Siri started out as just an ordinary third-party app until it was swooped up by Apple, and there are still a number of similar rivals that you can use to add voice-recognition features to older iPhones, as well as the iPod Touch and iPad.
Vlingo can't be called up from anywhere in iOS - you have to run the app first
The closest counterpart to Siri is probably Vlingo, a free app that used to charge for certain premium features such as dictating SMS messages, but which has decided to go completely free since the launch of Siri.
As it’s a standalone app, you first have to launch Vlingo before you can speak to it. And, like Siri, it requires an active 3G or Wi-Fi internet connection in order to work properly.
Vlingo lets you dictate email (left) and text messages (right)
You simply tap a button on its home screen when you’re ready to start speaking, and then tap again when you’re finished to tell the app to start processing your words.
I found that Vlingo worked just as well as Siri for routine tasks such as dictating short emails, initiating phone calls, and performing web searches. In fact, it actually seems a bit better than Siri at interpreting pauses in your voice and converting them into punctuation marks such as commas and full stops.
Vlingo also works with the Maps app (left) and both Facebook and Twitter (right)
It’s not as well integrated with other iOS apps as Siri is. For instance, you can’t dictate into Notes or Pages with Vlingo as you can with Siri - though there are dedicated dictation apps that you can try too, such as Dragon Dictation.
However, Vlingo does have a couple of tricks up its sleeve that Apple will no doubt want to add to Siri in due course. It can send spoken updates to your Facebook or Twitter accounts, and it also works with the iOS Maps app here in the UK – something that Siri can’t do at all at the moment.
The app comes with examples to get you started
While Vlingo may not be as polished as Siri, it’s still worth checking out if you want hands-free voice control of your iPhone when you’re in the car or jogging around the park. ®
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