“Vocal” app lets users control a Mac with an iPhone 4S

by Phil Hornshaw

Software that can take dictation from your voice isn’t exactly new, but with the popularity of Apple’s voice-controlled personal assistant software Siri in its iPhone 4S, the idea of using your voice to control your devices has become cool again.

And the voice-control technology in the iPhone 4S is actually pretty impressive. It’s that technology that’s leveraged by a new app called Vocal. It uses the iPhone 4S and your voice to enact commands or take dictation on your Mac – in a way, bringing Siri-like capabilities to other computers. The app’s primary function is to let you speak to your iPhone and then sends the transcript of your dictation to your computer using a local Wi-Fi connection, but it has other uses as well.

As Macworld explains, Vocal uses a companion program you’ll need to download and run on your Mac to work. Once you’ve got that, firing up Vocal on your iPhone should allow the two devices to connect to one another, and you’re off.

Vocal uses the same dictation capabilities that your iPhone 4S has built in system-wide, but it operates a little differently than Siri, which is designed to cut out if you pause for too long while dictating an email or text message. Unlike Siri, you can’t activate Vocal with your voice, you have to hit a button to start and stop dictation or issuing commands. But once you hit the “Done” button, your command or text is transferred automatically.

And the voice control elements of Vocal are pretty deep. The app can let you speak to control iTunes, dictate tweets on social networking site Twitter, or send emails, among other things like searching the Internet, starting a print job or using Mac apps like Dictionary. These are things Siri can do on your iPhone 4S, but if you want to use your Mac’s capabilities for those services, Vocal is the bridge you need.

Siri and the iPhone 4S aren’t without their issues, even if the voice recognition software is impressive. That’s why Siri is still a “beta” release. Apple is working out the kinks with the software to make it better. So don’t expect Vocal to work flawlessly; voice recognition software has come a long way, after all, but it still has a long way to go. But Vocal does take one of the coolest features about Apple’s latest smartphone and give you the power to use it with your computer. That’s certainly cool, and it’ll only run you $2.