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12/2/2008
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Vlingo Mobile Search App Available For iPhone

Its voice-recognition technology puts Vlingo in competition with Google Mobile App for iPhone users who want a voice-powered mobile search app.

Vlingo, a voice-powered search application that's been available for Research In Motion's BlackBerry phone since June, has made its way to Apple's iPhone.

On Wednesday, Vlingo plans to announce that its Vlingo application is available for download in Apple's iTunes App Store.

"The iPhone offers an innovative multitouch user interface that is fundamentally transforming the wireless industry," said Dave Grannan, CEO of Vlingo, in a statement. "We're proud to debut our breakthrough voice-recognition technology on iPhone, taking simplicity one step further by reducing much of the reliance on typing, making mobile data and applications easier to find and use."

Vlingo has four tabs -- Maps, Phone, Search, and Social -- that direct voice input commands toward specific tasks.

A fifth tab, Home, allows the user to specify the intended task with a prefix phrase -- "find" for Maps, "call" for Call, "search," "google," or "yahoo" for Search, and "status update," "facebook," or "twitter" for Social -- and to continue with vocalized query. Thus, one might say, "Google InformationWeek" to search for this site using Google.

Like Google Mobile App, Vlingo does a very good job recognizing well-articulated American English. It's easier to use in some ways than Google Mobile App because it provides a clear way to direct voice input toward a specific function. And its search capabilities are more flexible because it can search either Google or Yahoo.

But Vlingo's interaction model isn't nearly as elegant. Google Mobile App can be used by opening the application with a tap, bringing the phone to one's ear to speak, then moving the phone away to view the search results. Google's engineers managed this trick by using an undocumented iPhone API that registers a change in the iPhone's proximity sensor.

Using Vlingo means opening the application, bringing it to one's ear to speak, lowering the phone, pressing a button to send the voice command, and then awaiting the results. It's a minor additional step, but a noticeable one.

Nonetheless, Vlingo's ability to convert speech into a Facebook status update or a Twitter makes it a worthy addition to one's iPhone arsenal.

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