Compatible: iPhone, iPhone 3G
On August 4, 2008, we reviewed a collection of 13 different voice recorder applications for the iPhone in a roundup entitled iPhone Gems: Every Voice Recorder, Reviewed. This review contains a review of one application from that roundup; additional comparative details can be found in the original full story.
The iPhone comes with a built-in microphone, but 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. Note that unlike many of the App Store programs, these particular applications are designed specifically for the iPhone, not the iPod touch. Additionally, 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.
VoiceNotes 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.