending them to an e-mail box for further organization and processing. Given the choice, the ability to get your notes off the iPhone is definitely preferable to naming and categorizing them on the device itself.

The bottom line is that Audio Recorder does an excellent job at a reasonable price in terms of its recording capabilities and user interface, and offers the ability to send your recordings out to either your own e-mail box or directly to another user. It’s crippled mostly by some minor e-mail sending-related limitations that may not affect all users, and can hopefully be addressed in a future release. iLounge Rating: B.

QuickVoice Recorder ($2) from nFinity (iTunes Store Link)

QuickVoice recorder is another relatively basic voice recording application with one useful feature that distinguishes it from the others: nFinity provides a separate application in both Mac and Windows flavors that can be used to transfer your recordings directly onto your desktop computer.

As a voice recorder, QuickVoice is nothing spectacular compared to the other options available. Starting the application yields a listing of your current voice recordings and prominent Record and Play buttons, with additional buttons for editing and deleting displayed in the bottom corners:

 

To start a new recording, simply tap the Record button, and recording begins immediately.

 

Unlike most other basic recorders, however, QuickVoice does include the capability to pause and resume your recording at any point—a feature that nFinity advertises rather prominently on its App Store description, and it’s definitely a useful advantage over some of the other basic voice recorders.

Beyond that distinction, however, QuickVoice is unfortunately one of these applications that just doesn’t quite “feel right” on the iPhone. The UI design definitely does not follow the design of other iPhone applications, and can therefore be somewhat non-intuitive. For instance, to edit, play or delete a recording, you must tap on it first to select it, and then select the appropriate button from the bottom of the screen. More importantly, however, a blue dot is used to indicate the currently-selected item—a confusing choice since in just about every other iPhone application, a blue dot is used to indicate a new/unread/unheard item, and normally a highlight bar is used to identify the current item when necessary.

 

About the only really distinguishing feature of QuickVoice is the desktop sync client, which basically reads the backup files that iTunes creates when you sync your iPhone to retrieve your voice recordings from there. The application can be downloaded directly from the developer’s web site, although it took a bit of digging to actually find—an actual direct link on the App Store page would have been far more convenient. Once installed, running the desktop app simply provides a dialog box prompting you to confirm that you have synced your iPhone with iTunes, and then displays an Import button to bring in the audio files from your iPhone backup:

 

Clicking the Import button simply copies all of your new voice recordings from your iPhone backup folder into a separate folder on your computer:

 

QuickVoice recorder works as advertised, and some users will definitely prefer the desktop sync client over the e-mail transfer methods used by other applications, however if this is not a priority, there are slighlty less expensive applications that do a better job on the iPhone interface and provide additional features. iLounge Rating: B-.

Recordifier ($5) from Red Rock Software (iTunes Store Link)

Recordifier is yet another unremarkable voice recording app with a relatively high price tag. The basic features work more or less as you would expect. Start the application, and you’re taken to a screen listing your recordings and providing a “Record” button prominently displayed at the bottom of the screen:

 

Tapping the “Record” button begins your recording. A level meter is provided, but there is no ability to pause and resume your recording, nor will you be able to append to it once you stop recording. When you’re finished recording, you are taken to a screen where you can assign a name to the recording, play it back, or delete it.

 

This is also the same screen used when editing an existing recording. About the only distinguishing feature of Recordifier is the ability to choose from two different size/quality settings which can be accessed by tapping on the small “i” icon which appears in the bottom-right corner of the main recording screen:

 

From this screen, the developers have also provided some useful recording tips, although this appears to simply be a README file, rendered in a font that is almost unreadable on the iPhone screen, although this view does respect the accelerometer orientation so you can also read it in landscape view.

 

Recordifier lacks most of the advanced features of its best lower-price competitors, such as the ability to pause/resume recordings in progress, or the ability to transfer your recordings off your iPhone and onto your computer. The bottom line is that Recordifier might have been a perfectly reasonable basic voice recorder at a more competitive price, but we expect far more from a $5 voice recording application, particularly when compared to all of the other products out there—a premium price tag should include premium features. iLounge Rating: C.

