While mobile access to the web has become a lot easier in recent years, writing a blog post on a phone is still a pain. With tiny keyboards and small screens, most phones weren’t built to be blogging machines. It’s much more convenient to blog on the go using something every phone is designed for – your voice.
This year has seen the rise of instant mobile podcasting. Two British-born apps are at the forefront of this new movement. They both allow you to publish audio direct from your phone to the web, but how do they compare?
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Probably the best known ‘instant podcast’ app, AudioBoo was launched by London based startup Best Before earlier this year. In a few short months AudioBoo has established itself as the instant audio reporting tool of choice for many bloggers and journalists around the world.
AudioBoo is currently available for iPhone only, although an alternative phonecall-based service is available for people with other phones. The free iPhone app is simple to use with a big ‘Record’ button being the only control available. Once you’ve recorded up to five minutes of audio you can add a title, tags, an image and your current location (all of which are optional) before uploading it to the AudioBoo servers.
The app itself allows you to listen to recently posted recordings but the website is where you’ll want to go. You can subscribe to users’ recordings, comment on them and listen to recordings that the AudioBoo team think are particularly interesting.
Your recordings can be embedded in your own web pages or blog posts and alerts for new recordings can be sent to your Twitter and Facebook accounts.
A Pro account with a 30 minute recording time and additional features is currently in private beta. If you don’t have an iPhone the unpublicised PhoneBoo service (still very much in beta) will offer you a basic AudioBoo service without the ability to add titles, images, tags and your location.
Foregoing the need for a dedicated app, Ipadio is designed for publishing audio online via a phonecall. After registering your phone number on the Ipadio website you can make calls to a phone number to record a new ‘phonecast’. Local numbers are available for a number of countries around the world.
Once you’ve recorded your phonecast it’s uploaded straight to the web. You can then log in to add up to four images, a location, tags and a title. There’s Twitter and Facebook integration too.
An iPhone app is available to make the process of recording and uploading phonecasts easy and quick. Although as with PhoneBoo, if you lack an iPhone you have to contend with the extra step of having to log in to add metadata. This isn’t ideal if you’re out and about and want your podcast to be easily found. The default title, using the format “Martin’s phlog – 1st phonecast” is nowhere near as useful as the title “Live at the scene of a riot” accompanied by an image. Luckily you can pre-set your own default title for uploads from your phone.
Integration of speech recognition technology is planned for the future allowing some basic metadata to be added during the phonecall.
At present Audioboo and Ipadio are level-pegging when it comes to uploading your phonecasts. As long as you have an iPhone you’ll find them both easy to use. The phone-based alternative with both services is comparable.
Where AudioBoo stands out is sound quality. As long as you use the dedicated app, Audioboo produces crystal-clear recordings. This is because the audio is recorded on the handset before being published. Processing the audio on the handset will always be preferable to sending it down a phoneline first. iPadio recordings sound, as you’d expect, like a recording of a phonecall. Even the iPhone app connects to the phone network to call in your recording.
Still, if you don’t have an iPhone then iPadio (or Audioboo’s Phoneboo service) is your best bet. Ipadio’s phone-based approach is better developed than AudioBoo’s work-in-progress PhoneBoo service. Being compatible with every phone on the planet gives the service a distinct advantage in attracting users. Most of those users will be in Britain as that’s where they are currently targeting their efforts. Expansion into other markets, especially those where mobile data costs are still high, must surely be a priority for iPadio.
If Audioboo and iPadio aren’t options open to you, there are still ways to record podcasts with your phone. Most handsets are capable of recording audio that can be transferred to a computer before uploading. You could also use a service like Pixelpipe to upload audio to a service like Tumblr or even direct to an FTP server. Beware – many phones record audio that sounds like it’s been recorded down a phoneline, even if it hasn’t. The iPhone is one notable exception – the new Voice Memos app in firmware 3.0 records good quality audio that can be shared via email or MMS to be uploaded elsewhere.
If sound quality on your phone is a problem, who says you have to publish audio from your recordings? Speech-to-text services have become incredibly sophisticated and Spinvox is well worth a look. The Spinvox Blog service allows you to turn your voice into a written blog post automatically. It’s compatible with most popular blogging platforms and is surprisingly effective.
Also of note are Vlingo and TwitterFone which let you post to Twitter with your voice using the similar speech-to-text technology. Vlingo is a downloadable app for Blackberry, iPhone, Nokia and Windows Mobile, whereas TwitterFone requires you to call a phone number. Country-specific numbers are available for most of Europe as well as the USA, Cananda, Australia and New Zealand.