Vlingo one-ups Google with a better voice-powered iPhone app

Search the Web on your iPhone with nothing more than your voice using Vlingo, a new app that also throws in voice-activated calling, maps search, and Twitter updates too.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
2 min read

Voice-transcription service Vlingo has launched a really fantastic new iPhone application (download) that lets users talk into their phones to search the Web, dial contacts, and update their status on Twitter and Facebook. Much like Google's iPhone app which was released early last month, users are able to do all this without ever having to use their keyboard.

The big difference between Google's efforts and Vlingo's is the addition of Yahoo search, meaning users can pick the search engine of their choice. You're also able to auto-dial contacts by speaking their name. This, along with speech-to-text search of Google Maps, and the social network status updates gives users the utility of TwitterFone and the SayWho iPhone application in one piece of software.

I've been using the app over the past week and found it to be far more useful than Google's offering. It may be missing the really great (thoughiPhone SDK rule breaking) option to raise the handset to your head to begin a search, but it makes up for it with quite a bit more utility right from the get-go. The voice dialing is also exceptionally cool. Early on in the iPhone's lifetime there were a handful of jailbroken applications that let you do this, and they were genuinely useful before the inclusion of contact search. The added benefit of using Vlingo's system is that it cooks up a special voice recognition profile for your phone book since you initially have to send it in for processing.

The Twitter and Facebook update tool is also really well done, offering you a preview of the text before you send it, as well as a text counter to show you how many characters you have left. You're able to make any edits in case the transcription flubbed your words too. After having used TwitterFon and having its mistakes set in stone, this is a godsend.

Going forward the one thing that would really push this app over the top is a built-in browser, giving you option to open up search results within the app itself. Currently it jettisons you out to Safari, which you must then exit and re-open the Vlingo app if you intend on doing another voice-powered search.

Vlingo is free and should be available in the iTunes app store in the next few hours. Below are some screenshots of its interface. We'll have a video of it in action shortly.

Vlingo lets you update your Twitter and Facebook status, look up and call phone contacts, and search the Web--all with just your voice. (click to enlarge) CNET Networks

Update: I've embedded the video below, and the app is now live.