Today's most popular desktop and mobile OSes, and many of the software programs they run, offer basic, and generally accurate, speech recognition features. For example, you can enter text into a Microsoft Word document by speaking into the microphone on an Android, iOS, or Windows mobile device.
So why would anyone spend $15 a month on Nuance's new speech recognition service, Dragon Anywhere?
Dragon Anywhere isn't for the casual user
If you only occasionally want to dictate text on the go, the built-in dictation tools on Android and iOS are all you need.
Both do a great job of transcribing spoken words into text, especially in quiet environments. If I'm out walking and want to capture some ideas, I open the Notes app on my iPhone and dictate my thoughts. The mobile iOS dictation tools also recognize some editing commands, such as "new paragraph" to begin a new paragraph, or "question mark" to add that punctuation.
Dragon's earlier mobile apps already provide various levels of speech recognition functionality. For example, Dragon Mobile Assistant for Android and Dragon Dictation for iOS (both free) let you post Facebook and Twitter updates using your voice, among other basic tasks.
Why you might want to pay for Dragon Anywhere
If you're a devoted Dragon desktop user and you're frequently on the move, Dragon Anywhere is worth a look. Nuance says the app and service are particularly well suited for attorneys, social workers, police officers, and others who work frequently in the field. The service could also be useful to anyone who suffers from a repetitive strain injury from frequent, long periods of typing — or to people who want to avoid such injuries.
Dragon Anywhere eliminates the need to travel with a laptop to tap into the company's full speech recognition engine. In this age of super-sized tablets and smartphones, that's a good thing. (The cloud-based service also lets you dictate documents on Android devices. The feature is reportedly coming soon to Android.)
Dragon Anywhere syncs with your desktop Dragon profile. All of your specialized words, frequently used phrases (called "auto-texts") and custom spelling are accessible automatically on all of your devices.
Dragon Anywhere, like desktop Dragon, lets you format text as you go, as well. If you dictate a long sentence, for example, and then realize you spoke an unnecessary word in the middle, you can say "select," followed by the word you want to change, and issue another command, such as "delete that." You can also format text with spoken commands, such as "bold that" or "italicize that."
Dragon Anywhere has a lot of useful sharing options. Once you finish dictating a document in the app, you can save it to Evernote, Dropbox, and Box; open it in Microsoft Word; or share via email. Unfortunately, you can't dictate directly into Word.
Potential problems with Dragon Anywhere ...
On my Google Nexus 9 tablet, running Android 5.1.1 and connected to a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network, I experienced a significant lag at times when dictating commands or long sentences. It wasn't particularly painful, but it is worth mentioning.
I also wondered about Dragon Anywhere's impact on users' cellular data plans. According to a Nuance spokesperson, "it takes just a few KBs of data for Dragon Anywhere's dictation to happen in the cloud, so even heavy usage of the app won't have a significant impact on a user's network data plan."
Dragon Anywhere works well, and it transcribes speech into text with the same high level of accuracy as its desktop counterpart. You can also try it free for one week and then cancel if you're dissatisfied, so there's little risk involved with a trial.