Review: T. Ashley Software EccoNote
Company: T. Ashley Software
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.
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.