Add Voice Input To Your Android Phone

Yesterday I wrote about how I like the multiple input methods that Google is building into Android. One of the methods is voice input, but unfortunately that only works on phones with Android 2.1. Phones with an earlier version of Android can use voice input in Google Maps, but none of the other applications. If you want to add voice input to your phone that is running Android 1.5 or 1.6, you can purchase Better Keyboard for $2.99

Better Keyboard is a keyboard alternative for Android that adds voice input for anywhere you use a keyboard. After you install the program, tap Settings, Locale & Text, and check the box next to Better Keyboard. You also need to select Better Keyboard as the alternate input method by opening the current keyboard, which you can do by tapping the text field in Messaging, and pressing and holding on the $123 button.

When the Better Keyboard displays you will see the microphone button on the keyboard. After you press the microphone button you will see a prompt to speak, which looks the same as the speech prompt in Google Maps. Like Google’s speech recognition, Better Keyboards voice recognition requires an Internet connection. In fact, I suspect that Better Keyboard is basically exposing and using Google’s own speech recognition rather than providing their own speech recognition.

In my testing, I found the speech recognition to work about as well as it does in Google Maps. A setting in Better Keyboard enables it to support continuous speech recognition. After you say a few words they are translated, and after you accept the result, you see another prompt to speak. Better Keyboard lists speech translation suggestions and allows you to select the right one, and you can also turn that feature off in settings.

I have a couple of problems with how the voice translation works. One is that there is no auto capitalization, like with the on-screen keyboard, so if you want capitalization in your text, you have to edit it with the keyboard. The program is also supposed to translate speech “period”, “comma” and “question mark” with punctuation, but I have not been able to have it translate period or comma.

In this post I have focused on the voice input portion of Better Keyboard, but it also provides additional features for the on-screen keyboard. One of of the features is support for a compact Qwerty keyboard, which has bigger buttons and doubles letters on those buttons.The compact Qwerty keyboard displays when you swipe left to right across the keyboard. You can also elect to have a T9 keyboard as the default keyboard, which works well for one hand input. If you don’t like the default appearance of Better Keyboard you can download skins from the Android Market.