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Remote Dictation Smackdown: Which app does the best sending Siri text to a Mac? (Updated)

Update: At the end of the original post, Erica mused about a single-purpose iPhone 4S dictation app; turns out, of course, that there already is one. The $0.99 Remote Dictate, from the makers of Mobile Mouse Pro, works with the same Mac-side server and offers only dictation with no remote mouse/keyboard. We'll grab it and test it out shortly. –Ed.

Recently, TUAW posted about how Mobile Mouse could be used with Siri for iPhone-to-Mac remote dictation. While trying it out, I grew annoyed by transposition errors at the start of my text.

So I decided to put several similar solutions to the test. What Mobile Mouse Pro ($1.99), RowMote Pro ($4.99), Edovia's TouchPad ($4.99), and Splashtop Touchpad (Free, normally $4.99) have in common is that each app provides a way to send mouse events and key strokes to your Mac.

For this post, we decided not to test full screen sharing apps like iTeleport and LogMeIn due to the more extensive set-up involved. (iTeleport offers a similar $0.99 Touchpad Elite app, but we were unable to get a copy in time for this write-up.)

To test them, I dictated the same text sample into TextEdit, courtesy of the iTunes Terms and Conditions. To do this, I connected each app to my Mac, opened a standard keyboard, and used the Siri dictation mic to speak this sentence: "You agree not to use or attempt to use the iTunes Store from outside of the available territory."

I ran each app three times, and categorized the errors each app made. How did they stack up? Here are the results.

Mobile Mouse Pro

Setup: Very easy. Install and run the Mobile Mouse Server app, run Mobile Mouse from your iPhone 4S. App detects and announces active app. Dictate at will.

Performance: Transcription transposition errors, no default uppercase entry at the start of each sentence.

  • you agree not to use or attempt to use the iTunes store from outside of the available territory.
  • oyu agree not to use or attempt to use the iTunes store from outside of the available territory.
  • oyu agree not to use or attempt to use the iTunes store from outside of the available territory.

TouchPad by Edovia

Setup: Easy. Enable screen sharing on your Mac. Launch app, and set up VNC-style. Tap pad button, then tap keyboard button, and start dictating.

Performance: No default uppercase entry at the start of each sentence. Other than that, it showed no errors with transposition through these tests.

  • you agree not to use or attempt to use the iTunes store from outside of the available territory.
  • you agree not to use or attempt to use the iTunes store from outside of the available territory.
  • you agree not to use or attempt to use the iTunes store from outside of the available territory.

Touchpad by Splashtop

Setup: Overly difficult. First I had to google my way to find about the Splashtop Streaming app for Mac. That information should have been in the iTunes marketing text. Then I had to authenticate to install what should have been a simple tweak. After that, once I ran the app, I had to enter a security code of at least 8 characters including one letter and one number. Then it kept asking me to give it my Google credentials. C'mon. This isn't supposed to be that hard.

Once I made it past that initial setup, I then had to have my iPhone find the service on my local LAN. Despite scanning and scanning, I never got that far. Finally, Mike Rose walked me through entering my system IP address by hand. After a few mismatches with the security code, I finally connected. This took about 20 minutes to get this far.

Performance: No default uppercase entry at the start of each sentence. Worst sync performance of all apps tested -- see the first of the three trials in particular.

  • ou agree not to usye or attempt to use the iTunes store from outside of the available territory.
  • oyu agree not to use or attempt to use the iTunes store from outside of the available territory.
  • oyu agree not to use or attempt to use the iTunes store from outside of the available territory.

RowMote Pro

Setup: Had to authenticate to install server app for the Mac, which runs by itself on login, without an easy to find control panel and uninstallation option. (The uninstall instructions once I found them here at the website were straightforward.) Nicely unintrusive pairing security -- you're shown a short pairing number, and type it in. Overly complex app selection menu on the iOS-side.

Performance: Spaces at the start of some sentences, transposition, inappropriate capitalizations.

  • you agree not to use or attempt to use the iTunes store from outside of the availabLe territory.
  • You AGREE NOT TO usE OR ATTEMPT TO use the iTunes store from outSIDE OF THE AVAIlable territory.
  • oyu agree not to use or attempt to use the iTunes store from outside of the available territory

Discussion

Keep in mind that none of these apps were designed for use with Siri Dictation. It's hard to ding any of them for not perfectly supporting a feature not in their original brief. That said, only Splashtop Touchpad gave us pause.

All in all, Edovia's TouchPad performed best and is our current choice for Siri-to-Mac dictation. Although its initial setup took a little longer than some of the other products, native VNC transmission provided smooth uninterrupted text without transposition errors. Once set up, it was quick to re-establish connections on later use.

None of these apps were designed specifically for dictation. Instead, their job is to transmit UI events like key presses and mouse movements. That's why none of them responded to the start of the sentence being capitalized.

There's an opportunity here for anyone who wants to add "Siri dictation mode" to their existing apps or create a single-purpose app just for that reason. In that mode, you could imagine the app would provide more textfield-entry-style results, allowing toggles for such items as "Cap start of sentence," "Cap each word," and "Auto add end punctuation." I look forward to seeing that kind of functionality moving forward.

Addendum:

If you look on Wikipedia under 'not getting the Mac way' there might be a picture of Splashtop Touchpad. For your edification, here's a sample of their uninstall script. We include this as a caution.

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