July 20, 2009
I get my best ideas at night. And not just in the evening: I actually wake up at 3 a.m., suddenly wired, head buzzing with thoughts of new creative projects, or solutions to gnarly work problems, or the perfect comeback for a snarky remark someone made twelve hours ago. Unfortunately, I can never remember any of it in the morning. So when inspiration strikes, I need to get things externalized, pronto.
To this end, I have always kept a Moleskine notebook and a pen by my bedside. All ideas get written down, graphed, or illustrated—often in the dark—so I can go back to sleep, mind at rest. But I’m pretty calligraphically challenged at the best of times, and the fact that I’ve jotted something down in the middle of the night doesn’t mean I’ll be able to read it in the morning.
So when Apple released version 3.0 of the iPhone OS last month, I was thrilled to discover the new Voice Memos application. Voice Memos does away with the note taking altogether, and turns your iPhone into a good old-fashioned dictaphone. Better still, it’s so simple that it can be operated with the limited motor skills and cognitive abilities of someone who has just surfaced from deep sleep.
Here’s how it works: You tap one button to start your recording. You tap another button to stop. And … done! Your thoughts have been preserved for posterity—or at least for the morning. The rest of the interface is made up of an analog volume level indicator and a very large image of a microphone to look at while talking. There is also a list of saved recordings, with basic playback and editing features. It’s just enough to be functional; no less, no more.
My only complaint? The input levels are a bit low, so you have to hold the phone close for audible recordings. That, and you have to suffer through the embarrassment of listening to your own voice. Still, it gets the job done. And it sure beats getting your pen and paper out to scrawl unintelligible notes to yourself in the dark. So if you haven’t yet upgraded to iPhone OS 3.0, and you remain unconvinced by all the marketing hype about copy & paste, MMS and Spotlight Search, perhaps Voice Memos is the killer app that will seal the deal?
Voice Memos is included with iPhone OS 3.0, which is a free upgrade for all existing iPhone users. It works on all versions of the iPhone. For a list of other new features, check out Apple’s iPhone OS 3.0 page.