iTalk vs. Voice Memo

by Bakari Chavanu Jun 19, 2009

All of us iPhone and iPod touch users are without doubt elated by this week's 3.0 operating system update for both devices. I for one used the much wanted cut and paste feature at least three times in the first hour of updating my iPhone. I'm also looking for a pair of bluetooth speakers that I can now use because of the new A2DP Bluetooth feature. And I'm pretty sure there are few other new software features that will replace some of the 3rd party apps I've downloaded in the past.

But one app that I will not delete from my iPhone is Griffin's iTalk, a voice recording application. Apple's 3.0 iPhone update also now includes a similar application called Voice Memos. But it simply doesn't live up to the features of iTalk. Both of these apps are clean and easy to use. The interfaces are straight forward, and there are many uses for these voice recording devices. Apple no doubt included Voice Memo because it would appeal to the enterprise sector of iPhone users. But you don't have to be Steve Jobs C.E.O or a university professor to use voice recording. These applications are great for recording your kids reading or giving their first classroom presentation, for making a list of reminders, or for recording a lecture or meeting you're attending.

While Apples Voice Memo will suffice for general users, Griffin's iTalk is a little more robust. But if you're thinking you don't want to pay for yet another iPhone app,  well you won't have to. iTalk is a free download with very unobtrusive ads attached to it. (If you want the ad-free version, you can of course get iTalk premium for $4.95.) So just because Apple's Voice Memo comes installed with the new update doesn't mean it's the best option.

If the developers of Apple's Voice Memo took a look at Griffin's app when they created Voice Memo, they missed some obvious interface features contained in iTalk. The number one missing feature in Voice Memo is the ability to title your individual voice recordings. You can assign recordings to a particular category, such as lectures or reminders, but each of your recordings is stamped only with the time and date you started the recording. No custom title. Like duh!....time and dates really don't help you identify what an individual recording is about, even if it's categorized. I seriously don't understand why Apple left that out.

iTalk on the other hand allows you to title your recordings before and after your individual recordings. Additional information about date, time, audio quality and format of recordings are also included for each saved audio file.

Interface Features
Both apps require only one click of an interface button to begin and stop recordings. The iTalk button is much larger, however, and I think it makes the design better. The front screen of Voice Memo consists of a microphone icon, but when you click on it, it doesn't start your recording. It simply provides a voice level check. That feature is not included with iTalk, but I'm not sure it's needed. I think it would have been better to use that mic icon to start and stop recordings. iTalk's home screen also includes options for three levels of recording quality: Good, Better, and Best. Those quality distinctions are absent from Voice Memo, though the audio sound of Voice Memo compares well to the "Best" sound of iTalk.

Sharing and Archiving Recordings
One of the initial recordings I made with iTalk was of my son's first classroom presentation which he had to memorize. I also made a recording of him reading aloud one of his favorite stories. These recordings, and more to come, will be cherished for years. So how do I archive them? Well, Griffin makes a free application called iTalk Sync which pairs with your iPhone and syncs your selected recordings to your computer. You can even have it import your selected recordings directly to iTunes. The process is a no-brainer.

Voice Memo also has a sharing feature. But it requires you to email individual recordings to your computer or to someone else's email. iTalk lacks the ability to email recordings. So if you find yourself needing to email recordings from your iPhone, that's the only real advantage I think Voice Memo has over iTalk.

I'm sure there are many other iPhone apps that we all wish Apple would include in the software system, but it's really sort of odd to see it develop and include an application that is somewhat inferior to a pre-existing third-party one. If in fact the iPhone is really a $600 mini-computer, you would think that the applications made for it would meet certain standards. That's just my view. So Voice Memo is on the last page of apps on my iPhone while iTalk is near the front.


  • Hello,

    I was very interested when I saw the title of your article; I just upgraded to 3.0 and have since long time iTalk/iTalk Sync installed.

    But what you wrote turns out to be partially incorrect:
    1. Archiving: one can customize the title of his voice memo, see (page 127).
    2. Syncing: if you follow the procedure page 128, you can sync them in iTunes.

    Where I do agree with you though is that even if you customize the label of your voice memo within the iPhone, it will not appear as such in iTunes ... this could be easily fixes I guess.


    johnniefr had this to say on Jun 19, 2009 Posts: 2
  • John, thanks for the feedback. I missed that feature that iTunes that automatically syncs stored memos on your iPhone. However, I’m still not seeing where you can customize the voice memo. You can give it a label, such as “meeting,” but you can’t title it say, “Noon Board Meeting.” Hope I’m not missing something here. As you know, you can customize titles directly on iTalk.

    Bakari Chavanu had this to say on Jun 19, 2009 Posts: 47
  • Hello Bakari,

    Here what I was talking about (p.126) :
    “Add a label to a memo:  On the Info screen tap >, then select a label in the list on the
    Label screen. To create a custom label, choose Custom at the bottom of the list, then
    type a name for the label.”
    Hope this helps.

    johnniefr had this to say on Jun 20, 2009 Posts: 2
  • johnniefr is correct.

    You CAN give a real title to a recording, although it’s not in a very conspicuous location.

    The Custom Label title you assign can be inadvertently cleared if you select one of the other labels. Bad design!

