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.
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.