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Dragon iPhone app tweaked, search tool released

Nuance updates its still-new voice-to-text app to support the iPod Touch and releases Dragon Search to let iPhone users find info via voice.

Nuance, which makes Dragon voice-to-text software, is forging ahead in the iPhone app market.

Dragon Dictation for the iPhone and iPod Touch
Dragon Dictation for the iPhone and iPod Touch Nuance

Over the weekend, the company updated its Dragon voice dictation app for the Apple iPhone and unveiled a new Dragon Search app to let you find info via voice.

The 1.2 version of the free Dragon Dictation app--which was initially released last month--now supports the iPod Touch 2G and 3G. Touch users can plug in an external microphone and dictate up to 20 seconds of speech that is converted to text.

Besides adding support for the iPod Touch, Nuance resolved an issue that had created some controversy. In its initial release, Dragon Dictation automatically uploaded your contact list to Nuance, which the company said helped the app better convert those names into text. But that feature generated privacy concerns among users wary of letting the company grab the names of relatives, friends, and colleagues. The new version lets you decide upfront whether you want your contact list uploaded to a Nuance server.

Dragon Dictation is quick and simple. After you've delivered your 20-second message, the words pop up on the app's text screen. From there you can load an onscreen keyboard to correct errors or make other changes. Tapping on a word offers you options to delete it or replace it from a short list of alternate words suggested by Dragon. When done, you can e-mail or IM your text or save it to the clipboard where you can paste it into the iPhone's Notes app or another text editor.

I dictated several passages and found the text conversion to be surprisingly accurate. Like the Dragon desktop app, you can dictate not just text but also punctuation marks, such as periods, commas, and paragraph returns. Nuance also says the app will adapt to your voice over time, further increasing its accuracy.

Dragon Search from Nuance
Dragon Search from Nuance Nuance

I wish Nuance had bumped up the amount of time you can talk--20 seconds is fine for a brief thought or quick note but obviously too short for anything substantial. The company's FAQ indicates it may change the time limit in a future release.

Nuance has also jumped into the mobile search market. The company's new and free Dragon Search app for the iPhone and iPod Touch lets you run a Web search by speaking a word or phrase. Just record your search query, and a list of links appears on the screen.

You can set your default search engine among Google, Bing, and Yahoo. You can also see your results among different types of search engines, including Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, and iTunes. From the iTunes search results, you can jump to iTunes itself on your device to download associated music or podcasts. Dragon Search keeps a history of your last several searches, so you don't need to recreate them.

Like the Dragon Dictation app, Dragon Search is fast and accurate. The time limit is not an issue, and I like the ability to see the same results in Google, Bing, Twitter, and other search engines. Both apps are good first starts from Nuance in the iPhone app arena.