The great things about our phones are portability, large storage capacity, and their ability to put information at our fingertips when we need it, just to name a few. The terrible thing about our smartphones has traditionally been input.
Let’s face it, typing with two thumbs on a piece of glass is no picnic. For every example of a 15-year old who is able to compose a text message with one hand on the phone in his pocket while at the same time looking you in the eye and carrying on a conversation, there are dozens of stories of adults frustrated with trying to compose a three-line email.
I have been a participant in this journey since around 2001 when I started using a Palm synced to my computer. I have housed my calendar, to-do list, contacts, and reference information digitally. Our journey took us through a special alphabet (called “Graffiti”) with a stylus on the glass screen. That concept was replaced by small QWERTY keyboards. Steve Jobs felt that a finger on glass was the best method for input. As software which recognizes handwriting on our mobile devices is progressing, the stylus is even making a return.
Yet through it all, none of those methods for input have approached the ease of plain ‘ole pencil and paper. That dynamic, however, is changing as voice input is becoming surprisingly accurate and built directly into the operating system.
What capabilities does your device already have?
In our busy lives, we tend to continue with what is familiar. We acknowledge our devices probably have many more capabilities than we are using. At the same time, pressing deadlines and the learning curve involved puts really learning our devices on the back burner.
Getting good with voice recognition is a skill well worth the little bit of time required to master it. Take a look at your device’s keyboard and see if you have one of those keys that depicts a microphone.
Open a new email message. Press that little microphone key and begin speaking. Your voice will be transformed into text, and will be placed at whatever point the cursor is blinking. Have another thought you want to insert into the middle of the paragraph? Touch the screen to move the cursor to the desired point. Tap the microphone, and begin speaking.
I regularly use voice input to add items to the to-do list on my phone. Tap the icon to open the to-do app, tap the icon to add a new task, tap the microphone, and now I am speaking. When I am done, I tap “OK,” and the item is on my list with a start date of today and a due date of tomorrow automatically assigned. If detailed notes related to that task exist, before tapping the “OK,” I touch a finger to the note section, and instead of typing the details, I touch the microphone icon again and speak the notes.
Anywhere you could type words on the keyboard, you could touch the microphone key and speak. You will see this key on the iPhone, Android devices, and BlackBerry 10. For those running BlackBerry OS7 or before, you can download apps which will give you some of this capability.
Is the capability talked about here already present on your mobile phone? How much could your productivity be improved through using voice input? I believe you will find the little bit of practice required to get used to it and get good at it will be well worth the long-term benefits.