Recorder ($1) from Retronyms (iTunes Store Link)

Recorder is a reasonably-priced, basic voice recorder that offers the ability to send your recordings out via e-mail, and little else of note. As with almost all of the other voice recorders, starting the application presents you with a list of your current recordings and a very prominent “Record” button:

 

Recording works as expected, however there is no capability for pausing recording, and no level meter is provided either. Of course, recording is stopped by tapping on the Stop button; the new recording appears in the list of recordings with a generic name of “Memo” and a date and time stamp:

 

Tapping on a recording from this list will simply play the recording back in place. Pressing the blue arrow takes you to a screen where you can edit the recording name, and see additional information about the file size, length, and date and time recorded:

 

Hitting the button in the bottom-left corner provides you with the ability to send the current recording out via e-mail. Unlike other applications, however, Recorder uploads your voice message to a hosted web service, and then opens your iPhone Mail app with a boilerplate message containing the link to the actual recording. You can address and edit this e-mail message and then send it out normally:

 

Recorder is currently the lowest-priced voice recorder that also offers e-mail sending capabilities, although users will want to consider whether the web-hosted service is more desirable than simply sending the voice recordings as direct e-mail attachments. The upside to the web-hosted service approach is that the e-mail itself is much smaller for the recipient, although the voice message must still be uploaded from the iPhone to the hosted server, so there is no data transfer or time savings when sending the recording. However, since the iPhone’s own e-mail application is used to actually send the e-mail message, you may be more successful in sending voice memos using Recorder than with other applications.

Recorder’s lower price offers a trade-off between the advanced recording capabilities of its competition, and is a fair-enough solution for the price-conscious user who simply wants to make simple voice recordings and send them out via e-mail. However, the price difference between this and a more full-featured application is very small. iLounge Rating: B-.

Note2Self ($3) from Web Information Solutions (iTunes Store Link)

Note2Self is a unique entry in the pool of iPhone voice recording apps. Unlike most of the other applications, which are geared toward storing voice notes on the iPhone itself and possibly allowing you to send them out via e-mail, Note2Self takes the opposite approach: its primary purpose is to allow you to quickly take voice recordings and fire them off to your e-mail inbox or any other address you would like, optionally allowing you to save them locally in the process.

Recording with Note2Self is as straighforward as most other apps; start the app and tap the Record button:

 

However, Note2Self comes with a very interesting twist: in addition to starting a recording in the traditional manner, Note2Self can use the accelerometer in the iPhone to actually start recording when you move the iPhone to your ear and stop recording when you put it back down. In addition, when you hold the iPhone up to your ear, the proximity sensor turns off the screen in the same way as the iPhone does for phone calls. This makes Note2Self an extremely intuitive choice for recording personal voice notes.

In our testing we tried to “fake out” this feature a fair bit to see exactly how it worked, which yielded unpredictable results. However, when used intuitively it works almost flawlessly: simply move the iPhone from a relatively horizontal viewing position to the side of your head to begin recording, and move the iPhone back to its original position to stop recording. The iPhone will respond with vibration feedback to indicate that it has started or stopped recording, as appropriate.

When finished recording, Note2Self will prompt you for what you want to do with the recording, with options to either simply save the note onto the iPhone, e-mail it to yourself without saving a copy, or e-mail it and save a copy:

 

You can also configure Note2Self to take one of these actions automatically, which when combined with the automatic accelerometer based recording creates a very seamless recording experience. Saved recordings appear in the Notes listing accessed from the button at the bottom of the screen, identified by the date and time of recording:

 

From this listing, you can listen to your saved recordings or tap on the blue arrow at the right of each recording to send them out via e-mail to either your default e-mail address or to another contact in your address book. Recordings are sent as e-mail attachments to messages sent via the developer’s mail server.

