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Beyond Siri: Dictation tricks for the iPhone and iPad

Kirk McElhearn | Sept. 24, 2013
Tired of trying to type on your iPhone or iPad's tiny keyboard? Try these tricks for dictating.


You're probably familiar with using Siri to make calls on your iPhone, as well as to  open apps on your iOS device, get information, and set up appointments. But you may be less familiar with iOS's other dictation feature, the one that lets you talk to your iOS device while it converts your words into text.

I've long used dictation on my iPhone, because I have fat thumbs and find the keyboard too slow to use. As long as I'm in a not-too-noisy environment, it works quite well. I have to make corrections at times, but I can dictate long emails, short text messages, and even use dictation to enter search terms in Safari or to enter text in text fields on webpages. Better still, in my early tests, dictation in iOS 7 seems much more accurate. Here's how you can use dictation on an iOS device and save a lot of time typing.

Turn on dictation
First, you need to make sure dictation is turned on. To do this, go to Settings > General > Siri, and then turn Siri on. Even if you don't want to use Siri's personal assistant features, you need to turn it on for speech recognition to work. You can choose which language you're using here, which is especially useful if you speak with an accent. I live in the United Kingdom, but since I'm American, I set the language in Siri's preferences to English (United States). However, I set my Region settings to reflect UK dates and times. (Tap General and then International).

Dictate anywhere...almost
You can dictate anywhere in iOS where you can enter text. For example, you can compose emails, dictate texts, and even dictate search terms in Safari's search field. Any time you see the small microphone icon next to the spacebar on the iOS keyboard, dictation is available. Just tap anyplace you can type text, and then tap the microphone icon to start dictating. When you're finished, tap Done  and then wait for your words to be processed. It can take a few seconds for text to appear.

Stay in the zone: If you're using iOS 7, when you begin talking, you'll see a feedback pane with a wavering line showing the volume of your speech. The louder you speaker, the greater the amplitude of the wave. (If you're using iOS 6, or you're using an app that hasn't been updated for iOS 7, you'll see a microphone; as you speak, the microphone will fill with purple light.)

Talk into the microphone: You don't need to speak very loudly; but you should keep your iPhone close to your mouth, especially if you're outdoors. There are two microphones at the bottom of the iPhone, and a single microphone on iPads, located at the top of the device. It's not easy to speak directly into the iPad mic while looking at the screen. Speak into the tiny hole at the top of your tablet.


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