App: Dragon Dictation and Dragon Go! Platform: iPhone, Android Website: http://www.nuance.com Cost: Free So, let's say you decided earlier in 2011 that you were going to upgrade your iPhone 3GS to an iPhone 4. Let's also say that you were impatient and had no desire to wait until, supposedly, a newer, cooler iPhone was to be released. Then, just hypothetically speaking, the 4S comes out and makes you want to heave your crappy 4G into the nearest river...or bayou. Sound familiar?
Well, I admit it. It happened to me and one of the first things I thought when I heard about Siri, the oh-so-hip voice-recognition software and personal digital helper on the 4S, let's just say it amplified my annoyance. Fortunately, I controlled my rage and simply located a suitable alternative, Dragon.
Now, the Dragon voice recognition products may not answer your life questions or handle the complexities of your queries with jaunty quips and finesse, but it does a damn good job of recognizing what you say and figuring out how to apply that to what you need. Not Siri, but close.
The two apps at the center of the Nuance family of dictation products are Dragon Dictation and Dragon Go! The former is a straight voice-recognition message software that allows the user to tap a button, speak a message and then send that message wherever you like -- e-mail, SMS, Facebook, Twitter. It's not as hands-free as Siri -- you still have to tap a few buttons to get the message going in the right direction -- but it's damn accurate and MUCH faster than typing the message.
The second product, Dragon Go!, is one that tries to edge closer into what Siri does on the 4S. In this instance, Dragon Go! has a wide range of Web sites and search filters built into the app so that when you speak a question, it utilizes them for a response. For example, I said, "Directions to the nearest Bank of America," and it quickly made some calculations before opening the Google Map app and pointing me in the right direction.
When I went back inside the app, there was a list of possible options I could click on if I didn't want the location in question. And because there are so many Web site filters, it's pretty easy to find most anything. "Cupcake recipe" opened the Epicurious tab and showed possible recipes, for example.
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Going even further, a sliding bar of tabbed icons -- in the case of the cupcake, Google, Wikipedia, Yelp, etc. -- provides a bunch of different options to help refine my search. There are built-in tools for helping you send searches to social networking sites, e-mail addresses or SMS as well. It's impressive.
The downside to both products is the lack of tight integration with the phone, which is no surprise since Apple has a similar product built into newer phones. It may go farther on the Android, but we didn't have one to test. Either way, the quality of the recognition and the ease of use makes this a must-have for anyone who doesn't have a Siri-enabled iPhone or another phone without voice recognition built in, and, best of all, the apps are free.