 

This use of a specific mail server eliminates the need to configure additional e-mail settings beyond your FROM and TO addresses, and avoids some of the firewall restrictions that affect Audio Recorder’s e-mail sending methods, but it has the disadvantage of creating a single point of failure when sending e-mail message out. However, if you are out of coverage, Note2Self will queue up your recordings until they actually can be sent out. These will appear in a “Pending” queue at the top of your saved recording list, and will also be noted on the Note2Self icon from the home screen:

 

As with some of the other voice recording applications, Note2Self’s settings are buried in the iPhone’s main Settings application. From this screen you can configure your preferred recording format to use compressed or uncompressed audio, choose your default action for new recordings, set your e-mail FROM and TO addresses, and even specify a default subject line prefix.

 

Unlike Audio Recorder, Note2Self will take you through the process of setting up your e-mail addresses the first time you try to send an e-mail, making it unnecessary to visit this settings panel unless you need to change your e-mail address in the future, or adjust any of the other options.  For those interested in playing with Note2Self’s compression settings, note that the audio quality of IMA4 compressed versus PCM uncompressed audio in our testing was indistinguishable, but uncompressed audio files took up twice the storage space: about 3MB per minute using the PCM uncompressed setting, compared to about 1.5MB per minute using IMA4 compressed audio.

Note2Self is obviously geared toward a very specific purpose, which is creating personal voice memos to yourself and sending them out. It can still be used for general recordings, although it lacks the organizational ability of some of the other voice recording applications, such as the ability to rename your memos. There is also no way to pause and resume recording or append to existing voice memos. However, in our opinion these are not serious limitations for this application’s intended purpose, and for what it is designed to do—collecting short notes to yourself and sending them off—it works extremely well. iLounge Rating: B+.

EccoNote (Free) from T. Ashley Software (iTunes Store Link)

EccoNote is another run-of-the-mill application with nothing to specifically distinguish it other than its price tag. It works as advertised, although like some of the other applications has the rather inconvenient design of starting from a memo listing screen rather than a recording screen, requiring an extra tap to start a new memo and then begin recording.

 

One rather odd design choice that makes EccoNote somewhat non-intuitive is its use of the spinning “Please Wait” indicator to show its recording progress. No time counter or level meter is displayed, and it took us a moment to realize that the application was actually recording, and not merely waiting to start recording:

 

EccoNote also suffers from the same rather annoying limitation of Voice Notes: when you’re finished making a recording, if you tap the “Record” button again, your current recording will be erased without any warning, and a new recording is started. This is counter-intuitive and potentially dangerous, since the Record button is an easy target to hit accidentally as well. In the very least, a warning should be provided to notify a user that he or she is about to lose the current recording.

Other features of EccoNote are somewhat predictable for an app in its class: you can rename memos, but not transfer them off of the iPhone in any way, there is no pause/resume feature nor the ability to append to an existing memo, nor any other kind of organization or categorization. In fact, if you rename a memo, you also lose the date and time stamp, as it is not stored (or at least not displayed) anywhere else in the application.

As with Voice Notes, even for a free price tag we expect a moderately better user interface design out of an app such as this, particularly considering that you can find considerably better options for the price of a cup of drip coffee. iLounge rating: C-.

iRecorder ($1) from Simple Touch Software (iTunes Store Link)

iRecorder is a polished and iPhone-like, if basic, voice recording program. There is nothing particularly special about it, but it works as advertised, and the $1 asking price is worth it compared to the free solutions which are presently available. Start iRecorder and you are shown the typical list of current memos and recording options:

 

The controls are fairly intuitive, and there’s really not much to say about this app other than the fact that it makes very nice use of the standard iPhone UI design and works as expected. It offers no additional features beyond the ability to rename your recordings, and like EccoNote does not provide any other recording information (so if you rename your recording you’ll lose the time stamp). However, if you’re looking for a quick and inexpensive application just to record audio with no other frills, it’s not a bad choice. iLounge rating: B-.

