Is Voice Narration Available on the iPad?

Written by   (author of Obvious Conclusions)

Voice Narration with iPadAfter my parents saw me using voice narration on Adroid, they asked me if voice narration was available on the iPad because they hate to type and actually do it terribly.  So, I put my technical cap on and went to do research about voice narration software on the iPad.

What is Voice Narration?

First, let’s take a look at what I mean by voice narration.  There are many variants when we discuss voice narration, or talk to text, features of the latest Android and Apple devices.

So, what am I talking about in this post?  What did my parents see me doing when they said, “I want to be able to do that on my iPad.”

After getting one of the latest reasonably priced Android phones–the Samsung Exhibit from T-Moblie (which I love by the way), my parents saw me talking into the phone.  They asked me, “Richard, why are you talking into the phone?”  “I am responding to an email,” I said. 

With that, their jaws dropped. 

When I say voice narration, I am speaking about talking into the phone and the phone then translates this speech into text.  This is an amazing capability which everyone should use.

I learned about it inadvertantly.  As I was trying to type on the little phone keypad, I saw a microphone icon right on the little pop-up keypad.  I pressed it, talked into it, and the words I spoke appeared on the screen in the form of text.  Unbelievable!  I have rarely touched the keypad since I realized this capability with my Samsung Exhibit.

Voice Narration vs Talk-toText vs Text-to-Talk

As you research the term voice narration, you may also run into some variant terms, like talk-to-text or text-to-talk.  Voice narration would be the same as talk-to-text.  I am talking and the device is converting it into text.  Conversely, text-to-talk is when your device reads aloud the the words on the screen.  This is useful if you don’t want to read the small words on the device or if you have a problem with your eyes. 

Additionally, you will also see these technologies involved in many translation programs.  You can speak in one language and it will output text in another, or vice-versa.  It’s an amazing world in which we now live, no? 

Voice Narration on the iPad

So, as my parents the lousy (and lazy?) typists saw me talking into the phone, they wanted that functionality.  But they do not use Android, they use an iPad.  Does the iPad have voice narration?

I thought the answer would be an obvious “yes”.  I am not a religious Apple devotee like many out there but I do love most of their products.  So, I thought, if Google Android on my Samsung Exhibit can do it, Apple can certainly do it.

It turns out the answer is not that obvious.  Built-in (native) Voice Narration on the iPad, and iPhone for that matter, is only available on the latest models, the Apple iPad 3 and the iPhone 4GS.

With these products, you will see a microphone next to the keypad and you just touch it to begin recording and your voice will be translated to text.

This did not work for my parents though because they have an iPad 2.  They said to me, “We just bought this thing last Christmas.  Are you saying it’s already out of date?”  Welcome to the wonderful world of technology.

But, I thought there must be some sort of voice narration for the iPad 2.  And, since they birthed me, I continued my research.

Voice Narration on the iPad 2:  Possible But Not Perfect

When a vendor makes a product that lacks a certain feature, they never write about it, they ignore it.  You never hear Apple say “the iPad 2 does not feature voice narration.”  This makes research a little more difficult. 

But, there is a solution for voice narration or talk-to-text, on the iPad 2.  It’s possible but it’s not perfect.

The solution is an app called Dragon Dictation.  The program itself is very good, but it is not integrated with the keypad.  When you want to do talk to text with Dragon Dictation, you have to do it within the program and copy and paste it into your application. 

After I played around with the program a little bit, I found it very solid.  If you speak clearly into the microphone, it will general pick up what you are saying with very few errors.  It is then a rather simple process to copy and paste within the program of your choice. 

See Voice Narration on the iPad 2 In Action

Here is a video of how to do voice narration with Dragon Dictation.  This is done on an iPhone but it works the same on the iPad 2.

After I figured out how to do this, my next challenge was teaching the old folks.  If you can imagine my mom saying, “Wait…wait…wait…let me write that down…you’re going to fast”, you know what I was going through.

Voice Narration & Talk-to Text on iPad:  Conclusion

Those who are looking to do voice narration on the new iPad, the iPad 3, are all set.  It is built-in with a little microphone on the keypad.  Just click the microphone and let it happen.

The iPad 2 folks are not so lucky.  You all need to install Dragon Dictation and then copy and paste the text created into your application.  It’s a little annoying extra step but, in my mind, it sure beats typing.

Or, you could just update to the iPad 3.

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Richard Cummings

Richard Cummings is writer, traveler, and web content developer.

Get your copy of his latest book entitled Obvious Conclusions, stories of a Midwestern emigrant influenced and corrupted by many years living in San Francisco and abroad. It just received its first outstanding review "...reminiscent of David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs" on Amazon UK.
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