An Underutilized app with many benefits: Voice Recorder app (Voice Memos in iOS)
In this article, we’re going to learn how we can juice up your productivity using a Voice Recorder app that comes with your phone.
Well, I’m sure this is not news, since “productivity” apps are amongst the most downloaded apps on smartphones. “Best productivity mobile apps” have been amongst the hottest searches on Google and sure enough, there is no shortage of such apps on both App Store and Google Play.
Often, people download so many of such productivity apps that they lose track of them and just clutter their phones without using any of them.
Today, I am here to talk about the most basic and yet one of the most practical productivity apps that are already installed on your iPhone: the Voice Memo (or voice recorder app). I believe there is a reason that Apple includes this app in all its iOS versions since the 2007 debut iPhone: it is a fundamental app that everyone should be taking advantage of!
What is a Voice Recorder app?
Well, see it for yourself: look for voice memos on your iPhone. You will be greeted by a pretty boring-looking screen with a red circular record button at the bottom of the page. Once the button is tapped, the phone starts recording the surrounding sound. Very simple and basic app! You may ask: “what’s so special about this seemingly simple app and what does it have to do with productivity?”.
For one, the quality of the iPhone’s microphones is phenomenal! During the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, people could not visit their doctors for regular checkups. On the positive side, people became really creative and patients started recording their heartbeat sound by putting their iPhone against their chest and sent to their doctor. Surprisingly, it was discovered that the sound quality of such recordings was superb and it was much better than using a stereoscope at the doctors’ office! The benefit did not end there; data scientists started feeding the heartbeat sound files in their A.I. models and soon an interesting patterns and correlations between some medical conditions and heartbeat sound started emerging that would help tremendously in more accurate diagnosis of conditions solely from the heartbeat sounds recorded by iPhones!
Let’s explore how you can take advantage of your iPhone in ways that can enhance your productivity tremendously!
Voice Recorder app as a “productivity” app
Record your meetings
This is for those of you who work in a corporation. Now and then you might have to attend important meetings that require some note-taking. Unless you are a speechwriter, you might have noticed how distracting can note-taking become. With permission from the participants, you can use the voice memo app on your iPhone to record the discussion and stay focused on participating in the discussion instead of worrying about jotting down notes. Again, very important: make sure to obtain permission before recording (for obvious reasons). Would it be awesome if you could convert the “speech to text”? SmartScribe (iOS, WebApp) is an app that allows you to convert “voice to text” and it is multilingual!
Record your appointments
There are some appointments that you might want to record. For example, when you visit your doctor it may be a good idea to record your conversation. If you are a caretaker of an elderly and need to remember doctors’ instructions, recording such conversation might become a lifesaver! Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for things to get lost in translation. The written instruction and the discussion at the office visit become misaligned for reasons beyond the scope of this post. Of course, are sure to ask for the doctor’s permission before recording. During the pandemic lockdown, patients were not able to take a company with them and many who were elderly or had communication issues utilized a voice recorder app.
Again, if you would like to turn medical “talk to text”, use SmartScribe! It can transcribe medical “speech to text” (talk to text) acting as a medical transcriptionist! Currently, this feature is not a multilingual medical voice to text and it only supports English medical voice to text.
Here’s an interesting projection by U.S. Bureau of Labor: “Employment of medical transcriptionists is projected to decline 2 percent from 2019 to 2029. Technological advances have changed the way medical transcription is done. Speech recognition and electronic health records (EHR) software advances often allow physicians to create some of this documentation in the moment, reducing the need for transcriptionists.”
Notes to self (don’t forget your great ideas)
Are you one of those individuals who constantly come up with new ideas out of nowhere? I know a few individuals who carry an idea booklet with them. Nowadays, those folks might have switched to jotting down their notes on their phone using apps such as Notes. But seriously, ditch the Notes app and use voice memos iPhone instead!
Here’s why: First of all, you won’t have to type or write. You just pull out your phone, say your idea aloud, and rest assured your idea won’t be lost into an abyss of memory lapse! Secondly, when you say aloud an idea, it will evolve even further. There is power in saying things aloud. Let your phone be your listener! You might say what if you would like to quickly read your ideas rather than having to listen to all the elaborating audio. Well, that’s a valid point, and SmartScribe was created just to address that! It converts your self-talk to text, and it is a multilingual “voice to text” (talk to text) app. The Speech to Text feature does literally act as a transcriptionist for your monologue!