YouNote (Free) from Sophiacom (iTunes Store Link)

YouNote is a slightly different application from the typical voice recorders, in that its purpose goes beyond mere voice recording into general note-taking, offering the ability to enter text notes, free-form drawings, and pictures from the iPhone’s camera, as well as voice recordings. In this sense it is less of a voice recording application than a general note-taking application, but we have included it here since it has a very reasonable price tag and offers recording capabilities as part of its core feature set.

Starting YouNote presents you with a list of your current notes:

 

To begin a new voice recording, tap the center button at the top of the screen and you will be taken to a new recording screen, where you can tap the “Record” button to start a new recording.

 

When finished recording, you can either press the Stop button to end the recording, or simply go directly to the OK button to save your recording and proceed to the note entry screen:

 

Here you can give the note a title, enter in some additional comments and even assign tags and contacts to be linked to your note, and assign a color to it. YouNote will also use the iPhone’s GPS or location-based services to tag your current location on any notes you create, and you can go to that location in the iPhone Maps application by tapping on the map icon in the top-left corner of the screen. Note that the actual image shown in the map is a generic image and does not represent your current location. This is a neat feature, however it suffers from one odd limitation: if the YouNote app cannot obtain your current location for whatever reason, it stores your location anyway, but as zeroes. This results in the Maps landing you somewhere off the coast of Africa in the middle of the ocean, rather than the application simply displaying that there is no location data available.

YouNote also suffers from one other important limitation as a voice recorder: in the same manner as EccoNote and Voice Notes, when you finish recording a note, if you tap the “Record” button again your current voice note is erased without warning and a new recording is started. This is a slightly less onerous issue with YouNote’s purpose and UI design, but it’s still an important consideration that creates a risk of losing recordings if the user does not clearly understand what he or she is about to do. We also found the audio quality of notes recorded in YouNote to be noticeably lower than most of the other voice recording applications.

Ultimately, YouNote is a nice free product that offers voice recording capabilities for those looking for a more complete note-taking solution, but compared to most of the other voice recording applications available, there is nothing particularly special about it in this capacity. iLounge Rating: C.

Jott for iPhone (Free) from Jott Networks (iTunes Store URL)

Jott for iPhone is mentioned here for the sake of completeness as it also provides voice recording capabilities. However, this application forms part of a more complete service provided by Jott Networks which involves transcribing voice memos into a text-based to-do list, so it is difficult to do an effective comparison with other voice recording applications.

Jott is a free application, though you will need to sign up for an account on Jott’s service—also currently free during their beta period. The Jott application starts in “Recording” mode and you can tap anywhere on the screen to begin a recording:

 

Recordings can be up to 15 seconds in length, and when you finish recording, your voice memo is uploaded to the Jott servers to be transcribed and added to your Jott to-do list. This upload and transcription process can take anywhere from 30 seconds up to 10 minutes, and while this is occurring you will be shown a message that transcription is in progress, although you can still listen to the actual voice recording during this time.

When Jott has finished transcribing your voice note, it will appear on your Jott to-do list:

 

Jott is an app with a very specific purpose, which is to leave short notes for yourself while you’re on the go. For this it works quite well, but it’s difficult to compare it with other voice recording solutions, since it’s not really intended for storing your voice recordings, but rather transcribing them into a list. Users interested in a solution for recording personal notes will likely find it a compelling option, however. iLounge Rating: B-.

See our other iPhone Gems features here.

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Comments

1

i can’t thank you enough for posting these articles. without being able to test most iPhone apps ahead of time i’d held off on buying certain ones. but these Gems reviews have been incredibly helpful in finding the right one for me!

Posted by toxic boy on August 4, 2008 at 5:01 PM (CDT)

2

It’s disappointing that you you gave Quick-voice a B- rating. 

