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.
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.
Company and Price
Title: Audio Recorder
Compatible: iPhone, iPhone 3G