Yahoo! Chases After Google, Adds Voice Search To iPhone App


Not too long ago, Google added voice recognition to their iPhone search application. Not one to be behind the times, Yahoo! has gone and done the same.

Well, that’s what we should have been able to say. Instead, Yahoo’s voice recognition add-on comes nearly 6 months after Google’s. Of course, Yahoo’s application is a bit more complex than Google’s, being that it also handles news, aggregates various social sites, and a good amount more beyond search. That being said, search is Yahoo’s main gig. Combined with the fact that everyone hates typing, Yahoo should have done this ages ago.

Yahoo’s implementation is quite different than Googles – for better or worse.

Back when Google initially launched their app with voice search functionality, it caused a bit of a stir. Google had made use of an API that was generally off limits the app developers. The API they used took input from the iPhone’s proximity sensor, allowing them to tell if the phone was placed near the user’s face. Once the proximity sensor went off, voice recording began. Had Apple let Google slide intentionally, or did the person in charge of reviewing the app just miss the memo that this was a no-go? As with anything on the internet, conspiracy theories were fairly rampant.

Whether they tried to make use of the same API and were denied or they simply chose to avoid conflict, we’re not sure – but Yahoo opted to go with a more traditional push-to-begin, push-to-stop recording method. It’s not quite as slick, but it has an upside: it doesn’t screw up. At least, it doesn’t screw up without an obvious reason (see below.) I’m not sure if the proximity sensor just hates my manly facial scruff or something, but Google’s solution tends to misfire a lot. It’ll detect my face and begin the recording, then stop a second or two later. I’ll pull my iPhone away to see what’s going on, and the sensor will fire off, starting the recording again. Every one of my voice-powered Google iPhone app searches seems to begin with “Wait, damn it, okay ..” This is a little more fool-proof.

On the downside, they placed the Record/Stop record right in the middle of the screen – smack dab where your cheek bone will sit, potentially misfiring the button. This happened to me twice in testing. Holding the iPhone at a slight angle (so that it doesn’t touch your cheek) fixes things.

This recording method could arguably be more user-friendly, but the voice recognition isn’t. Of 3 tests, 2 of which were significantly inaccurate.

Test #1:
What I said: Blah blah blah, blah blah blah.
What Yahoo! detected: Blah blah blah, blah blah blah

Test #2:
What I said:This is a story all about how, My life got flipped-turned upside down
What Yahoo! detected: This is a story of the town of west africa upside down

Test #3:
What I said:This is a test of yahoo voice recognition, test test, 1 2 1 2
What Yahoo! detected: This test of yahoo voice recognition, test, test tube 1 2 4

As you can see from test 1, Yahoo!’s voice recognition is outstanding at picking up “Blah”s. As you can see from test 2, however, it is fairly terrible at picking up the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air theme. And for test 3? We can see where the “test tube” mistake happened (“Test One Two” kind of sounds like “test tube”) – but where the hell did that “4” come from?

Oh well – maybe it’s just my crazy exotic Californian accent screwing things up.