What it might lack in polish it makes up for with the sync feature.  Other applications may E-mail you the files but that is no use when you record a multi-hour meeting that is over 10MB in file size.  Most ISP will not allow you to receive or send attachments larger than 10MB.  The web upload is not much better than E-mail.  Someone else is holding your files.  What happens if the dev closes shop?  (could easily happen with small dev shops)  How about privacy concerns, not to mention time to upload the file via 3G.

Additionally I would not call any of the applications “expensive”.  The $5 one pays for the most costly one is still cheaper than $50-$90, what a cheap voice recorder would cost.

Over all what I’m saying is that I think is short sighted to rate these applications on the user interface.  The usability of the offloaded recordings is far more important.

Dark Horse

Posted by Dark Horse on August 4, 2008 at 5:13 PM (CDT)

3

What about recording phone calls—does any of these apps allow you to record your phone conversations and interviews?

Posted by Chris on August 4, 2008 at 5:29 PM (CDT)

4

Do any of these apps—or any others that you know off—record phone calls? I’ve used CallRec for my Treo 650 for years to record podcasts for later rebroadcast. Is there anything for the iPhone that will do this?

Posted by Greg Swann on August 4, 2008 at 5:31 PM (CDT)

5

nice review. I am finding that every free voice recorder, including Jott, does not work with the included headphones/mic. I was wondering if anyone else had this experience. Plus, I would think this would be a near feature where people can hold the mic and speak into it.  Sound records but it is garbled and unidentifiable. Thanks mark

Posted by mark on August 4, 2008 at 6:01 PM (CDT)

6

I really enjoyed you reviews of all the recorders.
and I have QuickVoice and does what I want.

Posted by Ben Hart on August 4, 2008 at 9:36 PM (CDT)

7

To DarkHorse:

You, sir… are missing the point.

It IS about the interface, man!

If it wasn’t… NOBODY WOULD OWN THE IPHONE.

PEOPLE WHO OWN THE IPHONE OWN IT BECAUSE OF THE INHERENT BEAUTY IN BOTH SOFTWARE/OS and HARDWARE/TOUCH SCREEN.

So… the customer base for people writing these apps is a DISCRIMINATING one where BEAUTIFUL FORM is equally as important… perhaps even MORE SO… than function.

Why would ANYBODY spend $5 on that stupid, lame-looking app when if you just wait… SOMEBODY ELSE will have a nice, polished, BEAUTIFUL app that will do the same time… add more features… and THEN WE WILL PLUNK DOWN OUR $5.

We aren’t ABOUT to do it on some half-hearted interface attempt.

Sorry.  YOU missed the point.

Posted by CyberDoberman on August 5, 2008 at 12:30 AM (CDT)

8

You missed one: Evernote.

Records audio *and* posts it to their servers, where you can access it from any web browser or the Evernote desktop app for listening or emailing to someone.

Posted by mark on August 5, 2008 at 1:12 AM (CDT)

9

What about Talking Pictures?

Posted by iStew Phone You on August 5, 2008 at 1:41 AM (CDT)

10

chris and greg: no program will be able to record phone calls unless a major change is made to the way iPhone handles calls. unlikely this is going to happen.

Posted by toxic boy on August 5, 2008 at 9:43 AM (CDT)

11

CyberDoberman,

I concede that interface is important, but with a voice recorder the flexibly of audio file resources seems to trump UI, in my opinion and usage.  I just think that more weight should have been given to these export features than were allotted. 

If one could have both that would be great, but sadly that does not seem to be the case.  It will be great to see these apps mature.

Dark Horse

Posted by Dark Horse on August 5, 2008 at 9:51 AM (CDT)

12

Thanks for these reviews.
re: QuickVoice. After considering your reviews I decided the sync options of this inexpensive app were the best solution for me. However when you state - “The application can be downloaded directly from the developer’s web site, although it took a bit of digging to actually find—an actual direct link on the App Store page would have been far more convenient” ~ did it not occur to you to provide a link to said download page? I can’t find the bloody thing at all! I realise this is not your responsibility, but as you managed to include links to the itunes pages of all these apps, one more link wouldn’t have hurt would it?

