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Transform Your iPhone/iPad into a Dictation Machine or Mobile Recording Studio

Jason R. Rich takes a look at some of the third-party Apple iPhone and iPad apps that can transform your mobile device into a feature-packed audio recording or dictation machine. Once recordings are made, they can often be edited and then shared with others, or synced with your primary computer.
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Some people love the virtual keyboard that’s built into Apple’s iPhone or iPad, and have no trouble typing their important notes, reminders, to-do lists, and memos. Others, however, prefer to speak their thoughts or have the need to record important meetings, phone conferences, or seminars. Thanks to a handful of inexpensive third-party apps, it’s easy to transform your iOS mobile device into a feature-packed but easy-to-use digital recorder/dictation machine.

Once recordings are made on an iPhone or iPad, they can often be edited, shared with others via email, synced with a primary computer, uploaded to an online service, or listened to. The ability to easily sync recordings with a cloud-based file sharing service, such as iCloud or Dropbox, or with a primary computer using the iTunes Sync process, is extremely useful.

Transferring your recordings to a primary computer allows you to more easily edit, listen to, and archive them. Plus, it allows you to free up internal storage space within your iOS mobile device, because long audio recordings become large digital files, which ultimately take up significant storage space on your mobile device if they’re stored there indefinitely.

Adding an External Microphone Will Enhance Recording Quality

Depending on your needs, to record dictation or meetings, for example, the microphone built into the iPhone or iPad will be more than adequate. However, to achieve higher-quality recordings for music or vocals, for example, consider connecting an optional, external microphone to your mobile device.

IK Multimedia’s iRig Mic ($59.95) is a handheld condenser microphone for iOS mobile devices. The microphone is ideal for audio or vocal recordings, and comes with its own recording apps designed for singers, public speakers, and songwriters. Like many of the optional microphones for the iPhone and iPad, this one connects into the device’s headphones jack.

Hammacher Schlemmer offers the Wireless iPhone Microphone ($69.95), which also works with the iPad. It’s a portable, lavalier microphone that connects to an iOS mobile device via Bluetooth. It has built-in noise-cancelling technology that automatically removes unwanted background noises as recordings are being made.

To achieve higher-quality music or audio recordings, Hammacher Schlemmer also offers the CD Quality iPhone Microphone ($69.95), which is a duel, high-sensitivity cardioid electric condenser microphone that records CD-quality audio. This microphone connects to the bottom of the iPhone or iPad via the device’s 30-pin doc connector. Thus, an additional adapter is needed to use it with a newer iOS mobile device that’s equipped with a Lighting port.

Mic W offers a line of eight different iPhone/iPad-compatible microphones, each of which serves a specific purpose. For example, the company offers its i456 Cardioid microphone, i266 High Sensitivity Microphone, the i825 Omni Lavalier microphone, and the iShotgun microphone. All are extremely tiny, but dramatically enhance the iPhone or iPad’s audio recording capabilities.

Apps That Make Dictation or Audio Recording Easy

Many different apps can be used for dictation and/or audio recording by your iPhone or iPad. While all of the apps designed for this purpose allow you to record and play back audio, some offer additional features that cater to specific tasks, such as recording vocals or music, as opposed to dictation or meetings.

To browse through the recording apps available, launch the App Store app, and within the Search field, enter the keyword “recording” or “dictation.” Let’s take a closer look at several recording apps that are designed for dictation as well as audio recording.

Evernote (Free)

Evernote is a powerful note-taking and information organizing app for the iPhone and iPad. Plus, it’s available for PCs and Macs, and has an online-based app. Using Evernote, you can create text-based notes, incorporate digital photos, or record audio via your iPhone or iPad, and then add that content directly into the app. All of your notes can be automatically synced with other versions of Evernote running on your primary computer or other mobile devices. Thus, your recordings can be made, labeled, and shared with ease.

Evernote is extremely versatile and allows you to record information in many different ways. Once you open a new note, you can start typing text using the iPhone or iPad’s virtual keyboard. However, you can just as easily tap on the camera icon to snap a photo or record a video clip that can be embedded within a note being created. Clips from websites can be added to notes as well. Plus, by tapping on the microphone icon that is displayed near the upper-right corner of the note window, Evernote becomes a basic digital recorder that utilizes the microphone that’s built into the iPhone or iPad.

As you record new audio, Evernote keeps track of where and exactly when each recording is made. Each recording can be kept as a separate note within Evernote, or groups of recordings can be stored together. Each note can then be given a unique title, plus have keywords associated with them for easy reference and retrieval later.

As an information-gathering, organizing and archiving tool, Evernote offers superior functionality that’s easy to use. However, as a dictation tool, functionality is limited to recording and playing back audio content. Editing audio is not currently possible from an iOS mobile device using this app.

Microphone + Recording (99 Cents)

This app is great for recording dictation or meetings, for example. It offers a straightforward user interface with large, well-labeled, on-screen buttons for recording and playing back audio. There’s also a menu button for managing recordings, an on-screen equalizer that can be viewed while recording, and a Mute button that can be used in conjunction with an external microphone.