    Apple should move it to an obvious place and change the field name to something obvious as well, like “Title” or something similar.

    Better yet, there should be an optional prompt to give a new recording a title when you’re done.

    If you’re reviewing something, especially an app as simple as this, you should really dig around a bit before writing.

    For a nice microphone for iPod touch users, check out the SwitchEasy ThumbTacks microphone. ($16 w/ S&H;.)
    They’re small, cute, easy to carry and work well. It has an 1/8” extension at it’s base to allow it to be used with your iPod touch case ON!

    The only caveat is that it disables the speaker when inserted.

    jeffharris had this to say on Jun 20, 2009 Posts: 11
  • Apologize for missing this, but my critique still holds. It’s a poor design flaw on Apple’s part, because putting the custom option under a list of categories gives the impression that you’re creating yet another category instead of a custom title. That’s why I missed it. It’s confusing, because if you go back and try to put your so-called custom title into a category, it doesn’t work. It just renames your “custom title” with the category.

    Jeff, as for your criticism about my critiquing an application, I will accept your criticism to a certain extent. I write a weekly column for AM and try to sometimes write reviews that are little timely and under a deadline. I will not always write a perfect review, nor do I intend on stressing about writing a perfect review. I feel that one purpose of the Comment section on this and other sites is for readers to extend the review and add feedback and even corrections. The initial review is sorta like a conversation starter. So I appreciate the friendly feedback and correction that johnniefr gave in the first response. I’m not writing feature articles on here. I write weekly pieces in and around the other work I do. So sometimes I’m going to miss things, though in this case, the critique is largely not misplaced, but just incomplete.

    I very appreciate your and other’s feedback on my articles. I don’t look forward to losing your readership, but if you’re looking for perfect reviews, I’m not the writer you should be reading.

    Bakari Chavanu had this to say on Jun 20, 2009 Posts: 47
  • Hello Bakari,

    You are correct in that voice memo files can not be named. They can be assigned a custom label, but these labels do not show up as the file name when synced with itunes. Although I purchased italk awhile ago, I abandoned it’s use as transfering the files to my computer proved unreliable for very large files (10 minutes +). The voice memo app, although not as feature rich as italk, is proving itself to be devoid of transfer problems with large files. I’ll stick to voice memo for this one reason only and endure it’s current lack of sophistication.

    rscott had this to say on Jun 21, 2009 Posts: 1
  • I agree with Jeff.  Mistakes are allowed, but you really ought to have done some homework on what the Voice Memo app could do, especially considering that it was free and accessible to you, and that the official docs by Apple have it written out.  That’s the basic responsibility of any good reviewer. 

    The proper practice for tech reviewers when mistakes are made is to append an “Update: correction” or “Edit: correction” at the end of the article, and NOT to reply on making users dig through the discussion in the comments to find it.

    gordon had this to say on Jun 29, 2009 Posts: 2
  • Typo: *reply/rely

    gordon had this to say on Jun 29, 2009 Posts: 2
  • I am reluctant to leave comments when I am forced to sign up for a website but I am compelled to respond to Jeff and Gordon on behalf of writers, if I may.

    The writer is correct about Custom Titles in Voice Memos. There is NO WAY to create custom titles. There is a way to create ‘Custom Labels’ that the reviewer did miss, but Gordon and Jeff of the USA: your crucifiction is totally out of line, particularly since the feature is poorly designed and does not serve what should be its fundamental purpose: To be a Title.

    Effectively, for the purposes of users, there are no Titles for Voice Memos, particularly since Apple itself does not use the ‘Custom Label’ as the file Title (or for any other purpose I can find) in iTunes. Clearly Apple does not consider this a Title either.

    (Speaking of: My original reason for stopping by: Does anyone know of an iTunes file category, such as “Album”, that will show the Custom Label in iTunes? I’ve been looking…)

    And I will not die if I don’t find this out, but I am interested: Will iTalk record in the background while running other Apps as Voice Memo does?

    The review is the best discussion of this topic and variations for voice memo management on the iPhone I have seen. Comments like Gordon and Jeff’s to the writer of this fine discussion serve only to decrease the probability Gordon, Jeff and all of us will find more valuable information here, or anywhere else on the internet in the future you are creating with the Gordon/Jeff Criticism Model (of Better Performance?).

    No writer is getting rich writing on the internet, so maybe internet Gordons and Jeffs should get appreciative (now, not later) for what website writers do, instead of making users look like a spoiled, unappreciative lot.

    It’s either that or all of us learn to live without good information online. I call it ‘fostering goodwill’ and, sad to say Gordon and Jeff of USA, Americans are about the worst at it of any culture, despite its obvious benefits.

    creditland had this to say on Mar 01, 2010 Posts: 1
  • I recorded a 1.5 hours interview with that app, checked several times during the interview to be sure the app was running and recording, finished the interview, clicked done, came home, tried to sync and the recording wasn’t there. Needless to say this is quite frustrating. Would NOT RECOMMEND.

    n0mdeguerre had this to say on Jun 24, 2011 Posts: 1
  • iTalk is brilliant, i far prefer it to voice memo. Dunno what problem nomdegurre had because it works fine for me everytime! Residential Sprinkler Systems

    DaveBAss had this to say on Sep 12, 2011 Posts: 2
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