The Dragon Roller Coaster

December 11, 2009  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

I am a big fan of dictation. Why writing long documents I generally type. I am pretty fast with a keyboard and I can just cover more ground typing than speaking. But sometimes I need to write something that comes across as more casual…conversational. At those times, I find dictation to be a useful tool.

I have used the iPhone’s built-in Voice Memos application quite a bit. I’ll record some thoughts or dictate part of a document and transcribe it by hand later.

Of course, hand transcription is a fairly slow process. So I was quite delighted to hear about Dragon Dictation for the iPhone. My wife uses Mac Speech Dictate and really likes it (or should I say used? we lost the headset during an office reorganization). I figured that applying the same technology to the iPhone would be a sure winner.

But having used it, I am a little underwhelmed. Perhaps the microphone just isn’t up to the task. Or maybe it’s that – unlike Mac Speech Dictate – there doesn’t seem to be any learning going on. But, whatever the reason, the errors are plentiful. And strange enough that if you look at an email transcript a few hours later, you might not be able to figure it out.

And then there’s the time limit. You can only record for about 20-30 seconds in one go. That’s enough time for a few sentences, but not something as long as a letter.

Right now I place Dragon Dictation in the “novelty” category. I’d gladly pay for a good transcription app for the iPhone. But what I don’t want to do is pay per word. Hopefully someone will come out with a reliable dictation iPhone app that I can use for a one-time fee. If you know of such an app, I’d love to hear your recommendations.

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