Recordings can be custom-named, organized, and stored within the iPhone or iPad’s internal storage, shared via email, uploaded to Facebook, or synced via iTunes Sync, for example. The free version of this app displays ads on the screen whenever it’s in use. However, if you upgrade to the 99-cent edition of the app, it becomes ad-free.

QuickVoice (Free)

Recording any type of audio, whether it’s dictation, a meeting, or a presentation could not be easier when using QuickVoice. On the screen, you’ll see two main command buttons, labeled Play and Record. To create a recording, simply tap on the Record button. When you’re done, tap on the Stop button, or to pause the recording process, tap the Pause button.

Once you’re done making a recording, it will be listed on the main QuickVoice screen with a general “MyRecording” filename, along with the time, date, and duration of the recording. To change the filename, tap on the Title button once the recording is selected, and then enter a new filename.

With a file selected (by tapping its listing), you can then play it by tapping the Play button, or tap on the Share icon to email the recording as an audio file or iPhone ringtone. Tap on the Trash icon to delete the recording.

For the iPhone or iPad, the QuickVoice app is free. However, if you want to be able to sync audio files with your PC or Mac, you’ll need to purchase the Mac or Windows version of QuickVoice ($15. This app does not currently support any online cloud-based file-sharing services, nor does it offer editing capabilities on the iPhone or iPad.

Recorder Pro: Professional Voice Recording On-the-Go (99 Cents)

The strength of this app is its functionality for organizing and sharing recordings. On your iOS mobile device, individual recordings can be grouped together and organized into separate (custom-named) folders, which can then be password-protected for security. The app is also fully compatible with iCloud, so recordings can be stored online and easily retrieved from other computers or devices that are linked to the same iCloud account.

To create a new recording, tap on the Record menu button that’s displayed near the bottom of the app’s main screen. The recording screen displays a graphic of a microphone, along with a Record and Pause button. Simply press Record to start recording. Then, tap the Stop button to end the recording process, or tap Pause/Resume to stop and then restart the recording process.

When a recording is completed, tap on the Save button. You can then play back recordings, share them via email, or open them within Evernote, for example, by tapping on the Share icon. From the Files screen, tap on a recording to change its filename, email, zip (condense a recording’s file size), delete, move, or transfer the file to iCloud. Each of these tasks can be done with a single tap. The one key feature this app lacks is the ability to edit recordings on the iPhone or iPad.

StudioMini Recording Studio ($8.99)

Instead of just giving you the ability to record, play back, and share recordings from your iOS mobile device, this iPad app transforms the tablet into a highly-functional, multi-track digital recording studio that’s capable of creating CD-quality recordings, and then exporting them as WAV files.

This app is a bit more complicated to use than many of the basic digital recording apps, but it’s also much more powerful, especially when it comes to recording and sharing/syncing recordings. StudioMini Recording Studio allows you to edit recordings directly on the tablet’s screen, plus it allows you to incorporate a handful of audio effects to the recordings, while you’re recording or during the editing process.

To get the most out of using this app for a wide range of recording purposes, be sure to download the free 33-page eBook user’s manual (which can be read from within the app itself or through the iBooks app). The app works nicely with the iPad’s built-in microphone, but can also be used with external microphones connected through the tablet’s headphones jack.

Voice Recorder HD for Audio Recording, Playback Trimming, and More ($1.99)

In terms of versatility, when it comes to recording, playing back, sharing, and editing recordings right from an iPhone or iPad, Voice Recorder HD is one of the best. The only limit to how long a recording can be is based on the battery life and internal storage capacity of your mobile device. The app also allows you to pre-select an audio recording quality, based on your needs. Thus, you can utilize less internal storage space by choosing a lower-quality recording option for basic voice dictation or meetings, but use a higher-quality recording mode for recording music or concerts, for example.

Recordings can be custom-named and shared via email; synced via iCloud, Sound Cloud, or Dropbox; or transferred to a PC or Mac. One nice feature built into Voice Recorder HD is that if your iPhone receives an incoming call while you’re recording, the recording process will automatically pause. You can then resume recording after the phone conversation is over.

Voice Recorder HD supports the microphone that’s built into the iPhone or iPad, but also supports the use of external microphones. While the app does not offer full editing capability, it does allow you to “trim” recordings prior to sharing, syncing, or transferring them.

Overall, the app is easy to use, and utilizes a friendly and intuitive interface that includes large and well-labeled command buttons to Record, Pause, Stop, Play, and Save recordings. The file management and sharing functions are equally user-friendly.

Final Thoughts

Beyond recording audio for later playback, your iPhone or iPad has a built-in Dictation mode that allows you to speak into apps and have your spoken words translated into text and inserted into the app you’re currently using. This feature offers an alternative to manually typing information into an iOS mobile device using the virtual keyword.

If your needs involve recording phone conversations conducted on your iPhone, there are specific apps for this as well. For example, within the App Store, you’ll find CalllRec.me ($9.99). This app records calls with an on-screen tap, and can later transcribe the recordings into text. The Record Phone Calls Pro ($9.99) and Call Recording Pro ($2.99) apps offers similar functionality for recording both sides of a phone conversation.

Before you begin browsing for audio recording apps, figure out your needs and then choose an app that offers functionality which supports those needs, whether it’s being able to transfer recordings to a cloud-based online service or edit recordings directly on your mobile device.

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