Friday, July 3

iPhone 3.0 (3GS) Voice Control problems

OK, so I really like the new iPhone. However, its Voice Control feature is really not up to snuff.

Firstly, if I want to dial the phone by voice, I have to take the phone out of my pocket and speak into it—even if I've got a Bluetooth headset connected. My old RAZR let me voice dial into the headset by pressing the button; why won't the iPhone? The headset button just makes the iPhone redial your last outgoing number, and only if you hold it down for a couple of seconds.

Secondly, if I have a playlist containing only podcast episodes, Voice Control won't play it. Apparently Voice Control will only play songs for some reason. I've got multiple podcast playlists (one for the short daily ones that I want to listen to first, and another for the other longer ones that come out less frequently), so when I want to switch between them I have to glance down at the screen.

Thirdly, and probably most important to me, there's no way to use Voice Control to start a playlist in shuffle mode—which, once my podcasts are finished, is exactly what I want to do. I have to start a playlist, then separately issue a "shuffle" voice command or shake the phone (if 'shake to shuffle' is enabled). While this could a serviceable enough option, it adds one to the Skip Count of the first item in the playlist! I haven't skipped the song; I just wanted to start the playlist in shuffle mode. This throws off my smart playlists, some of which use Skip Count and Last Skipped Time to determine which songs should be included.

The worst part of this two-steps-to-shuffle bit, however, is how long it takes—especially while I'm driving the car. I should be able to issue a single voice command, not go through the whole rigmarole twice just to end up how I want it. Not to mention that it takes nearly 3 seconds of holding the button down just to start Voice Control each time, and then it may or may not understand my command properly the first time anyway.

Actually, in the process of writing this post, I discovered way to get a playlist going in shuffle mode without incrementing any songs' Skip Counts, but it takes three steps! First, issue the Voice command "shuffle", then it says "no music is playing; do you want to play music now?" So then you have to wait for the beep and say "yes," which starts playing your whole library in shuffle mode. Then you can start Voice Control again and tell it to play a particular playlist, which will then start in shuffle mode.

Apple, please think of the people who are using your products in the car! Make it simple to place calls and initiate shuffled playlists without looking at the device! There's a "shuffle" button at the top of every playlist in the visual interface; shouldn't that be an option in the spoken interface as well?

I realize that, at iPhone OS 3.0's introduction, they said that Voice Control wasn't totally complete. However, its inclusion at all was one of the big things that convinced me to finally get one, so I'm a bit disappointed that it was added on without the usual polish of most Apple products.


David said...

Very valid comments. I found your post searching for help playing podcasts. Is voice control possible with Apple brand Bluetooth gear?


augmentedfourth said...

I'm not quite sure I understand your question. Apple doesn't make any Bluetooth headsets, if that's what you're asking. All the ones they sell at the Apple Store are made by other people (Plantronics, Sennheiser, etc.).

In any case, my Bluetooth experience can't be unique. The wireless protocol it uses will be the same for any headset, so I doubt any of them could be capable of voice control unless Apple releases a new version of the iPhone OS with this capability added.

Anonymous said...

I have a Sony/Ericson Bluetooth and the button on my headset activates the voice control the same way it did on my blackberry.

I don't know if there was a software upgrade since you posted this but it seems to work for me.

augmentedfourth said...

Yes, ever since 3.1 I have been able to voice-dial over Bluetooth; I just never updated the post or wrote anything new.

Voice command still can't start a playlist in Shuffle mode in one step, and it still won't initiate podcast playlists.

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