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.
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. [Note: The price was lowered to $2 following our review.]
Company and Price
Title: Voice Memos
Compatible: iPhone, iPhone 3G