Sampling sounds and field recording
Hey, musicians and producers out there! Did you know many musicians use voice memos for field recording and hum their musical ideas? By default, the voice memo records the audio in m4a format, which is a compressed format with compromised quality. However, you can change the setting of your voice memo so that it will record the audio in a high-quality lossless format! To do so, go to your phone’s settings, then select Voice Memos, tap on Audio Quality, select lossless. Unfortunately, SmartScribe won’t detect tunes and notes and cannot act as a musical transcriptionist but if you put a request, they might just build that for their next version! The current version only supports multilingual speech to text. The “talk to text” feature can come in handy for jotting your lyrical ideas.
Voice Recorder app shortcomings (lack of “talk to text” feature)
Having recorded a meeting, you feel good that you have captured everything effortlessly but …
Extracting information from the recorded audio is not as easy as a written note. For example, you can quickly skim through your written notes and quickly find the information you are looking for. However, you cannot do that with an audio file. You will have to listen to the audio file chronologically to locate the information you are looking for. You might want to find the segment of the audio faster by fast-forwarding through the audio but there is a chance that you will miss the segment. It already sounds cumbersome! You would wish you could convert all the recorded audio into text via some sort of “talk to text”/transcriptionist feature.
Inspired by the previous section, you have utilized the Voice Memos app for all the use-cases above; recorded your corporate meetings, recorded your self note ideas, hummed your original tune, captured your conversation with your doctor, … only to find that now you have a laundry list of recorded audio files, all listed in the Voice Memo app. Good luck finding a specific recording you made last month for the meeting you had with your lawyer. Yep! Keep swiping up. I hope that you used descriptive names for your files!
A few tips
Luckily, the latest version of the Voice Memos has a folder structure built-in. Meaning now you can create folders and move your files in the folder that you have created.
Tap on the back button to access the folders page. Now you can create folders and record your files in the appropriate folder! Keep this practice and you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time later.
Name your files appropriately. By default “Voice Memos” use the location as the file name. To my experience default naming behavior of the app promotes skipping this important step. It might be because renaming a file is an annoying task: first, you have to select the file name (by first tapping on the file name to bring up the selection tool, then tap on ‘select all’), then tap on the delete button before you can name your file!
In the next post, I will introduce a few alternatives to “Voice Memos”. One of them is an amazing app called SmartScribe (Only available on iOS). Not only SmartScribe addresses all the shortcomings of the “Voice Memos” mentioned above, but also it has a few other amazing features such as speech to text, multilingual transcriptionist, medical voice to text transcriptionist (yes, it is capable of understanding advanced medical terms!). Think of SmartScribe as Voice Memos with a similar uncluttered look and feel, that is capable of transcribing conversations in 31 different languages. It is backed by one of the most powerful “voice to text” algorithms in the industry. One particularly neat feature is its capability of identifying different speakers in the audio based on their voice characteristics. This feature makes it perfect for recording meetings with numerous participants. It is like having a multilingual personal scribe in your pocket.
“Voice Memos” is an amazing productivity app that is often undermined. You can use it for recording your meetings, jotting your great ideas, songwriting, field recording, etc. The shortcoming is the lack of a “speech to text” feature.
If you opt in to use “Voice Memos”, make sure to create folders and name your recordings appropriately so that you will save yourself from a lot of hassle locating your files later on.
There are a few shortcomings with the “Voice Memos” that an app called “SmartScribe” addresses and remedies. The main shortcoming is that it is difficult to extract the needed information as easily as recording a conversation due to a lack of visual cues in audio files.
Multilingual “Speech to text” (i.e. voice to text) transcription is the feature that can remedy the shortcoming of the Voice Memos. There are many transcriptionist apps such as Rev, Temi, Otter, SmartScribe, Trint, etc. Each has its own unique attributes making them really good tools for their kind.
In the next post, we will introduce and compare the best apps in the market that can be used for the same purpose as the “Voice Memos” and with added benefits.