In the race for best iPhone recording application, there are over a dozen contestants but few finalists. After surveying a handful, we’re placing Griffin’s iTalk
and Zarboo’s SpeakEasy
in the winner’s circle. While neither application is flawless, both get kudos for interface design, ease of use and file tagging.
Ever since I lost my digital recorder, I've resorted to using my iPhone for interviews and the occasional concert bootleg. For some time, I've used the free, ad-supported version of iTalk, which is identical to iTalk Premium ($5), but comes with a small banner ad at the bottom of the iPhone screen. Using an iPhone for recording interviews isn't ideal, since the mic is mono-directional, but it's sufficient. ITalk boasts a clutter-free interface that allows for starting/stopping and selecting recording quality with one finger. Using the accelerometer, the app can even monitor the recording levels and file size with the iPhone's mic pointed toward the sound source, flipping the interface 180 degrees so the user can read it.
SpeakEasy ($2) definitely takes the trophy for having a slick interface and the kind of details that come from listening to user feedback. A series of four rotating icons provide the basic functions of recording and playback. The second icon gives the option of either starting the new recording over, playing it back, trashing it or saving it. Once saved, you can name the recording, add notes, categorize it and even tag it with a photo (by selecting from your camera library or taking new photo). Clever details include an auto-pause when answering incoming phone calls and auto-save when hitting the home button. (ITalk also does the latter but won't update the icon with a reminder that you have a new recording.) You also have the option of saving a recording that's 40 seconds or less as a ringtone.
Because Apple has yet to open the iTunes back door to third party app developers, both of these applications suffer from rather inelegant file transfer systems. Getting these recordings into iTunes is no simple matter of dock and sync. While Speakeasy may win in the user interface category, iTalk comes out on top with its wireless file transfer. Using iTalk Sync, users must first enable the iPhone's Wi-Fi, then open the iTalk application. Once those steps are complete, the two apps can talk to one another and you can select the desired recording to be imported into iTunes.
For SpeakEasy, at first glance the transfer process looks simple, though it turns out to be somewhat clumsy. In order for SpeakEasy Connect to recognize new recordings, you must first back-up the iPhone. After my first import, the second round of recordings wouldn't show up until I disconnected the iPhone, quit both SpeakEasy Connect and iTunes, reconnected the iPhone and synced it. Lastly, there's the question of file transfer speed. I was able to transfer a 2.8mb AIFF iTalk recording using WiFi in under ten seconds. The exact same recording length in SpeakEasy, a 265kb AAC file, took two minutes with SpeakEasy Connect!
So, who comes out a hair ahead in this photo finish? Both apps are great. If you're looking for something purely functional, iTalk is the way to go. If you want some bells and whistles, and you don't mind waiting for the inexplicable delays in file transfer, then SpeakEasy is the app for you.