No Siri? No Problem!

VLingo - CRE App ReviewDon’t think because you don’t have an iPhone 4s that you can’t have a virtual assistant of your own. Vlingo, a voice to text application, is available for all major cell phone operating systems (OSs). I tried it out

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on a Blackberry. Downloading and installing was easy but of all the OSs, the Blackberry is a little tricky to configure, though not difficult by any means. I had to assign the side (convenience) key to activate Vlingo but for other OSs, a widget is installed that you touch to activate. In fact, each OS version – and even different versions within an OS - has slightly different features and operating instructions. So check out the differences on the Vlingo website.

After I skimmed the “how to” I jumped in and started talking to the phone. With the Blackberry, you press the button, wait for the “listening” screen then say something like “Find restaurants in Somecity.” It’s best to use “key” words that indicate the action you’re interested in performing, e.g., Call…, Text…, Find… but Vlingo learns to interpret your unique speaking patterns so the more you use it, the better it gets.

The “listening” screen turns to a “thinking” screen as Vlingo tries to figure out your request. You’ll get a “confirming” screen with the text of what you said to accept – or try again.

Like Siri, there are a few glitches now and then, but for the most part, it worked as well as Siri – in some cases even better. Web searches (find…) with VLingo draw from more sources than Siri so you might find the results more comprehensive. Dictation right off the bat was poorer (but not awful) for Vlingo, but I expect that to get better with more use. And for finding or calling contacts, Vlingo often worked when the normal Blackberry Voice Command feature didn’t.

Vlingo also has an “announce” feature which reads incoming texts or emails. Turn it on when you’re driving so you’re not always checking your phone when the text or email chimes. The Android version has an “in car” feature where you can fully interact with your phone to send texts, get directions or make calls.

While the implementation for Blackberry was a little clunky (pressing and holding the button…) overall this worked great. All versions give you a 30 day trial and some have Pro versions at additional cost. The developer seems to offer free upgrades (the Pro version for Blackberry is free right now) so check the website before shelling out cash.