Why Google Recorder is a best-in-class app. Too bad it only works on Pixel phones

Here's what you need to know about Google's game-changing recording and transcription app. We hope it'll come to more phones one day.

Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
3 min read

As you record, the audio wave is shown along with the type of audio that's detected. 

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After using Google's new Recorder app, you'll never want to use another voice memo app again. It's true. Instead of simply recording the audio of a lecture or interview like all the other apps do, Recorder transcribes whatever it hears in real-time -- on the device -- without sending any information to Google. In fact, it doesn't require a data connection at all.

You can view your transcription as it's being created, or go back and search or share the file with a classmate or colleague. Or if you don't have a Pixel phone, but know someone who does, let them know about the app. Not only will it help them, but it could help you as well if they share the transcription with you to collaborate on work. 

It's a shame that Google is limiting the Recorder app to its Pixel phones for now, but hopefully, that changes in the near future. But the good news is that Google has made Recorder available to other Pixel phones beyond the Pixel 4 . That gives me hope that the Recorder app could come to other phones in the future.

Watch this: Pixel 4 and 4 XL have awesome cameras but high prices

You'll need a Pixel phone -- for now

Right now, the Recorder app is available for the Google Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL , Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3A, Pixel 3A XL, Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. In the past, Google has used its Pixel line to test features before a wider release, and we can only hope that means Recorder will eventually come to all Android devices. 

Have one of those Pixel phones? Download and install the Recorder app from the Play Store

A recording and a transcript


You can view the audio wave or transcript as it records. 

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After Recorder is installed on your Pixel phone, you use it just like any other voice notes or memo app: Open the app, tap the record button, and let it record. 

As it's recording, you'll see sound waves scroll across the screen. On the bottom you'll see the pause button, along with an Audio option (already selected) and a Transcript option. If you tap Transcript, you can watch the recording populate in real-time, complete with punctuation. 

Watching the app transcribe whatever it's hearing can come in handy if you're listening to someone speak with an accent, or if you just want to check the spelling of a word as you jot down notes. It's mesmerizing to watch.

Once you're done recording, tap on the pause button. You can then give the recording a title and location, and either resume or save it. There's also the option to delete it. 


Search and share your audio recording with just a few taps. 

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Reviewing and sharing your recordings

The best tip I can give you for reviewing your recordings is to use the search tool. Located at the top of the main screen is a search box that, when used, will search all of the recordings stored on your device and then highlight each recording and the specific section where that word or phrase is used. 

It's extremely convenient when you're trying to find a specific topic of a lecture or a quote from an interview. It's also helpful if (like me) you don't get into the habit of naming your recordings. Don't be like me, though. Get in the habit of naming your recordings before you save them. It's a simple task that will save you time and headaches down the road. 

When you share a recording, you're given the option to pass along just the audio, just the text file or both. Once you share the recording, the recipient won't be able to use the search features, of course, or access any files on your computer, but it's a handy way to share content. 

Using one of Google's Pixel phones has its own set of benefits, outside of the Recorder app. There's a Live Caption feature that's impressively cool. Google's Call Screen feature will help you manage incoming calls from solicitors or robocalls. If you're new to the Pixel lineup thanks to the Pixel 4, be sure to read through some of the best hidden features we could find.


The real-time transcript is the coolest feature for any voice memo app I've ever used. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Originally published earlier today.