Yesterday, evidence of more voice recognition features in the most recent iOS 5 beta came to light. 9 to 5 Mac posted this image showing a small microphone button in a hidden iOS 5 keyboard, indicating that it might be possible to dictate text vocally to your iPhone instead of entering text manually.
If this feature does get fully fleshed out and released with the gold master of iOS 5 or a later version of iOS, it will definitely do away with my need for Vlingo, a voice-to-text app I currently use for hands-free text messaging. And I bet Vlingo is not going to be happy about that.
But I hope that iOS’s future voice recognition capabilities are more expansive than that. I had a Nokia 6620 (actually, I still have it and it still works), which was released in 2004, mind you, that had voice recognition. In fact, I could set it to listen constantly for a magic word so I wouldn’t need to press any buttons to activate it. The manual suggested that you choose a magic word that would not be used in your typical conversations otherwise the voice recognition function might trigger when it wasn’t needed. My magic word was Hoobastank, the name of a rock band popular at the time of the 6620′s release.
That feature worked, though not perfectly all the time. I ended up switching off the magic word detection because it killed battery life, as warned in the manual.
I rarely use the voice recognition feature in my iPhone now since it usually feels quicker to just unlock it and get to what I want manually (though I’m sure it may not actually be quicker in some situations if I were to time it). If I could set a magic word as with my old Nokia 6620, I’d probably use that feature more often. This is definitely one of those situations where I wish the iPhone would “catch up” to phones that offered features available many, many years ago. And I could re-use Hoobastank (a word I find satisfying to say for some reason) as my magic word again, 7 years later.