Posted by Cameron on August 5, 2008 at 9:54 AM (CDT)

13

Cameron:  Oddly enough, the voice recorder download links are located on the FAQ page:  http://www.nfinityinc.com/faq.html

mark: EverNote was originally dismissed as we were unable to get it working properly on any of our test iPhones and it was slightly outside the strict voice recorder definition.  To be fair, Jott was a bit out-of-scope as well, but at least it worked as advertised, although we debated for a time whether or not to actually give it a rating in comparison to the other apps in this review.

Dark Horse:  In our opinion, UI is important in a voice recorder simply because the utility of a voice recorder is highly depend on your ability to get access to it and start recording quickly before the moment is lost, and to be able to easily access those recordings on the device without needless confusion.  As described above, some of the apps lost points simply because they didn’t start on a recording screen.

QuickVoice would have been a C-rated product without the export feature.  However, even this feature was not as well done as it should have been considering how difficult it was to locate the companion utility (“We have it somewhere on our web site” is not generally very helpful), and the fact that this utility does little more than extract the voice recordings from a backup (that iTunes has to make) and dump them into a folder.  This is also not useful if you ever want to access your recordings from any other computer (ie, while you’re on the road).  The bottom line is that the sync capabilities are a good feature, but definitely not a great one, and there’s definite room for improvement.

As for the UI, it was unfortunately one of the most confusing of all of the apps that we reviewed when it came to anything beyond simply making a recording.  It wasn’t just that the UI wasn’t “iPhone-like” but that they had made very specific decisions that went against the iPhone UI design guidelines.  This is an example of a company that has produced a nice product in the PC space while “throwing something together” for the iPhone.  It was this somewhat lackadaisical design and feel about the app that earned it merely our limited recommendation.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on August 5, 2008 at 10:46 AM (CDT)

14

Just wanted to say thank you for this article on voice recorders.  I was recently going through the app store looking for one that would allow me to email the recordings.  This article was right on time.  I got so tired of reading reviews and app descriptions that I stopped yesterday.  :)  Now I’m glad I did.  You saved me a lot of time.

Posted by Audrey McGirt on August 5, 2008 at 11:16 AM (CDT)

15

Which of the applications offered the longest possible recording? i am doing an interview that may last an hour, will the ones you favored accommodate that?

Posted by Duane on August 5, 2008 at 6:13 PM (CDT)

16

re: Younote

Is the C rating a reflection of the overall application or just the audio recording element? If the latter, will a review of the overall application be happening?

Posted by Tim on August 6, 2008 at 9:08 AM (CDT)

17

Duane:  We did not do comprehensive tests of maximum recording length beyond about 5-10 minutes for each application. With the exception of Jott, which is intended to upload short clips to their web site and therefore has a 15-second recording restriction, all remaining apps appear to be limited only by your iPhone’s available memory, although it’s impossible to know this for certain without taking the time to run every app individually for several hours.

@Tim: The review of YouNote was based stricly on its role as a voice recorder.  The fact that it includes other note-taking options was a nice bonus, but wasn’t really relevant to our rating.  That having been said, some of the issues that we mentioned would apply to the application as a whole however, such as the location-based problems and general lack of polish on the UI.

YouNote will probably be re-examined more comprehensively in a future review on general note-taking applications.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on August 6, 2008 at 2:44 PM (CDT)

18

I am more interested in recording phone calls, sometimes it is needed and in my otherphones IO previously owned it was very easy to do. Any of these applications support such feature?

Posted by Hans H on August 6, 2008 at 5:03 PM (CDT)

19

Has anyone tried to use Dragon Dictate with any of these voice recorders.

Of course it would have to be with the ones that export a file. I was wondering if the microphone in the iphone was good enough for Dragon Dictate.

Posted by iSteve on August 6, 2008 at 5:15 PM (CDT)

20

Any idea which apps can playback (pause/rewind/skip forward)?  Thanks

Posted by Jim on August 6, 2008 at 9:01 PM (CDT)

21

Curious if any of the new voice recorders in the app store have the ” import voicemail” feature?

