A Welcome Improvement to the Mobile Phone Interface: Voice Control

Image by sbisson via Flickr

It is a telephone, after all. Even with its many applications, features, hardware extensions and bells and whistles, ultimately the mobile phone is just that. A phone. And phones are meant to be spoken to.

So sometimes, when I try to use my shiny iPhone to do tasks while, errr, moving, I find myself a tad frustrated. It is just not safe to be pressing those damnable “keys” while trying to operate heavy equipment.

Some states, in fact, have clamped down on the multi-tasking drivers who believe they can somehow keep an eye on the road and an eye and both hands on the phone. But there are other, more law-enforcement-friendly options out there.

Approximately 2 years ago, Microsoft purchased Tellme, a ubiquitous voice activated directory assistance and voice search system provider. Today, Microsoft / TellMe has an announcement for consumers: a “one-button” approach to call initiation, voice-dictated text messages and voice-activated searching with Microsoft Live Search on your mobile device. Taken from the release:

The new service puts many of the most popular phone functions behind a single button.  Windows phone users just press the side button of their phone to:

  • Send a text by saying “text” to open a text box, then speak the text message and send to call anyone in their contact list
  • Initiate a call simply by saying “call” and then the name of anyone in their contact list
  • Search the Web with Microsoft Live Search by speaking your request, such as “weather in San Francisco, California”, “Pizza in Kansas City” or “mother’s day gift ideas”

It has been integrated into Windows Mobile 6.5, available later in 2009.

iPhone users have not been without options in this regard. I use a free app, VLingo, which allows me to voice dial, voice search using Yahoo search or update my Twitter or Facebook status using my voice. It only fails me on challenging names or long, more complicated searches. VLingo measurably improves my vehicular use of the iPhone.

Hat tip to Search Engine Land

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