It’s time to do less typing and more talking with the new real time voice-to-text feature in iOS 8.
Relatively little has been said about the new real-time dictation function in iOS, and in previous versions it may not have been worthy of the highlight. But with the recent iOS 8 update, Apple has restored bragging rights when it comes voice dictation and mobile devices.
Past iOS dictation implementation wouldn’t show the text you dictated until you tapped the Done button, which meant activating the feature several times for long form dictation. Well, not anymore. For me, the new voice-to-text feature works more efficiently than Dragon Dictate on the Mac
Nothing To Setup
The dictation feature is ready to use when you install iOS 8. You don’t need to add a new keyboard, and it works in any iOS application. However, you can only activate voice dictation using the default Apple iOS keyboard – it doesn’t show up in third-party keyboards.
The feature also requires an Internet connection to work. What you dictate is recorded and sent to Apple’s server, and in turn it converts what you say into text on your device. The feature will also access the names and nicknames in your device’s address book for more accurate spelling of names.
When the default keyboard pops up, simply tap the microphone button to the left of the space bar, and then start your dictation. Here’s a demo of how it works.
Feel free to pause and collect your thoughts between each spoken phrase or sentence. If you pause more than 10 seconds, the feature will automatically deactivate. I also found that the dictation will work while there is low level ambient music in background.
Notice in the demo video that I was able to voice punctuation marks. The feature also allows you to use other commands, such as the following:
Say “all caps” right before you want to dictate a title
Say “caps off” to resume regular dictation and typing
Say “new paragraph” to add a paragraph break
Say “tab key” to advance the cursor to the next tab stop or text window
Say “open parenthesis” followed by dictated text, and then say, “close parenthesis“
Say “dollar sign” for the $ symbol
This Apple support page provides a full list of commands of the OS X version of dictation, and these same commands can be used with the iOS feature.
After you click the Done button, you can even select the dictated text, and have it read back to you. You need to enable this feature in Settings > General > Speech > Speak Selection. When enabled, this text-to- voice feature will also work in any iOS app.
What It Can’t Do
While in many ways, the dictation feature is more accurate and faster than the (previous) OS X version, it does not allow for voice editing dictated sentences, as can be done with Dragon Dictate for the Mac. If you need to, for example, delete the last word you dictated, it must be done manually. Whereas with Dragon Dictate for the Mac, it includes voice editing commands, such as “delete word” “insert after the word…” and “capitalize [the spoken word].”
I also could also not get iOS dictation to spell numbers; instead it automatically converts spoken numbers to the numeral version.
An Awesome Update
With real-time voice-to-text dictation added to iOS 8, it’s clear that Apple intends to keep improving its dictation technology, and we should see similar improvements in OS X Yosemite, due out soon.
There are other voice dictation apps in the iTunes store, such as Voice Dictation for Notes ($1.99), which includes automatic grammar correction, and support for 25 languages and dialects with speech recognition; and Nuance’s own mobile Dragon Dictation (Free) app, which unfortunately doesn’t include real time dictation. Apple’s new dictation feature, however, may render these apps obsolete, because they can’t be used system-wide.
While you may not always be in position to dictate text on your iOS device, you will easily get hooked on how fast voice dictation can type for you.
What do you think of the improved dictation in iOS 8?