While the typing experience on touch-screen smartphones has steadily improved over the years, the more recent voice-recognition features, popularized by Apple’s (AAPL) Siri on the iPhone 4S, may have finally reached the point where they are at least as accurate a method for text input.
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In his weekly All Things Digital segment on FOX Business, Wall Street Journal Personal Technology Columnist Walt Mossberg said he found in many cases the voice dictation features of Google (GOOG) Android phones as well as Apple’s iPhone 4S and New iPad to be less prone to errors than typing on each smartphone’s glass screen.
"In my experience it got it right many times and in many other cases where there were a couple of errors there were actually fewer errors than trying to type fast on these virtual keyboards," he said.
Mossberg explained that the devices have a microphone button users can find right on their virtual keyboards that allows them to speak into the phones and have their words translated into text. This works by sending your voice to Apple’s or Google’s server where it’s transcribed and sent back to your phone as written words, he said.
What happens when it gets it wrong? If you need to edit a mistake you have to do that by typing, not voice, he said. Both systems will flag the words that it suspects might not be correct and give you alternatives to choose from or you can simply erase the mistakes and retype them.
“The correction process is fairly quick,” he said.
Some users might be concerned about their words being sent to Apple and Google, and there is a valid privacy issue, he said. “Apple and Google have different policies, but I would summarize them as saying they both retain and study what you've put up there for the purpose of trying to improve their algorithms for transcription. They both also claim to respect your privacy."
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If you’re not comfortable with that, Mossberg says, you should probably not use the feature.
But privacy concerns aside, Mossberg definitely suggests smartphone users give the feature a shot. "People should try it, especially if they’re not all that fast or comfortable with these virtual keyboards. And if they find they're correcting a lot more or just as much then it's not worth it."