I am a big fan of Dragon Dictation, the free app that allows you to speak short messages to your iPhone, after which the audio is uploaded to a server which quickly transcribes the audio and then sends the text to your iPhone. The accuracy is very impressive, but because the transcription is done by a computer and not a person, there are some mistakes. Moreover, Dragon Dictation doesn't know legal jargon such as F.2d or So.2d let alone the proper format of legal cites. If you want to use your iPhone to record and transcribe text but want a more sophisticated product, SpeakWrite is a great solution.
SpeakWrite is a free app that allows you to record audio, then upload the audio so that it can be transcribed. But unlike Dragon Dictation, SpeakWrite uses real typists located in the U.S. and Canada (who have signed confidentiality agreements). SpeakWrite boasts an average turnaround time of three hours, and the service is available 24/7. In my tests with short paragraphs of text, turnaround time has frequently been only ten minutes. Of course, using real typists comes with a price. There are no setup fees or other charges, but SpeakWrite charges you by the word, 1.5 cents per word. (You can also setup a general non-legal account, which costs only 1.25 cents per word, but then you lose the ability to have your recording transcribed by a legal typist, and once you establish one kind of account you cannot submit jobs under a different plan. Thus, lawyers will probably want 1.5 cents per word legal account.)
Start the app and you are quickly given the option to begin recording. When you are done, just press the large "Pause" button.
Once you pause you are given the option to playback your recording, erase it, add to it, save it or submit it. If you submit it, just give your job a title and the recording is uploaded to the SpeakWrite server where it is transcribed. If you want to save it, just give the audio file a title and it is added to your list of saved audio. You can come back later and listen to the audio, e-mail it, add to it or edit it, and then when you are ready you can finally submit it.
SpeakWrite sends you an e-mail to confirm that it has received your file and then another e-mail when the file is done, with the text attached to the e-mail. You can also access a list of your completed jobs on the iPhone, and you can view any completed job to see the text. Normal iPhone copy-and-paste functions work in the app, so you can easily copy text and put it where it belongs, such as an e-mail. Completed jobs include not only the transcribed text but also the original audio so that you can go back and listen to the recording again if you want.
I haven't tried dictating anything longer than a few paragraphs, but in my tests the transcription has been excellent. Indeed, in my last test before starting this review, I recorded in an environment with lots of loud background noise plus I purposely interrupted my dictation to say things like "no, strike that" and then said it differently etc. A product like Dragon Dictation would, of course, actually type out the words "no, strike that." Because SpeakWrite uses real people as typists and not just a computer, SpeakWrite can understand instructions in the middle of your dictation. Thus, even my "torture case" submission cam back perfectly.
The app includes some other interesting features such as the ability to place a phone call from within the app and have the phone call transcribed. (Group conversations are a little more expensive at two cents per word.) Of course, the legality of recording a conversation on the phone without telling the other parties varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so check the applicable laws and rules in your state before you do so. You can also maintain a personal "Word List" so that the typist will know how to spell some of your unique favorite words, and you can even upload templates of frequently used documents such as a memorandum, correspondence on letterhead, etc. to SpeakWrite that can be used for your transcriptions. You can also take a photo with your iPhone and have that photo included with your transcription, including geotags to indicate where you were when you took the photo.
Note that SpeakWrite is not just an iPhone app. The company itself has been doing transcriptions for 10 years and now offers a similar app for the Blackberry and the Android, plus you can record audio on your computer and upload that to SpeakWrite to have it transcribed. There is even a number you can call, enter your account, and then speak to have whatever you say on the phone transcribed. Plus there are other options for getting your audio to SpeakWrite; click here to see the full list. SpeakWrite seems to be saying that it doesn't care how it gets your audio, it just wants to get it and quickly transcribe it for you.
SpeakWrite is a really useful app to have on your iPhone just in case you ever have the need to record and then quickly transcribe a conversation with a witness, an insert for a legal brief, etc. The only downside is the price, since $0.015 per word can add up quickly when there is a lot to say. I understand that when you establish a new account, the first 1,000 words are free so that you can get a feel for the service. (SpeakWrite gave me a 60 day trial period to use in connection with this review.) Of course, since this is a pay-as-you-go service, you don't have complete control over how much the service costs you.
I myself only rarely have the need for dictation services like this in my law practice, and in the past when I have needed something like this I have just recorded the audio and then had my secretary transcribe it for me. But if this type of service fits into your law practice, SpeakWrite has done a very nice job with its iPhone app and its service in general, so you will want to check it out.