Posted by papplesauce on August 6, 2008 at 10:35 PM (CDT)

22

Re isteve I am also really interested as to whether any apps can be made to work with voice recognition (macSpeech)
this could be the keyboard replacement!
Bill

Posted by bill on August 7, 2008 at 3:59 AM (CDT)

23

Yes I agree. I would even think that if it worked on one like macSpeech that it would work on the other since they are based on the same code.

When I get a chance to select one of these programs and test it. I will let this group know.

Posted by iSteve on August 8, 2008 at 3:35 AM (CDT)

24

Thanks for pulling these reviews together.  Been looking for a good recorder to capture my 15 month old grandson’s babbling and now I know which app does what.  Of course now I have a bad case of ‘featureitis” where I am aware of all the best features of a product and have to contend with a market that does not offer them all… Sigh.

Posted by Farmer on August 10, 2008 at 9:47 AM (CDT)

25

Is there a voice recorder app for the iphone that allows you to put the recording into a specific date, so you will have a list of events that you can listen to on that particular day? (my old voice recorder does that, so it’s not new technology) Or just change the date of the recording to the day of the future event you just recorded.
Mike

Posted by mkraies on August 15, 2008 at 9:25 AM (CDT)

26

Excellent round up which is both informative and educational.

If you were considering using your iphone to record audio for podcasting, would it be fair to say that Note2Self is the recommended solution?

I wonder why Apple don’t incorporate something that integrates directly with itunes?

Posted by Ian on August 28, 2008 at 2:00 AM (CDT)

27

VoiceNotes now lets you sync to your computer running their little server applet. I set up a dynamic IP address for my internet service and opened the instructed port on my Firewall and seem to be able to sync notes back to my home computer-mothership. Pretty cool.

Now that you point out the flaw in not being able to resume recordings, I see it’s not perfect. But I also didn’t realize it wasn’t universally possible to sync notes before reading this article. I assumed this was a given feature of all voice recorders.

Thanks for the info!

Posted by Enjay on September 2, 2008 at 8:33 AM (CDT)

28

Hey, Great Review! Thank you very MUCH!

I am looking for a CALL RECORDING app, to record calls while speaking. Have you seen something like that?

Thanks in advance!

Posted by Yana on September 7, 2008 at 4:56 AM (CDT)

29

I purchased Speakeasy, and I love it.  I downloaded a couple of others that I removed.  Thank you so much for your reviews!  Helped me a great deal!

Posted by Terry on September 13, 2008 at 4:14 PM (CDT)

30

Do any of these record phone calls ? ... if not is there something out there that does ?

Thanks ... Great review !

Posted by Pierre on October 2, 2008 at 9:56 PM (CDT)

31

Please correct the review of SpeakEasy. It does sync with iTunes via a downloadable application.

In addition, it creates a folder in iTunes Playlists, that has sub-categories which match the categories you assign to the recording.

You can create your own categories. My gardener uses this to track special items that he needs to bill his clients for - easier than writing the info down. He then syncs and checks the clients he has recordings for at billing time.

Very cool feature, IMO
...Yea - sync can be slow if iTunes BU is large. On the plus side, the phone does not need to be connected when downloading to iTunes, as the BU is used for retrieving data. Obviously, one would have needed to connect & sync with iTunes before the retrieval…

And - you can download any recording as a ringtone!!!!

Posted by mia on October 19, 2008 at 3:12 PM (CDT)

32

Actually it would not be a “correction” per se but rather an “update.”

The review of SpeakEasy (and the other apps reviewed here) is accurate as of the date this article was published.  To be fair, many of these applications have been updated since this article was written, which is one of the problems with most software reviews that you will find.

While it is certainly possible that we will be publishing another review of voice recorder applications in the future, with over 300 applications reviewed on our site it is not feasible to keep constant track of updates and changes to every application that we’ve previously reviewed and update individual articles on an ongoing basis.

