Ditch the Old Dictaphone: These Are the Best Voice Memo Apps

Best Voice Memo App

Dictaphones were once a big deal, especially in business. Using a tiny pocket-sized device, you could get amazing thoughts down in an instant, and later revisit them to see if there were, in fact, actually amazing. These days, handheld dictaphones have all but gone extinct. Of course, they still exist, but when was the last time you saw one used? Your tiny pocket-sized device is now a smartphone – and with the best voice memo apps, you can enjoy seriously powerful voice recording capabilities without a bulky dictaphone weighing you down.

This round-up starts with the basics, but then delves into adding context and bookmarks in recordings, how to transcribe a voice memo, and even how to convert voice memos to MP3 and edit audio snippets into a podcast.

Ditch the Dictaphone with Pre-Installed Voice Memo Apps

voice memo appOn iPhone, Apple pre-installs Voice Memos (depicted right). Using the app is the easiest way to replace an old school dictaphone and extremely straightforward: tap the record button, and start talking. An audio waveform provides visual feedback as you speak. Another tap ends the recording, which is automatically saved.

If you wish, it can be renamed, and shared; Apple by default saves everything you record to iCloud, too, and so your voice memos can be accessed on other Apple devices – if they’re running the most recent versions of iOS or macOS. There’s also basic editing functionality, for lopping off the start and end of clips – handy if it takes you time to collect your thoughts.

Some Android devices also have built-in voice memo apps, but if yours doesn’t, Easy Voice Recorder (free) is a good bet. It lacks the polish and fluidity of Apple’s voice memo app, but mirrors its ease of use. You can quickly make recordings, and then listen to them in-app; handily, you can also define in which format recordings are made – switch from WAV to M4a so they take up less space.

Add Context with Third Party Voice Memo Apps

voice memo appsThe apps mentioned so far are effectively smart digital takes on the classic dictaphone, but third party voice memo apps can take things further, helping you more quickly get at a recording’s interesting bits. Android app Voice Memos (free; depicted right) is almost brutally basic in terms of its interface. But under the record button, there’s another marked +MEMO. This adds bookmarks to the voice memo that you can instantly jump to when it’s played back

On iPhone, Noted (free) takes and expands this concept. During recording, you tap a # button to add a bookmark inline, within a page of written notes, sketches, and imported images. During subsequent playback, tapping any one of these ‘TimeTags’ instantly jumps the recording to the relevant moment.

With timestamps automatically added to everything you type, Noted is a useful app for more considered voice memos, where you can make basic written notes as you talk, and use recordings to flesh things out later. (The app can also be great for taking notes in business meetings, since you get a mix of your own notes and full audio, meaningfully linked.)

How to Transcribe a Voice Memo

transcribe voice memoFor people who mostly want to talk at their phones, but then instantly have the words ready in text form to paste elsewhere, built-in dictation systems within Android and iOS may well be enough. In any text app, tap the microphone button on the keyboard, and start talking. This is, however, best for short notes, and accuracy can be an issue. Moreover, you can easily end up with one long string of text, if you don’t speak punctuation.

Chances are you’re not overly keen on interrupting your thoughts by remembering to add commas, periods, and semi-colons, though; in which case, check out the depicted Otter for Android and iOS (from free). This app transcribes notes as you go, but in an intelligent manner, adding in punctuation as it sees fit.

It has many other great features, too, such as text highlights, text editing, inline images, summary keywords, and collaboration options. For free, you get a generous 600 minutes per month of transcription. $8.33 per month ramps that up to a whopping 6,000.

How to Convert Voice Memos to MP3 and Into Podcasts

Should you get really into voice memos, you might decide they could and should be more than mere reminders of interesting ideas. If you have an iPhone or iPad, Ferrite (free) is an excellent app for transforming your snippets of text into something more coherent and considered. Ferrite makes it easy to convert voice memos to MP3 format for greater versatility, but that’s not all it does.

convert voice memos to MP3

On the surface, it looks like a by-the-numbers memos app; but underneath, there’s a full-fledged multi-track editor with extensive editing tools such as bookmarking, silence removal, automatic ducking, auto-leveling, and more. For those who want to publish their voice memos into a podcast or other professional audio presentation, Ferrite offers a single in-app purchase (IAP) to unlock all kinds of pro-level editing tools to add effects and tracks. When you’re done editing, you can even add cover art, notes, and lyrics and send your finished project directly to any of the popular online cloud storage services (email, iCloud, Dropbox, Audioshare, etc.), making sharing quick and painless.

Overkill? Almost certainly. But if you fancy taking your voice memos and fashioning them into a podcast, it’s amazing to think you can do that all on a phone; and even if that’s beyond your ambitions, Ferrite is excellent for stitching together recorded audio snippets into a working pitch you can subsequently transcribe. (And for adding all manner of entertaining sound effects and jingles, too, obviously.)

The Dictaphone is Dead, Long Live Voice Memo Apps!

All these voice memo apps showcase how far voice recording has come from the days of the handheld dictaphone. No longer must you sit there with a tiny cassette player, trying to find something specific you once said. Now, you can flag good bits in an instant, transcribe as you go, and combine recordings into anything you fancy. It’s an excellent example of how your phone can be an ally in saving you time and effort, while simultaneously affording you more control, power, and productivity – rather than, as is so often claimed, the reverse of all those things.

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