Saturday, November 1, 2008

Jott versus SpinVox: A voice-to-text battle royal


By Dianah McDonald

I have the memory span of a hamster. I'm not the only one who thinks so. One of my iPhone-addicted friends espoused the benefits of the Jott application saying it was just the thing for me. I could just tell the phone what I needed to remember and it would email me the note.

I balked.

I had tried leaving myself voicemails and having those transcribed to email, but the accuracy had been abysmal. That was some time ago, though, and technology marches on.

We spent a few minutes playing with the Jott app and I was impressed. Remembering my previous voicemail tests, I wondered if SpinVox had a similar option. They did. Rather than simply testing each to see which worked best for me I decided to pit the two voice-to-text options against each other.

Ladies and Gentlemen: the combatants

Jott (at promises to "turn your words into action". You can use Jott to create reminders, add items to a calendar, update your blog, or ask Amazon to email you results of a search - a feature I think sounds absolutely awful, but somebody somewhere must have thought it was a good idea.

With a premium account you can speak updates to sites such as Google Calendar, Yahoo! Groups, and even I Want Sandy (a personal assistant service). In theory you could combine Jott with something like I Want Sandy and create a virtual personal assistant to keep track of all your appointments, to-do lists, and notes.

And in this corner we have SpinVox (at, the company I automatically associate with voicemail to email technology. Depending on your phone carrier, SpinVox can convert voicemails, create notes, update blogs, send text messages.

SpinVox even has a feature called "Blast" where you speak a message that is then sent to a preset group, directly to their phones or emails. I could simply call the SpinVox number and say, "Don't come to the cafe! Creepy Ron is here!" and it would go to Brandice's phone, Renee's email, and both Sam's phone and email - so all could be appropriately warned with just one phone call.

I'm sure somebody somewhere thinks that's an awful idea, but I love it. SpinVox doesn't currently integrate with as many social networks or Web apps as Jott, so no abusive phone calls to your virtual assistant.

The battle of the voice-to-text teams

While both products have cool features and add-ons, all I really need is a simple tool to take my short messages like "Write article for that brilliant editor, David G at ZATZ by Monday", convert it into text, and put it someplace I won't lose it - something to replace my illegibly scribbled, usually misplaced sticky notes. Points will be awarded based on ease of use, accuracy, and speed.