Typing on the iPhone/iPod Touch's keyboard can be arduous. This is never more evident than when trying to bang out messages in several instant-messaging conversations at once. Shape Services, the makers of the popular IM+ instant-messaging app ($9.99 App Store link), have realized this, and are soon rolling out a new version of the app that includes speech-to-text, albeit at a price.
Taking advantage of Apple's recently released in-app payment system, 99 cents a month gets you the feature, meaning that the annual cost of continuing to use it is about $12 a year. Not bad if you're a heavy user. But how well does it work?
In short, it does a decent job, but it still experiences some of the typical pitfalls found in other speech-to-text tools. If you've used Google's search app on the iPhone you know all too well that it can handle some words better than others, and that it works slightly faster when you're on Wi-Fi. The same can be said of IM+.
The app managed to get a few sentences without flaws, but I regularly found myself going into make a quick edit to one or two words each time. That wouldn't be so bad if it didn't take so long to do all the processing. Over 3G, small quips like a four- or five-word reply took around 15 seconds to process and get sent back, whereas full messages took up to 24 seconds. These times were cut a few seconds shorter when on a solid Wi-Fi connection, but still on the long side.
The updated version of the app is in Apple's review queue, meaning it could be out later this week, month, or be rejected outright (although not likely since it's using standard APIs). Besides speech-to-text, the update also adds animated emoticons for whatever service you're using. It's a small touch, but sure to make IM enthusiasts happy. We take a quick look at that and the speech-to-text feature in the video below. Worth noting is that processing times have been sped up for the sake of time, although we make note of that when it occurs: