Admittedly, the vast majority of my interactions with my smartphone are accomplished with the familiar tapping, pinching, zooming, and virtual keyboarding. But, if I am driving, or walking, or otherwise occupied, it is nice to be able to work with Windows Phone 7 using voice commands as well.
I can say “call” followed any name in my contacts to place a call. I can say “text” followed by the name of a contact to start an SMS text message thread. I can say “open” followed by the name of an app on my device to open the app. I can say “find” followed by just about anything to search the Web for news or information.
Even while on a call, I can use voice commands. I can say things like “call” and another name to place a second call, or say the word “press” followed by a number for interacting with automated attendant systems.
Voice Control on the Go
I know I’m not supposed to text while driving. There are public awareness campaigns virtually everywhere, and many states have laws prohibiting the activity. Oddly, while I am driving seems to be just about the only time people text me, though. One of my most common text messages is “Just a sec. I’m driving.”
I can actually type in a text message (don’t judge me–you’ve done it too), but that is dangerous. The tiny virtual keyboard requires that I look at what I am typing to make sure I tap the right letters, and that means taking my eyes off the road every two seconds. There is a reason that texting while driving is frowned upon.
With “Mango”, though, I only have to tap one button–the little microphone icon at the bottom of the Messaging display. Then, I can just speak my text message. Of course, I still have to look down to read any incoming text messages.
Mango can also read incoming messages aloud, but I have to configure it in the Speech Settings. The available options are off, always on, Bluetooth and headsets, Bluetooth only, or wired headsets only. It would be nice if “Mango” would let me choose to have the incoming text message read aloud on the fly rather than having to change the settings for all incoming messages. Whether I am using a Bluetooth headset or not, I don’t necessarily want all incoming messages read aloud.
While I am driving is also the time when I most need to find specific stores or restaurants, and get directions to them. I can tap the Search button at the bottom of the phone to open Bing search, then tap the microphone icon to speak my search terms. There is also a microphone icon to speak search terms within the Maps app of “Mango”.
Of course, just as I have to watch out for those embarrassing autocorrect typos when texting, I also have to pay attention to how the voice-to-text function translates your words. For the most part, I found “Mango” on my Samsung Focus to be fairly accurate, but there are still times when it doesn’t get it quite right.
For example, I spoke a text message to someone saying, “How are you liking your nursing job over at Beaumont?”. It came out translated as “How you liking your word nutjob over moment?”. Something tells me my friend won’t understand what the hell I’m talking about.
To get the best possible results using the voice commands and speech-to-text features, speak very clearly, and eliminate as much background noise as possible–like the radio, or other people talking.
A quick side note to close out the day. In the same vein as being able to speak commands and search terms to the “Mango” smartphone, the Bing search also has the ability to listen to music and tell you the title and artist of the song. It works the same as the Soundhound app that I use on my iPhone 4. Just tap the musical note icon at the bottom of the Bing search page and wait while Bing listens to the song in question.