In fact, this is the reason that in many of our more recent iPhone Gems articles we have begun including version numbers of the applications reviewed, particularly since Apple no longer publishes update dates on the App Store, but only the dates of initial release.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on October 20, 2008 at 4:11 PM (CDT)

33

Any clue where to download the Quickvoice Sync Utility? The aforementioned link is no longer working… Hopefully someone can help.

Posted by Sam on December 22, 2008 at 10:13 AM (CST)

34

Yes, I’m interested in finding the Quickvoice Sync Utility too. I need version 1.2.4 or greater. Weird that it’s so hard to find!

If Quickvoice is being difficult does the sync utilitiy for Speakeasy work well?

Also, does anyone know of any recorder that can import Voicemails on the iphone?

thanks!

Posted by tony on December 30, 2008 at 10:52 PM (CST)

35

Is it this application support phone conversations recording?If does, what is the length of each phone conversations recording?

Posted by Randy Young on January 9, 2009 at 2:43 PM (CST)

36

Is there in recording program that has a input gain feature? I record in club environment and it is so loud that the recordings always becomes very distorted. I don’t see a adjustable input gain on any of these programs?

Posted by Mattias on January 18, 2009 at 9:57 AM (CST)

37

Thanks for the great review.  I use QuickVoice and SpeakEasy.  They both have their faults, one is if the phone rings, the recorder stops recording.  I use them for recording meetings and would like both of them to sync in iTunes natively as well as the ability to slience the phone and keep recording.

Thanks again.

Posted by Calvin on January 27, 2009 at 4:06 AM (CST)

38

hi. i am just looking for a good voice recording app that can EASILY send recordings to friends via e-mail or computer or anything simple. any ideas????

Posted by singerneedinghelp on January 27, 2009 at 11:10 PM (CST)

39

Do you know if any iPhone recording apps that will allow you to play iTunes in the background while recording audio?

Posted by blu on February 2, 2009 at 12:17 PM (CST)

40

I have been searching or a Voice Recorder APP that allows you to not only export notes to a computer but also import back into the APP. I have a libray of notes from my older phone and want to have for reference and reminders.

thanx

Posted by JG on July 8, 2009 at 5:06 PM (CDT)

41

Hi
I compose music and was thinking about buying an i phone for various reasons.

One of the reasons was to have a handy voice recorder.

Can I attach a professional mic to this phone?

Are there programs that will allow me to play many songs and with the I phone 3g S 32 mb, how much can I possibly store in the voice recorder?

Also, I noticed how you recommend Speak Easy which seems compatible with me, with exception, I’d like to export what I record via email or to my computer, etc. Will emailing what I record be impossible with this program?


If anyone has any recommendations, I’d be much obliged. Thanks again, this link was really helpful in all. :) Naomi .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Posted by naomi on July 15, 2009 at 10:08 AM (CDT)

42

I am so sorry so many people asked about the ability to record phone conversations AFTER you explained why it won’t work. Do they read the information or type away…?

Because of your great site I am keeping my treo [that does record phone converations the second I pick up, and names and saves them on my card the second I hang up. Never misses, never fails, drop the card into my laptop and transfer in moments]
I really wanted an I-phone. You saved me $100’s and great dissapointment.

Posted by ducksface on December 16, 2009 at 9:33 PM (CST)

43

Hi,

i am thinking of buying a voice recorder for my son to record lectures in uni. do you think ineed to buy a real voice recorder, some thing like olympus, sony or the voice recorder on i phone will do the same quality and purpose?. please advice the best one.

Posted by SWAMY VEERANKI on April 10, 2010 at 9:14 PM (CDT)

44

Hi, thanks so much for this page and these reviews. saved me LOTS of time and trial & error. I’d have been curious to know the length of recording allowed by these programs, but i will just have to find that out on my own—otherwise great info.

Posted by Jessica on January 20, 2012 at 8:29 PM (CST)

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